HORNER’S CORNER: Have a nice day, NSA

Benjamin Franklin said: any society that gives up a little freedom to get a little security deserves neither and will lose both

I just want to be clear: it’s nothing personal.

Oh, I can’t say it was all that hard to do. Facebook always struck me as pretty much a waste of my time.

But for all those um …friends … out there, I want you to know I didn’t unfriend you because I find your political views obnoxious or because you can’t seem to make a statement without sprinkling it with a generous dosage of F bombs.

I didn’t pull the plug because of the myriad inspirational messages from people who are clearly depressed, nor for the scams, the ads or the trivial details of people’s uninteresting lives.

I’ve just never really trusted Facebook. Not after learning about the CIA connection to an early $12 million investment in the project. It just seemed too perfect a tool for data mining by people who don’t have my best interests at heart.

Was there ever a more perfect tool for spying on the populace? We happily blurt out everything about ourselves, from the movies we watch through our sexual orientation to our choice in political ideologies, and we do it all without being asked.

The thing to keep in mind is, every single thing we post becomes the property of Facebook and they can pretty much do whatever the heck they want with it. Check out the terms of use sometime. You might be surprised at what you signed away.

I was never comfortable there and I only posted the odd column, funny picture or joke, but I’m confident the spooks gleaned far more from it than I’ll ever know.

I certainly trust Facebook even less now, after I learned the NSA — the National Security Agency of the United States of America — has been data mining on Facebook and other electronic media for the past several years.

As my brand-new hero Edward Snowdon revealed this week, the NSA is all over Facebook, as well as e-mails, Internet use patterns and phone calls, gleaning information from million upon millions of Americans every single day.

Not only that, their reach comes right into Canada. The Internet knows no borders, and evidently, neither does the NSA.

It gets worse. As was reported this week in the Globe and Mail, Canada has its own domestic variant of the NSA’s Prism spy system, busy as a beaver hoovering up connections and context, building electronic profiles for all of us as well.

How far does it go? U.S. President Barack Obama said nobody is listening to your phone calls or reading your e-mails. Maybe that’s true. Maybe not, but I note the NSA vehemently denied tracking law-abiding citizens on several occasions before Snowdon blew the whistle.

Am I against this invasion of privacy because I have something to hide? Not particularly. I just don’t like spooks sifting through the entrails of my life with no good reason.

This warrantless eavesdropping system is the infrastructure of tyranny. It doesn’t matter if the people building it say they have good intentions.

I can’t do a whole lot to stop the transformation of our democracy into a police state, but I can take at least one small step to lessen my participation in it.

So I deactivated my personal Facebook page and I don’t intend to join back up. I got along fine without it right up to last year and as I recall, I was able to function quite well without continually hearing about what somebody I never met had for their dinner.

I can’t escape the data miners of course. I am a reporter and have to use social media to at least some degree for my work. But if you want to communicate with me in my private life, well, if it’s important, let’s have a cup of tea and a chat sometime. If it’s not important, why not just wait until you run into me on the street?

Will quitting Facebook make a difference? Not really. If the spooks want to get information about me I’m quite sure they’ll be able to find it.

But I don’t have to make it easy for them.


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