Whistleblower Edward Snowden is live online with the Guardian today. Here's a link U.S. readers can use to follow the chat:
Right. I will now put on my Calm Auntie hat. Gentle Readers, what Edward Snowden has told the British press, and thus told us secondhand, wasn't exactly news--it was the confirmation of something we all knew has been going on.
Maybe some of you didn't talk to the school geek when you were in college. Well I did. He was good at hacking, and he was conscientious about using his power for good; I respected him. And even back then, although the equipment was much much slower and clunkier than it is now, I knew this guy could use junk from Radio Shack to get your unlisted number from the telephone company, track your long-distance call record, and, yes, listen to your phone conversations. (And that was before cell phones, on which your conversations can easily turn up as interference when people are trying to listen to Blake Shelton on the radio, thank you just the same.) He could do those things, and sometimes he did, and in his junior year he started working for the U.S. government. So I've known for as long as I've had access to computers that one federal agent knows just about exactly as much about me as he wants to know.
In some ways it's been liberating. Most of us have nothing to hide from any kind of law enforcement but most of us don't want the school geek to read our personal letters. So...don't use a computer to write a personal letter. Don't use a cell phone to carry on a personal conversation. If you have a close friend or relative who just can't keep from blurting out personal communication at the sound of your voice, and the sound of this person's voice warns you that s/he is about to gush, a tactful way to remind the person is to greet any geeks and/or law enforcement personnel you know by name...they could be listening. Officially or otherwise.
I'm assuming that you Gentle Readers are, like me, mostly afraid of indiscretions, ridicule, maybe personal bias. So don't expose yourselves to those things. Maybe you want to confide your feelings to the person you have a crush on, but...Don't send it in an e-mail. So what else is new?
Unless it turns out that Snowden has told other foreign governments more than what the Guardian has disclosed that he told them, his whistleblowing hasn't been sabotage or even very shocking news to reasonably well-informed people. Let the screams of "Treason!" cease.