Online Privacy & Freedom – Now At Risk

Most of us are aware of the Occupy Wall Street [OWS] protests and their message of raising awareness of the vast chasm between the rich and poor. The 1% get all of the breaks and the 99% get the boot. I am not one to argue their point. I am not one to say that there isn’t something truly amiss with the disparity between the very wealthy in this country and those less fortunate. There is…and it is systemic, ongoing and desperately needs to be addressed at the highest levels.

While most of us may believe that the aforementioned is a major issue…there is a bigger issue that is NOT being covered by the mainstream media and issues that are much closer the the very core and fabric of our nation. Our very freedoms are under direct assault by those who hold political office.

What I find interesting and a little frightening is this: the Occupy movement has awakened sleeping giants. The giants – those who seek to stop any type of protest in its tracks. The Bill of Rights allows freedom of speech, freedom to peaceably protest, right to petition our government and freedom of the press. These are the rights of Americans and this is not up for debate…until now.

Over the course of 2011, there were hundreds of protests in the Middle East which toppled governments and dethroned dictators. It was called the Arab Spring…and it’s primary communication tool was the Internet. Demonstrators and protesters used texts, social networks and Twitter to topple oppressive regimes. On one hand it was a true force of democratic will, propelled by well oiled and socially connected people. On the other was the most basic desire for freedom of oppression.

Simple desire created massive change and the vehicle that helped the people do it was social media.

When the Occupy Wall Street started to pick up steam…those in power in the U.S. started to get a little unhinged and are now pulling the plug on freedom, privacy, the press and you. Politicians [left and right] and corporate America do not want to change how we do business nor do they want to change that was once promised.

Don’t believe me…take a look at some recent stories –

  1. Freedom Index for the United States [now ranked 47th].
  2. Drones patrolling New York
  3. Homeland Security can now keep track of those “reporters” using social networks and social media outlets
  4. The new National Defense Authorization Act which allows the president to kill American citizens and indefinitely detain them with out trial or council.
  5. Failed attempt at full blow Internet censorship via SOPA.
  6. Failed attempt at additional Internet censorship with the Protect IP Act.
  7. Chicago’s mayor added on higher fees and stiffer penalties for the G8 summit.

The good news is items 5 and 6 failed. The bad news is we are teetering very close to a point of no return. Every move we make…as a reporter, blogger, or social media hipster or college student may be watched, monitored, collected and used against us in a court of law [if we are lucky]. In addition, you may end up held without trial, without legal council, without even being told why.

All of this seems like it has been specifically created and designed to curb, stop or totally shut down any unrest the current political and socioeconomic climate may bring about. By any means necessary. By all powers available. All in the name of security.

Social media and social communication has provided people around the world with a new voice and new tools to cause change. These new communication tools are extremely potent and to those in power…may be deemed dangerous. The status quo types don’t like change. They are making way too much just the way things are…thank you.

As Americans may agree, terrorism is a real threat. The individuals who darkened our skies on 9-11 are not unique…they succeeded. There are others that wish to do the U.S. it and its people harm. That is beyond tragic, sick and inhumane. However, as Americans…our parents, grandparents and millions before our time, bled to provide us the very freedoms we enjoy today. Online and offline. In private, on our person and within our own homes.

Freedom is that warm blanket of security we have all enjoyed for so long but have continually failed protect ourselves from ourselves. We are the government [as they are elected by us] and now they are digging into everything we hold dear in the name of security.

Let’s be honest. Osama Bin Laden is dead. Many of the top Al-Qaeda rank and file are dead or in GitMo. Many of the treats we once faced are now the size of a small kitten. Sure, there are more bad guys…there always will be. But what are we willing to give up for JUST A LITTLE MORE SAFETY?

I am not writing this post out of fear or conspiracy or hysteria. No. I am writing to sound the alarm that something is coming and it will be a fight for our online and offline privacy and freedom. Lets hope we as Americans are up for the fight. Paying attention is the very first step.

In closing, New Hampshire’s licence plate reads – Live Free or Die. I don’t think it will ever come to that again. The American Revolution ended in 1783…and if we continue to ignore the signs…we may not be able to stand up at all – as we will all be in Internet shackles with no one on the other side to hear our message or help.