Someone recently pointed out that I had been rather silent about the Facebook privacy scandal. I’m an American, why do I expect Facebook to keep my user information to themselves and furthermore, why do I expect them not to spy on me? Long before Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, became popular, I unwillingly agreed that I did not deserve privacy because I did not put up a protest in 2001 when the American government, backed by a large majority of American Citizens, signed the Patriot Act into law.
At some point in the early 2000s, I made it onto a list. I don’t know what list and I have some general ideas about why I made a list, but they are irrelevant. The relevant part is that I did make it onto a list and my personal correspondence became subject to inspection by the US Postal Service.
They didn’t open my bills, but they opened every letter that had a private address as opposed to a business address. My first piece of opened mail I thought was a fluke. By the 10th piece of mail, I was noticing a pattern. By the end of the year, I had resigned myself to knowing that for whatever reason the US government had decided to start checking my mail. It didn’t stop until the end of 2007. So for most of six years, my mail was subject to inspection by the government. Also, when I spoke to certain people, there would be clicks, audible clicks, heard by both of us, over the phone line. We made jokes about it, but eventually someone I knew that had a brother that worked for the NSA told me those clicks were probably Big Brother listening in to my phone conversations.
I do not consider myself a dissident. I consider myself a thinker. I prefer to logically sort through facts, including those that involve government, before I make a decision about things. In other words, I consider myself a rational, reasonable human being, expressing my innate ability to think for myself. That is what the Founding Fathers wanted for citizens of the US. To be able to think for themselves and even disagree with the government when need be… Which is what I do.
I will never know for sure why I was selected to be subjected to special mail inspections and possible phone taps. I don’t need to know, because I don’t really care. That would require something like a government agency to be logical…
The point is, the moment Americans agreed that the Patriot Act was okay, we were no longer allowed a right to privacy. The social media boom didn’t improve our rights, it made them worse because let’s face it, how many end user license agreements (those things you normally have to check a box on to continue) does anyone actually read? I usually make it about two paragraphs before I just hit “I Agree” and continue on with the creation of the account or installation of the program. And without reading that agreement, I do not get to whine about a company using my private information for whatever reasons.
In other words, I was far more okay with Facebook turning over my data to Cambridge Analytica than I was to the US Government spying on me because of something that someone I graduated high school with years earlier had done (eventually, with the help of former classmates, we identified about 20 of us that were having the same problem with our mail being opened… We all had 1 thing in common, we had received a Christmas Card in 2001 – before the Patriot Act went into effect – from someone we had graduated high school with that eventually fled the country because under the Patriot Act she could have been sentenced to life in prison for participating in an act of eco-terrorism that did not harm any living thing).
Was Facebook in the right for turning over User Data to Cambridge Analytica without putting in safe guards that the information would be used as they said it would be used and would eventually be deleted? Nope, I don’t believe they were. Mostly, I don’t think we can be upset about a social media platform sharing our information when we agreed to let the American Government spy on us during the years the Patriot Act were in effect.
As an added twist of irony, I have been keeping track of my friends that posted anything with the Delete Facebook hashtag or complained about the Facebook invasion of privacy issue and most were vehement supporters of the Patriot Act, which seems backwards to me…