Friday, September 18, 2009

Big Brother, Big Brother, Are You There?

Today, I thought I'd discuss an interesting Facebook conversation I participated in yesterday.

The Washington Times reports that The White House is now collecting and storing comments and videos placed on its social-networking sites, like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube without asking the consent of, or notifying the users. This seems to run counter to the president's promise during his campaign to protect privacy on the internet and to run a transparent government. One Obama campaign document pledged, that as president he plans to strengthen privacy protections for the digital age and it said he will harness the power of technology to hold both government and business accountable for violations of personal privacy.

The document was perhaps making reference to President Bush's policy of uploading presidential speeches onto iTunes, and other governmental monitoring like wire tapping the phones and monitoring the websites of suspected terrorists. According to David Almacy who served as the Bush Internet Director, the administration did not use the then fledgling social-networking sites in the same manner that the Obama White House is currently using them. The administration did however admit to archiving comments posted on its official website, but not the social networks.

So, the question is: Is president Obama continuing president Bush's policy of government monitoring or is he expanding it? Perhaps even more important than that, is the basic issue of why this is being done in the first place. We were told that our privacy would be protected, not invaded. Were we not being told the truth? This type of monitoring was supposed to be stopped, not enhanced.

As uncomfortable as the issue can make us, one can almost understand why some monitoring needs to be done, if government websites are subject to threats from possible terrorists. I suppose there is a certain amount of privacy invasion that needs to take place, to keep us safe. BUT IT IS A SLIPPERY SLOPE! At what point does monitoring for national security turn into monitoring because someone disagrees with one of the president's proposals? Since the healthcare debate has raged across this country with the polls showing that most Americans do not favor the Obama plan, more and more of these types of issues are cropping up. Even on this blog, links to pro-Obama messages started mysteriously popping up when I typed in text such as "Insurance" or "Healthcare." (and it took forever to remove) While I'm not suggesting that I'm being monitored, it makes me a bit nervous and is a very strange coincidence at a time when so much of this stuff is happening.

Our forefather's died for our freedoms and rights and the basic concept of open dialogue and free speech is as integral to America as the air we breathe. I may not like what you have to say, but I'd certainly stand up for your right to say it. If the president and his administration are truly gathering information about people because of open dialogue that may not agree with their proposed policies, then that is immoral and un-American.

Remember Mr. President we still live in America, although it may not look so much like it anymore. Those who voted for you last November did so because they liked the message that you delivered, and they cast their ballots because you had the right to call for the change that you believed was needed, even though many of us disagreed. With all due respect, you've had your say Sir, and you continue (and rightfully so) to get your say each and every day across the main stream news. For those of us who want to engage in a discussion about your policies and ideas, we are simply asking for the same right.

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