One of my neighbors recently did an online search for a new backpack for her son (needed for summer camp). Then a few days later she did another search for a pressure cooker (planning a summer BBQ).
The next day the FBI arrived at her door, making sure that (God Forbid) there wasn’t another Boston Marathon-type terrorist attack.
Many people were initially caught off guard by this NSA-type surveillance, wondering if there was any privacy left in the world. Knowing my profession and technology knowledge, they asked for my opinion, which is summarized below.
I thought that this Government-driven Big Data Mining, trying to “connect anonymous dots” to keep all of us safe, was absolutely great. There was no explicit targeting of my neighbor, just massive amounts of computing power blindly analyzing data to prevent another attack. All good in my book.
This does bring up the larger question of Edward Snowden, and the role of government in compiling digital records. Before 9/11, government clearly did not do enough. But reading Edward Snowden’s disclosures – and then seeing subsequent actions by Congress – government probably went too far.
I can only hope and pray that our elected leaders, and workers within the FBI/CIA/NSA, find the right balance. As a New Yorker who lost friends on 9/11 and father whose son serves in the Coast Guard’s Law Enforcement Unit, I am comfortable with the government knowing more than less. But that is just one man’s opinion. In the end, my credit card company knows infinitely more about my life, in great detail, than the NSA. And that is okay too.