Saturday, December 29, 2012

Why Are People More Scared of Facebook Violating Their Privacy than Washington?

Why Are People More Scared of Facebook Violating Their Privacy than Washington?:
How many people has Facebook put in jail, folks?This morning, Matt Welch
took note
of the Senate’s bipartisan effort to stop amendments
to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 that would make the domestic
surveillance program more transparent and require compliance with
the Fourth Amendment.  (To follow up on Welch’s notes this
morning, Sen. Ron Wyden’s amendment was indeed
and the act was reauthorized unchanged in a 73-23
The traditional media response to the reauthorization battle has
been remarkably nonexistent. As I was managing my shift updating
Reason 24/7 yesterday
afternoon I was learning the outcomes of the votes not from the
Associated Press or anything that popped up on my Google newsfeed,
but from tweets from the likes of Adam Serwer of Mother
or Julian
of Cato.
There’s currently nothing on the New York Times web
site about the votes (either yesterday’s or today’s). The
Associated Press wrote a story about the House’s vote in September
nothing yet
from yesterday or today. The Washington
post a story
this morning. A Google news search will land hits
with mostly tech or web-based media outlets.
Compare the lack of response to the way people react to privacy
breaches connected to Facebook or Twitter. Media outlet after media
outlet carried reports
about a private picture of Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook founder Mark
Zuckerberg’s sister, accidentally being made public somehow through
social media channels. And how many of your Facebook friends posted
that silly, pointless “privacy
” on their walls?
The easy response is to blame the media for not keeping the
public informed. And while Congress’ and the Obama Administration’s
palpable disdain for both the Fourth and Fifth Amendments should
horrify all Americans, it should be fairly clear by now that maybe
it doesn’t for large swaths of people. Media outlets are responding
to their respective markets. Those who are covering FISA are doing
so because their readers have expressed an interest.
The degradation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments is an
academic or theoretical matter for so many people and often lacks a
strong human narrative to draw public outrage. Indeed, the very
secrecy behind the application of federal domestic wiretapping has
made it impossible to introduce a human narrative. We do not even
know how many Americans have been spied on due to these rules
(which was what Wyden’s amendment was trying to fix). Like our
foreign drone strikes
and indefinite detention
, the public’s distance from the actual rights violations
(and government-fueled fears of acts of terrorism) is a useful
barrier for the state to get away with expanding its authority
beyond the Constitution’s limitations without significant voter
Whereas, just about everybody’s on Facebook. Facebook’s privacy
systems affect them directly every day, and they see it. So
Americans are furious that Instagram might sell their photos, while
shrugging at what the federal government might do with the exact
same data.
This grasp of managing outrage is what makes our government’s
lack of transparency so insidious. Even though the government has
admitted that it has violated the Fourth Amendment
at least once
in its warrantless wiretapping, the outrage is
limited to privacy and civil liberties circles precisely because
the secrecy keeps the public from even knowing what these
violations actually mean
Reason Associate Editor Mike Riggs thoroughly documented the
Obama Administration’s failure to live up to his promise to make
the federal government more transparent in our December issue.

Read it here