EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 12, 2014

Column: It's time to take the fight to Big Brother

2014 must be the year when we finally do something to protect our privacy, now that seven months of serial scoops about government spying and snooping have gotten our attention.

We are all on the case, sort of -- shaken out of our complacency and apathy by those revelations of America’s domestic and global spying, in those top-secret documents rookie contractor Edward Snowden stole so easily from the impenetrable National Security Agency.

Many Americans now worry that a raging Big Brotherism is secretly robbing us of our privacy.

Indeed, the more we think about it, the more we realize this ultimate violation we once thought was just George Orwell’s nightmare of a futuristic 1984 has become our reality today.

If we hope to take back our constitutional right of privacy, we need to first figure out just what we’ve lost to this rampant Big Brotherism -- and who is the enemy who took it from us in the first place. That’s our mission today.

First, let’s take inventory of what we’ve lost.

We know from Snowden’s early scoop that the NSA is amassing so-called “metadata” about the phone calls of millions of Americans. The NSA keeps records of phone numbers we call or that call us -- just the numbers, not the content of conversations. (If we are contacted by a suspected terrorist, the feds match his number to ours -- and check out everyone we call.)

Understandably, the metadata revelation triggered consternation from all who think it is a violation of privacy for the government to even keep a record of numbers we call or who call us. President Obama recently said he might recommend that phone companies, not the NSA, should keep this data.

But your privacy can be violated in ways more extensive than collecting metadata. Example:

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