Preface: The assignment in my Social Media and Society class was the question on how I felt about the 4th Amendment and how it pertains to social media. Should social media accounts be private or public forums? Most of my peers focused a lot of the 4th Amendment in our discussion. I guess that would be okay, but this is a collegiate setting and I am almost positive that our Professor does not need a history education. I became increasingly agitated with my peers with not discussing the elephant in the room which no one wanted to discuss: The U.S. government, the NSA and monitoring of Americans. Not even an Edward Snowden mention. Who are these people?
In their defense, the only person(s) that can have decent conversations about this subject these days are my Husband (computer geek and old school IRC champ) and sometimes Mom. Yes I know, my Mom. When I try to have these conversations with my peers or whomever I believe has something between the ears, I get silence. Or “oh yeah that is scary huh?” My favorite is “well it doesn’t bother me.” Huh? What? Say that again please? When the suggestion is made to see Citizenfour (the Edward Snowden documentary) to people, I get the blank stare. Am I missing something? Why do people not care? It is frustrating for me and you will see it in the piece of work I submitted to the Professor and the class. So without further ado, my paper below.
When looking at the question of how the 4th Amendment rights come into question about social media use, one would need to read what a well-known activist has said on the subject (in a roundabout way). “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this ability, the majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards” Edward Snowden. Just take that comment in for a moment. When one reads the 4th Amendment which states “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,” the NSA (US government) has basically used the Amendment as toilet paper and flushed it down the toilet. We, the American public have allowed that to happen. How and why?
It was not until 9/11 that everything changed. Fear and terror became headlines to this day and our elected officials began to write a bill to combat terrorism. The United and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 was placed into law on October 26, 2001. Most individuals in Congress did not read it when this act was placed into law (Appalachian State University, n.d.). The Patriot Act was rushed into law and not signing the bill would have seemed unpatriotic. The Patriot Act gave the government, military, and police departments’ unprecedented access to our lives. We the American people voted these individuals to office. Still do.
We became obsessed with our cell phones. We tuned out and stopped true communication with our family and friends. We collectively read our cell phones on work breaks, lounging in the sun or on the couch, at the dinner table, during family time – the list goes on. We tend to wake up to Twitter or Facebook, read our quick news segments on our news apps and go on with our day. We post our “look at my kids, food, shoes, me, me and oh, me” and buy stuff with our phones. Distracted driving is at an all-time high and why? Our cell phones! Our overall attention span to anything that affects us is minuet.
Since we are not paying attention to what is happening around us and trust our own government immensely, a few events happened along the way. The U.S. and UK spies hacked into the largest producer of SIM cards in the entire world. Big deal? Think again. These spies were a “joint unit of operatives from the NSA and British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ” (Scahill, 2015). The company name is Gemalto, and the chips were made for “mobile phones serviced by AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and for next generation credit cards” (Scahill, 2015). Gemalto creates 2 billion SIMS a year. It is unknown how much this joint operation took. The reason this was done? Both governments needed encryption keys for 3G, 4G and LTE. Your SIM is now your Social Security Number (Scahill, 2015). Remember when Snowden talked about credit cards? Read the Scahill piece further about the link with the payment from your cell phones. I would not use Apply Pay or Google Wallet anytime soon. Feeling a bit violated yet? It gets better.
Recently, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) filed a lawsuit against the Sacramento County Sheriff’s department for their unwillingness to produce documents under the California Public Records Act for the Sheriff’s use of the product “Stingray” (Lang, 2015). The ACLU is asking what the Sheriff department plans to do with the information obtained by the Stingray technology. What can this Stingray technology do? It is a type of IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) tracker, or a device that can mimic a cell tower. It can track anyone in real time as well as “the unique ID and phone numbers” (Bott & Thom, 2014) dialed by a phone. This includes outgoing calls and texts. The Sacramento Sheriff department is citing the Homeland Security Act for not cooperating and has a “confidentiality agreement with the federal government, which provided the technology” (Lang, 2015). Huh? Why does the Sacramento County Sheriff need to know what is said on Facebook or maybe a text to a friend?
Our children are being monitored. In an article from Politico.com, by Stephanie Simon states that ”School districts and colleges across the nation are hiring private companies to monitor students’ online activity, down to individual keystrokes, to scan their emails for objectionable content and to scrutinize their public posts on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and other popular sites. The surveillance services will send principals text-message alerts if a student types a suspicious phrase or surfs to a web site that raises red flags” (Simon, 2015). In fact, a security test company working for the publishing giant Pearson is looking for kids’ posts online about Common Core’s tests (Simon, 2015). It has come down to sleuthing the children.
If you are a person who uses the Internet, Facebook, Twitter or any other social media application and have an expectation of privacy, well then you have to be an idiot. Privacy does not exist. It is ridiculous to think otherwise. Facebook has ways to market to the individual in their own feed by what they say or do (Constine, 2014). Twitter is starting to give their users “promoted posts” much to their users’ dismay. These websites can monitor topics, posts or individuals that could be considered offensive or inappropriate for some users and block the material. Somewhere along the way, we the American public are okay with monitoring. When did that happen?
We are all monitored now without a warrant or cause. It is our own fault and this should bother every single American. The NSA via the Patriot Act has basically shredded the 4th Amendment with the unchecked monitoring of the citizens of the United States. Although individuals say “I do not do anything wrong so it is okay.” Is it okay for the government to know your conversations with family? What if you hired an attorney? Is it no longer “confidential?” Is it okay for the US government to know how much money you spend and where? Is it okay for the government to monitor what you view on the Internet? What if you have an opinion? Is it okay to have to keep it yourself for fear it will have ramifications with your own government at a later date? Have we as Americans become too lazy, too apathetic to what is going on or are we all too scared to speak up and say anything? What is going to take to say this is not okay and it needs to stop? If dissention and protest conflicts with Pilates on Wednesday, well there are priorities right? The lack of outrage is disheartening, embarrassing and disgusting.
Citizenfour is a documentary directed by Laura Poitras, about Edward Snowden speaking to Glenn Greenwald in Hong Kong before the first leak about the NSA. Regardless if the people believe he is a traitor or not, he believed he had to expose the US government in their monitoring tactics. It is undeniable based on information presented that there is no such thing as privacy, although people think it still exists. There is a reason why governments want the focus on privacy and ponder on the following. In Citizenfour, Edward Snowden makes a statement that is a poignant and true: “What we used to call liberty and freedom we now call Privacy” (Poitras, 2014). Liberty and freedom is the core of the Constitution and we the American people have allowed our own government to have its way with it. Nice.
Appalachian State University. (n.d.). The USA Patriot Act. Retrieved from Department of Government and Justice Studies: http://gjs.appstate.edu/media-coverage-crime-and-criminal-justice/usa-patriot-act
Bott, M., & Thom, J. (2014, June 23). Is sheriff’s department using tracking and data-collecting device without search warrants? Retrieved from News 10 Sacramento: http://www.news10.net/story/news/investigations/2014/06/23/is-sacramento-county-sheriff-dept-using-stingray-to-track-collect-data/11296461/
Constine, J. (2014, April 3). Why is Facebook Page Reach Decreasing? More competition and Limited Attention. Retrieved from Techcrunch: http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/03/the-filtered-feed-problem/
Lang, M. (2015, March 10). Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department sued over ‘Stingray’ surveillance technology. Retrieved from The Sacramento Bee: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article13281356.html
Poitras, L. (Director). (2014). Citizenfour [Motion Picture].
Scahill, J. B. (2015, February 19). The Great SIM Heist . Retrieved March 21, 2015 https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/02/19/great-sim-heist/
Simon, S. (2015, March 21). Common Core’s cyber spies. Retrieved from Politico: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/cyber-snoops-track-students-116276.html