News and Tribune

June 17, 2013

CUMMINS: We had privacy back in the old days

Local columnist

Almost everybody is hyper now, because there is no privacy. Throw your gadgets away and move to the country, what’s left of it, and you’ll be able to switch focus from cyberspace to your mind and heart, the center of your sanity. Our privacy has been transferred to Washington. We will regain it when Facebook and Twitter collapse from boredom, and when the Tea Party takes control of the IRS, NSA and CIA. These agencies control your internal revenue and your security. Not only do they rob you, they compile your data, pretending to look for terrorists. Washington knows more about you than you do.

I remember saying back when eBay began, “If you send your secret Social Security number out in cyberspace, a nerd will steal it.” We didn’t have hackers back in my day. Most folks were near normal. Back then, a hacker was a slacker, and if he cut corners, we took away his privacy any way we could. I also said that if you try to connect to the world instantaneously, nobody will listen to you. It’s too big and impersonal. You can’t change the Taliban’s mind using a handheld. About the best we can hope for is to get through life with a little privacy that gives you some room to think things through. If you want to connect with an entity, try God, who has yet to bless cyberspace.

Congress is holding hearings on your loss of privacy, as if they really care. You don’t hold hearings with your neighbors; “Did your dog poop on my lawn? I’ll have the evidence analyzed.” Congress wants to learn who did what, when and why. If they remember, they did. They passed laws to search for terrorists. You might be one. Maybe not now, but you’ll think about it when Congress listens to your phone calls, and adds you to the mega-data inside a monstrous bank they call Prism. They should have named it Prison.

The media, all 42 million of them, are stirred up, too. They think the government is listening to their calls, and maybe reading their emails to find leaks. Reporters love leaking classified secrets. The world would be dull without leaks, duller than it is now. The problem is that the federal bucket is not only empty of ready cash; it leaks like a sieve. When Congress concludes the IRS, Benghazi and media surveillance hearings, who will they hear next? The only thing that will slow them is the dire need to raise money for the next election. Call your congressman before he calls you, and ask if he hears you.

Leaks don’t worry me, but living online does. We’re so entangled now, braided and linked to everything imaginable. It’s the unimaginable that confounds me. One can only comprehend so much until he suffers brain damage and hearing loss.

There are smartphones and a few smart guys. The NSA thought they had privacy and kept secrets from us. But smart-aleck, Edward Snowden, hacked into the Web, which stretches nearly to Heaven. And then he leaked stuff, which provided Congress with something else to do. What he discovered was that government does hack you; your phone calls, emails, and maybe your shoe size to determine if it’s large enough to conceal a bomb. All this information goes into a mega-data thing they call Prism, hovering far from Heaven’s peaceful, private and terrorist-free abode. 

If you had privacy, forget it. Your best chance for privacy is in Heaven. They check the pureness of your heart, not your tweets and blogs that are not a substitute for prayer. Text God and see if you get through.

Back in the old days, we had some privacy. Maybe you get it online. If you’re wirelessly attached, wires or human voices mean little to you. Privacy gives you a safe and secure feeling from prying forces. Privacy is, “it’s none of your business.”

Back during the Depression, we had some privacy; that is, until technology began to let loose. Our first telephone was a “party line” that had seven other neighbors hooked to the same line. When our phone rang, neighbors could listen in. Nosey Rosy, down the road, always picked up and listened to our calls, and had plenty text material to use as gossip at church on Sundays. Since then, my privacy slowly, but surely vanished. What little I have now is stored in Prism.

— Contact Terry Cummins at