BURRISS: Petraeus scandal highlights privacy issues

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Supporters of government intrusion into private lives often like to say, “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, what does it matter?”

Usually, this question comes up in regard to the government finding out about criminal activities. But what about our private lives?

Recent events are forcing us to ask, what happens when the government publicizes the private facts it has discovered about us?

In May, the Federal Burearu of Investigation accessed Paula Broadwell’s Gmail account, and discovered she was having an affair with former CIA Director David Petraeus.

Broadwell is a private citizen, and she was not engaged in any criminal activity.

So why did her name suddenly become public?

Was it because she was associated with a high government official, and she became “collateral damage?”

Well, ask yourself how many civic leaders, business leaders, social leaders, semi-leaders and sort-of leaders you know socially, professionally or informally.

Does that mean if they become news you would be OK if those off-color e-mails you sent to a co-worker became public?

And by the way, those Petraeus and Broadwell e-mails weren’t intercepted by the FBI.

They were turned over by Google.

The bureau simply asked for them, and Google handed them over.

Just like or Comcast or Microsoft or Verizon could do with yours.

And don’t think that you don’t know anyone important so the government won’t be interested in your online activities.

Everyone I know, and probably all of you as well, can be connected in four or five links to any high-ranking federal official.

That means almost any of your e-mails has the potential of being part of a federal investigation, and thus becoming public, and your name right along with them.

By now everyone should be aware that e-mails are anything but private.

And given the nature public curiosity, don’t be surprised if yours show up on the front page of a newspaper, or lead an evening newscast.

Read more from:
CIA, David Petraeus, FBI, Journalism, Larry Burriss, Media Matters, Technology, Voices
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Members Opinions:
November 29, 2012 at 7:59am
"Broadwell is a private citizen, and she was not engaged in any criminal activity."

I believe that she had classified information on her computer and or in her posession that she wasn't cleared to have. Also, I think that she is an officer in the reserve which isn't exactly a "private citizen."

December 04, 2012 at 8:36pm
It has been known for years that the government collects absolutely all information on everyone, whether humans physically read it or not. Look up William Binney, former NSA agent and a hot search topic this week.

Google has proven time and time again that it doesn’t care about freedom or privacy. It likes to play the “against internet control” game to woo its users now and again but it is always willing to comply with out-of-control governments reaching into private lives. This is Google, a company that can afford to fight for users’ privacy in court, constantly giving people up to the feds.

As the article stated, people may feel “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, what does it matter?” It’s a matter of principle. Ordinary people with special costumes and badges have access to private information. Nope, nothing could possibly go wrong here.

With NDAA effectively destroying the bill of rights, anyone could be kidnapped by men in costumes with badges – without a warrant – for being “connected in four or five links to any high-ranking federal official.” At that point there are much worse things to worry about than private emails being made public. Or, just imagine being tied through one or two links to someone’s fragile old grandmother who sent money in the mail to Nigerian scammers that were placed on a terrorist watch list for funding some rebel organization in Sudan. Any number of connections can be made between any two people in the world. It’s a slippery slope that never ends.
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