As today’s society becomes increasingly oriented around technology, individuals are unknowingly giving up a certain amount of their privacy. Government agencies are intruding on innocent people’s privacy by means of social media accounts and other websites that require citizens to upload their information to the internet. Privacy surveillance has always existed, but the serious issue arises when the government abuses people’s privacy for unrelated reasons. As of recent, the government has been using people’s “private” information for personal uses. For example, in 2014, the number of government requests for facebook’s user data in the United States was over double that of any other other country. Over fifty percent of Americans say that they are uncomfortable with the amount of surveillance done by the government. It is not a good sign when the citizens of a country do not feel safe under their own government.
If the government continues to gain access to private information, then our society will quickly devolve into a similar looking situation to Orwell’s 1984. In the novel, the government has virtually limitless access to all information they want, even to the point of changing true information to make something appear different. Although the extent to which our information is being surveyed is not quite to the level in 1984, there is no doubt that we are headed in that direction. For example, fifty eight percent of Americans age fifty and over say that their data is less secure than five years prior. People are noticing the increasing surveillance of their personal information.
It’s difficult to really define the problem and then expect to be able to fix it because we are technically allowing this to happen to us. Take social media for example, before starting a new account, most people mindlessly click “agree” to the terms which often state that personal information will not always be as personal as we think. The argument can still be made that websites give away an unnecessarily large amount of information, however there are some cases where that information can be used for good. The lines of right and wrong get somewhat blurry here because the government can and has used personal information for good. A few years ago, the federal government was able to find a criminal through his cell service provider. Although there is an argument that his privacy was invaded, there is no denying that this situation contributed to a common good.
This is not always the case, and most of the time, the government is able to view our private information for little to no reason. For example, facebook has been giving away their users data for the past ten years, and even in recent times, there have been controversial situations around the social media platform. President Trump allegedly used data obtained from facebook to influence the election. Because we do this to ourselves, there is no solution that will fix everything, but there are steps that can be taken to limit the amount of information that the government can get its hands on. Awareness is one of the most impactful solutions that could be implemented. Most people don’t even know that the government is able to see their private information, and if they were, they would be more cautious when putting information on the internet. Another thing is that the government lies about how the amount of information they receive, so if enough awareness was raised, there would be a great deal of mistrust for the government. The ACLU for example has been trying to prevent the abuse of private information for years by challenging the government’s surveillance.
We are moving in both directions because our society is becoming extremely dependent on the internet and our phones which allows the government access to our information, but at the same time there is more awareness being raised. It is unlikely that we will stop using social media, however there are still steps that we can take, and steps that are being taken to help protect our private information. Awareness and caution when putting information on the internet can help a great deal, but there are also organizations working towards protecting our privacy. Europe’s new privacy law, General Data Protection Regulation, is working towards making companies be a lot clearer with how they are going to use information. As steps are being taken in both directions, the best thing we can do is focus on being more aware of what platforms we are using, and where we are uploading our information.