You’re a good person. Should you worry what websites know about you? Take this short quiz to find out.
Have you ever…
- Grumbled about high income taxes in an online forum?
- Performed an Internet search about the Bill of Rights?
- Said you’d oppose the government injecting RFID microchips into people?
- Supported a 3rd-party U.S. presidential candidate like Ron Paul or Bob Barr?
- Forwarded an email with pro-life content?
- “Liked” the movie America: Freedom to Fascism?
- Visited any websites about these or other controversial topics?
While these examples are U.S.-based, you can find parallels regardless of where you live. If you answered yes to any of them, you need to think harder about protecting your privacy.
Whether you’re a school teacher, cab driver, doctor, fast food worker or stay-at-home parent and the most law-abiding person in the world doesn’t matter. You could still be considered a “person of interest” based on perfectly legal online activities and comments. In fact, you could wind up on a government watch list for simply exercising your right to free speech and association.
Don’t believe this?
Take a look at the Missouri Information Analysis Center Report, a document that originated from a “fusion center” that combines intelligence information from the Department of Homeland Security and other federal, state and local agencies.
Long before Edward Snowden’s revelations of government spying made the headlines, this 2009 law enforcement document revealed some shocking things about the government’s interest in our lives. It urges law enforcement agencies to scrutinize regular folks based on the causes they support, their religious beliefs, their political affiliations and what they read and watch. Any interest in the topics listed could peg you as belonging to “The Modern Militia Movement” and mark you as a potential domestic terrorist, according to the MIAC report.
We certainly were when we realized we were likely on the government’s radar screen for the flimsiest of reasons. Consider that Katherine not only watched America: Freedom to Fascism, she starred in it. By association, that likely counts against Liz, too, since we’re friends. As if that weren’t enough, we wrote the best-selling anti-RFID book “Spychips” and speak out frequently against the use of RFID chips to track and monitor people. Domestic terrorists? Really? You can’t be serious.
When government suspicion tips into paranoia, thoughtful people start thinking hard about privacy. Over time, your posts, texts and searches and what you write through “free” email services paint an intimate picture of your life — and one you should probably keep to yourself.
In our last blog post, we explained how your data is first collected by websites and marketers to tailor ads to your interests. (We also listed ways to give Internet trackers the slip.) While it’s annoying to have marketers spying on your politics and movie choices, the end consumer of this data may be the government.
Edward Snowden proved that federal authorities are keenly interested in collecting massive amounts of our data, especially now that they consider every last man, woman and child to be a potential threat. Agencies like the National Security Agency can secretly obtain all of our personal information by buying it, intercepting it, or demanding it under the Patriot Act.
If you’re wondering how the government could use perfectly legal opinions against innocent people, just turn on the nightly news. IRS discrimination against conservative groups applying for non-profit status should raise alarm bells, whatever your politics. If the Republicans dominate Washington in the future, the tables could quickly turn against more liberal organizations.
So the next time someone says, “Hey, I’m not doing anything wrong, so why should I worry about online privacy?” send them a copy of the MIAC report. Or better yet,
send them here to read this post.
Stay tuned for our next installment. We’ll talk about the most powerful way to keep hackers, marketers, and government agents from snooping on your online activities:
Photo credits: Sergey Nivens/Bigstock.com, Constitution.org, Wikipedia.com, Amazon.com