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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Privacy threatened in the digital age

On April 7, 2009, about 10,000 young Moldovans charged forth, weapons in hand, and set flame to Moldova’s parliament building, after a Communist Party victory. With the utilization of Twitter, e-mail and Facebook, the young people were able to assemble quickly and leave authorities stunned by the seemingly sudden appearance of thousands of protestors.

In reaction to the “”Twitter Revolution,”” as it was called in The Washington Post, Internet service in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, was immediately cut off. The United States, while free of Communist reign for the moment, intends to emulate this practice of tapping into virtual methods of communication.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, “”officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct ‘peer to peer’ messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order.””

Idealistically, if taking this step would aid the U.S. government in more successfully wiretapping and monitoring criminal and terrorism suspects, as it argues that its ability to do so is suffering, then inviting the government into all Blackberry conversations might be acceptable to U.S. citizens. However, just like Communism, the idea may appeal on paper but, in practice, presents a dangerous opportunity for the government to abuse its power and step on the rights of its citizens.

Video chats, Bbm (Blackberry Messenger), text messages, Twitter, Facebook and e-mails have become as personal as letters once were, if not more so — by tapping into their content, the government would be changing the relationship people have created with these methods of communication.

College-aged students trust their gadgets, thereby burdening them with photographs, conversations, letters and intimacies that, if exposed, would create the same feelings of violation as if a stranger rummaged through their bedrooms and read their diaries. This uninhibited trust that the younger generation has developed with cell phones, computers and online social networks widens the generational gap between them and government officials, who see it fit to gain unlimited access to the virtual world.

Many students can attest to exhausting arguments with their parents about cleaning up their Facebook profiles, using variations of their real names when registering online and being wary of what they do and say online. Although the younger generation may understand the potential dangers of the Internet, it’s difficult to feel at risk when our society entrusts something as intimate as dating to the online world.

While the government argues the safety benefits of wiretapping the digital world, allowing it to take this initial step presents the constant fear that it could exploit this new power, attacking the most minute of issues such as locating parties with underage drinking, as many UA students can imagine from their experience with UAPD.

Although there are clearly larger issues the U.S. government needs to tackle, it boils down to holding onto the small shred of privacy, real or imagined, that is possible in today’s interconnected world.

— Alexandra Bortnik is a creative writing junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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