Do you use the Internet or a cell phone? Of course you do. And unless you are using T-Mobile (is that still a thing?) and/or living in an off-the-grid community in Wyoming, the NSA could theoretically start checking in on you with the vengeance of a 15-year-old girl looking for a prom date. Moreover, the NSA can check in on you in a way that a hypothetical 15-year-old girl could only dream of during a session of manic Facebook stalking.
Like the best friend who clues you in on your impending (although unknown to you) prom date, Edward Snowden, with the help of reporter Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras, clued us all in as to that reality. Now, perhaps you are absolutely fine with the government tracking your movements via phone logs, National Security Agency sending letters to tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook, and the government (with the help of the DNI's XKeyscore) having access to "'nearly everything a typical user does on the internet' including the content of emails, websites visited, and searches, as well as their metadata." Perhaps you are willing to throw your heart, emotions, and illusion of freedom to the wind as you embrace our new era of internet oversight. For others, however, these revelations have had a more traumatic impact. For those of you out there mourning your illusions of privacy and governmental transparency, this guide to the steps of the grieving process is for you.
On June 6, 2013, if you read the British daily newspaper The Guardian, you might have come across an article written by Glenn Greenwald about the NSA collecting metadata off Verizon's phone records. If you didn't read it, you sure heard about it on the news. And you were all like:
Because we live in the United States of America, and we do not spy on our citizens, and how dare some British reporter say otherwise! And you stuck to your guns: Sure, evidence might look damning, but eventually one of the agencies The Guardian approached would comment, and this would all prove to be a misunderstanding.
When you learned that this information came from whistleblower Edward Snowden, a computer specialist employed by Booz Allen Hamilton who leaked gigabytes of compromising data, you began to wonder a bit if maybe there wasn't some truth to it. Then someone showed you this article from USA Today written back in 2006, and you moved on in the grieving process.
Sure you have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, email, Foursquare, and Livejournal (just kidding, no one has Livejournal anymore), but tracking your cell phone metadata is simply unacceptable. Or perhaps it was the fact that there have been 2,776 accidental privacy violations in the past calendar year. Or maybe you simply live in an allied nation, such as Germany, and are not comforted by the words of former NSA Director Michael Hayden that "we [America] steal secrets. We're number one in it...We steal stuff to make you safe, not to make you rich," and you begin to wonder whether PRISM might be tracking you.
After you pick up your broken laptop and cellphone off the floor, and resurrect your Facebook account, you are ready to begin the third stage of the grieving process.
Where you look at the historical data on attempting to bargain with the U.S. government:
-Lavabit owner Ladar Levison's current legal battle both for his clients' privacy and against his own arrest for shutting down his encoded email company.
Looking at these cases, you decide bargaining is a game you can only stand to lose.
So you realize that they have your data. Any and all of your data. It might be keeping you safe, because its main focus is to obtain foreign intelligence, and our president assures us that this surveillance is "worth us doing." For those not on board with the NSA's wide reach, this is the point where you curl up with your George Orwell and Ayn Rand and weep. Or you do something really drastic, like registering as a libertarian.
Sure the NSA has all your data. But ultimately the only person you can control in this situation is yourself. You can choose how you will deal with this clearly necessary protection/possible infringement of your right to privacy. And the best way to do that is to realize that, for better or worse, you are in this relationship with the NSA, and you have been for quite some time. Even if this level of metadata mining stops, there will always be other ways to find your information. So relax and embrace it. At least now we all know that we are never truly alone. And by this point, you're probably okay with that.
So sit back, and enjoy your new relationship with a song written just for you and the NSA.