The past few weeks have been hard for the sentient among us. Many of us have resorted to drink and even those who haven’t still feel that they’re negotiating a particularly bad hangover each time a horrifying new appointment is unveiled (and I haven’t even gotten started on the spectacle of the rallies, but I digress).
Thus, it is easy to forget this guy…
… you know, Edward Snowden, the dude who – at considerable personal expense – exposed that we were all being spied on by our government.
You kinda sorta know all this. The government is collecting data (from cell phones, credit cards, and so on) on every citizen in the country and the world (in collusion with many corporations), all the while denying it.
It’s as if we were all signed up for a competition reality show and were being surveilled 24 hours a day 7 days a week, but no one told us and we didn’t sign a release.
When Snowden originally shared these revelations the government dithered for a bit and then bleated “National Security.” Extending the Reality metaphor: they pretty much said, yes, we have been filming you in the shower for many months, but we pinky swear we won’t look at it. (Unless, that is, our secret courts decide that we can, in which case we will. Because, National Security.)
And with those two words everyone turned back to reading recaps of The Walking Dead, while half-watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians and checking their phones for Facebook or Twitter likes.
After all, none of US are terrorists, so who cares if the government is up to its elbows in our privacy?
Also the fact that Snowden’s revelations came to light during Obama’s presidency was probably part of the reason they landed with a bit of a thud. Obama is a seemingly sensible and well-meaning chap, we figured, so why worry when he’s at the wheel? It’s not like we have a thin-skinned, vindictive toddler about to get his stumpy fingers all over those levers.
Oh, wait… we do!
Now might be a good time to pause and discuss how exactly the government works with the data they collect.
Jacob Appelbaum, in Laura Poitrus’ film about Snowden, Citizen 4, provides a useful outline of how credit card, metro card and cell phone logs alone could be analyzed once the government has decided to target you:
… they can actually recreate your exact steps with a metrocard and with a credit card. Alone. […] and potentially by linking that data to someone on similar travel plans, they can figure out who you talked to and who you met with. When you then take cell phone data, which logs your location, and you link up purchasing data, metro card data and your debit card you start to get what you could call metadata in aggregate over a person’s life and metadata in aggregate is content, it tells a story about you which is made up of facts but is not necessarily true. (emphasis mine) So for example just because you were on the corner and all those data points point to it, it doesn’t mean you committed the crime.
Again, the Reality metaphor kind of works: give us enough footage and we can tell any story that we want (even ones that are manifestly untrue). Even if you are completely innocent, the tools Snowden (among others) disclosed can work against you.
So now you have to ask yourself: do you truly trust that Trump is above using the capacities Snowden described to settle personal scores? Or might he even share classified information with his pal Putin?
Now might be a good time to click through to this handy dandy intercept article and start locking down your data lickety split. We know they’re watching everyone. How about we don’t make it too easy for them?
It’s clear Vladimir Putin only offered Snowden refuge to poke Obama and Hillary in the eye, not because he had any idealistic confluence with the whistleblower. Might he not make a wonderful present of his current guest to the Trump Administration? A kind of October Surprise for the Millennium?
I urge you to add your voice to the pursuit of a pardon. Snowden was well aware what the consequences of his actions would be and he went ahead regardless. He revealed information that we are the better for knowing (especially fucking now) and he is deserving of our gratitude, not punishment.