Matney: NSA spying hasn’t ended, but opposition to it has

Matney: NSA spying hasn’t ended, but opposition to it has

Lucas Matney, Columnist

It seems that after blindly scrolling through so many terms and agreements, waiving our rights with so many checkboxes and subsequently posting every bit of our personal lives online, we’ve grown completely indifferent to the issue of our online privacy. As always-on Internet connectivity spikes and seamless data collection becomes a foregone conclusion, it seems there is not only nowhere to hide, but no desire to. New technologies have enriched and made our young lives so much easier that infringements on our privacy coming from corporations and government agencies seem like sideshows.

This weekend, Pew Research published a report detailing American support for government agencies. The report confirmed some obvious assumptions: Tea Party members hate the IRS, Democrats love the EPA and most everybody is a fan of NASA. Where the facts got interesting is when the reporting turned to college students’ impressions of the National Security Agency.

The report suggested young people in the 18-29 age group were more likely than any other to support the NSA, with 61 percent of respondents expressing approval for the agency.

Less than 20 months since Edward Snowden’s disclosure of secret documents relating to government surveillance created uproar among young and old Americans alike, it seems the controversy has inexplicably died down.

During last year’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama dedicated a chunk of his speech to discussing far-reaching reforms to the NSA that would protect Americans’ privacy without sacrificing the country’s safety. This year, after failing to pass reforms limiting the NSA’s reach, Obama allocated barely more than one sentence in his address to the topic, simply referencing an upcoming report that would be published on the agency. Reactions on Twitter were minimal to this snub and draw attention to the larger point: We don’t even care about the ethical ramifications of the government carrying out massive domestic surveillance programs.

The NSA is desperately in need of major reforms to protect citizens’ privacy. My generation’s concept of having “nothing to hide” is something I find deeply troubling and in stark opposition to the freedoms I believe make this country so great. The NSA definitely provides valuable intelligence to keep our nation protected on foreign fronts, but we should be far more critical and involved in determining what types of data they should have access to domestically.

If the NSA’s invasive spying can’t outrage us college students, who have arguably the widest breadths of knowledge on today’s technologies, then who will rise to challenge these issues? More importantly, will we even listen to them?

Lucas Matney is a Medill junior. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].