Media Monitoring and the Shackles of Ease

https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/why-government-use-social-media-monitoring-software-direct-threat-our-liberty-and

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/social-media-block-geofeedia-1.3801614

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/police-tracking-social-media-concern-usa-1.3795950

There can be no doubt, Dear Reader, that the irony is alive here. There is a lot of substance to the article I’ve chosen this week, so I will do my best to break it down, but the underlying theme exists as an illustration of the contradictory perils inherent within heavy-handed government philosophy.

This past week, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all announced their decision to terminate agreements with respective firms involved in the aggregation and sale of individual networking data via Social Media Monitoring Software. SMMS, as is the less-cumbersome term of referral, is essentially a package of algorithms that allows for a company to collect and sort through the massive amounts of data populating the worlds that are our social networks. Numerous law enforcement agencies actively use this specialty software, the most notable admittance of usage being in assistance of authorities in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. To think of it as simply a governmental intelligence tool, though, would be shortsighted; scores of retail companies, news corporations and outlets, and other marketplace entities benefit through SMMS services as well, procuring relevant informational patterns and trends to better maximize their business and the efficiency with which it’s done.

Said and done, SMMS is the proof that nothing put on or trafficked through the sphere of social media can be considered private. Unlike phone conversations, there should be no expectation of privacy regarding one’s dealings within a medium predicated on being “social” (to say nothing of the Internet’s openness as a whole).

Many voices have risen up in opposition to the usage of SMMS capabilities by various levels of law enforcement, claiming foundationally that it allows for certain demographics to be unjustly surveilled and profiled, “targeted” as they say, without any provocation or sound reasoning behind the surveillance. These groups, such as the ACLU, in their fervor make not even oblique mention of the proven targeting of conservative non-profit organizations by the Internal Revenue Service, or the general worldwide surveillance and collection of private data by the National Security Agency.

Whereas the NSA and the IRS were, and are, engaging in extra-Constitutional behaviors, the issue of SMMS utilization seems quite basically legal. It is the misunderstanding by the general public concerning the implications of social sharing that allowed invalid discontentment to arise. In my opinion, ignorant as I am of the particular legal intricacies concerning information existing on the internet and social media, I don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with organizations of either a private or governmental existence using our socially-networked information for their unique purposes. The rub of it is thus: if you’re in public space, or a private space that agrees to lend itself to public usage, you have no reason to expect your actions to be held in confidence.

Further, it is patently rich that a culture so desiring of governmental influence in the lives of individuals would take issue with the authoritative surveillance of their information. No reasonable person wishes for their every move to be recorded without their knowledge and aggregated to make a virtual profile, but in a culture so bent on socialistic mores it is pure naiveté to think you can have both a larger governmental role and the same assurance of privacy. In a world of imperfect humanity, If you wish for government to take on an increasing role within the daily lives of society’s citizenry, whether through marriage regulation or universal health coverage, you must prepare yourself for the inborn proclivities of bureaucracy; namely, it grows.

Devon J. Kozak

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