Nothing we do is private. In a world where our every movement is tracked, it’s best to assume that anything we do can be known by anybody at the touch of a button.
Recently, many have expressed concern about the news that the government required a certain company to provide records of customer phone calls and has made efforts to track email, video and voice chats, file transfers and other personal information.
Some people are in an uproar, complaining about the invasion of privacy. Others are more realistic and realize we gave up our privacy a long time ago.
If you use a Global Positioning System to get from here to there, you’re using multiple satellites that track your movement so well that it knows you should turn left in 50 feet. Every time you use the Internet to go to any website, your service provider is sharing your location with the website you’re visiting.
If you’re using an app to track your route while running or walking, it’s not only keeping your statistics, in many cases the app is sharing your route and how long you take to complete it.
If this doesn’t concern you at least a little, it should.
That being said, common sense indicates we have nothing to worry about. Law enforcement officers have no reason to care about our online habits, as long as we’re not significantly breaking the law. To be safe, follow two simple rules: Don’t do anything that appears illegal and don’t do anything stupid.
Cameron D’Ambrosio broke both rules. Cameron lives in the Boston area. To put it as politely as possible, the 18-year-old is an aspiring rap artist who gravitates toward profane lyrics. In May, after the Boston Marathon bombings, he posted lyrics on his Facebook account where he not only claimed what he planned would be far worse than the bombings, he also implied he might “go insane” and attack the White House.
Law enforcement became involved, not because of high-tech surveillance, but because several of his classmates reported what he said to school administrators, who then called the police. Authorities then charged Cameron with “communicating terroristic threats.”
Some were outraged. More than 90,000 people signed a petition demanding an immediate release. Others thought the charges were justified.
As with most situations, right and wrong are nowhere near as obvious as those on the extremes would have you believe. All of us should have the freedom to post lyrics we’ve written online without fear of prosecution, no matter how bad and offensive those lyrics may be. But, freedom comes with responsibility.
If you claim you are going to be violent, it’s reasonable to expect law enforcement agencies to assume you’re planning violence. It’s also reasonable to assume that you’ll be freed once investigators realize you’re at no risk of harm to anyone but yourself.
That’s not what happened with Cameron. A judge kept him in jail for more than a month because previous incidents indicated he was a threat to others. He stayed behind bars until June when a grand jury refused to indict him. He was immediately released and prosecutors say they will not pursue the case.
In the end, Cameron is free, authorities are slightly embarrassed and those who have strong opinions on either side can claim a victory, no matter how insignificant it may be.
What about us? Are we happy with the privacy we have?
They aren’t easy questions, but they’re ones we should ask every time we pick up a cellphone or go online.
If not, anything said could make us the next Cameron.