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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

11/26/2013 (4 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The serpent of public safety beguiles us to discard the warnings of our forefathers.

Nearly six years ago, the FBI was quietly awarded a $1 billion contract from the Obama administration. The goal was to develop a nationwide surveillance system that could recognize faces, voices, and prints as part of a stated effort to identify criminals and terrorists. Privacy advocates fear the system could become all-encompassing, eliminating privacy entirely.

Shall we eat the apple, despite the warning?

Shall we eat the apple, despite the warning?

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

11/26/2013 (4 months ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Privacy, FBI, system, technology, spying, marketing


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Americans have very little privacy left. Although we still believe we have a fair amount of privacy, particularly in our homes, we don't. Our cellphones constantly record and report our GPS position, even when they're turned off. They also record barometric pressure, ambient temperature, and can be used to record sounds even if you don't have an app to do it with.

All that data is quietly aggregated by private corporations that want to know how you use your phones, where you go, and what you do.

Our computers monitor us, as do our social networks, but most of us know that by now.

Cameras and other electronic equipment capture the rest of our lives. Information can be teased out of our spending habits, our call logs, and even what paths we take to and from work.

Are you having an illicit affair? No matter how careful you think you've been, odds are very high there's a digital trace of evidence for it somewhere.

For now, nobody is suggesting that the next generation of surveillance equipment will be used to catch cheaters-too many people in high places committing that sin to allow that. However the new technologies will be used to catch criminals.

That might not be a bad thing, so long as what constitutes a criminal doesn't change.

The timeframe for the rollout is 2014.

Next year, the government will begin deploying technology to scan faces in public areas, microphones to listen for the voices of known terror suspects and more. Even the cleverest criminals will soon run the risk of being caught, no matter how carefully they plan their crimes.

This may seem like a positive development, but privacy is key to the American way of life. It is a value that is also enshrined in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. Unfortunately, Supreme Court decisions have eroded the Fifth considerably, making everything the FBI is about to do quite legal.

Privacy brings peace of mind and comfort. Sometimes our public selves are at odds with our private selves and revealing the private self can be painful or embarrassing to some. Perhaps our tastes are different from the norm. Not necessarily criminal, but perhaps unique. Privacy ensures us that at least sometimes, behind the doors of our homes, or even on a crowded street filled with strangers, we can be ourselves. Losing privacy means the masks many wear in public must stay on; a psychological trial never ends.

It's not that we have nothing to hide, it's that we want the right to hide if we feel more comfortable doing so. Would you like the arguments you have with your spouse recorded? Is it anyone's business outside of your home how much you spend on frivolous things? Should the content of your most intimate prayers be revealed to others?

While there is no doubt the next generation of surveillance equipment will help fight crime, we can also rest assured that at some point it will be abused. It always is. Even the NSA, with its awesome responsibility, has admittedly abused its power as unscrupulous agents tapped phone calls and other records belonging to their love interests.

Omniscience, like many other phenomena, is the realm of God. People should not have omniscience because they cannot handle it properly. Yet, despite the caveats, we cannot help but take another bite from the apple of knowledge, although we've been warned not to. We're Adam in the Garden, going back for a second bite.

The new systems will catch criminals, of that there can be no doubt. We're always thankful for justice. But the cameras and microphones will also catch you. Quietly, even unwittingly, you will be monitored by the penultimate voyeur, which is the government. Woe onto you who makes an enemy of someone in a powerful place, for your most private moments will soon be known.

Orwell was just 30 years premature on his date, and Genesis had it right all along.

A birth foretold: click here to learn more!

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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
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That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
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