Opinion: Is the NSA cause for concern…or comfort?

The NSA scandal is one of the biggest news stories of 2013. The moment Edward Snowden leaked a series of highly controversial documents to the press, the entire concept of domestic privacy shifted. Skeptics and conspiracy theorists aside, even the average citizen had to acknowledge that their own government is keeping very, very careful tabs on them, monitoring everything from text messages to phone calls to Facebook chats.

In reality, the only time the NSA reading your email is going to harm you is if you are doing something illegal. Odds are, if you’ve used the Internet to look up how to make a bomb, you were probably going to get caught for doing something stupid long before the NSA ever put your name on a list. Likewise, if you think it should be harder for your government to find the money you’re pumping into a foreign bank account, then you should stop making long distance calls to Switzerland from your landline. Or just pay your taxes. Most of the activities the NSA screens for are going to get you arrested regardless of whether or not you were dumb enough to Google it.

Critics claim that the NSA infringes on our rights as private citizens, often relating the collecting of data to something out of George Orwell’s “1984”. But I like to think of the NSA as an overly-adoring friend, peering at me through my webcam with the same tongue-wagging enthusiasm my dog has when I purposely drop food all over my kitchen floor for her to enjoy.

Every time I log into my computer, I imagine a small man being awoken by an alarm at a desk somewhere deep underneath suburban Atlanta. He has no friends, family or home; he lives inside of the NSA headquarters and exists strictly to monitor the trail of awesomeness I leave all over the Internet. Thus, every site that I visit, every unintelligible, highly offensive comment I leave on YouTube videos at 3 a.m. and every photo of my guinea pig that I post bi-weekly to the Reddit news section, I consider whether or not it’s going to entertain my buddy over at the NSA.

Utilizing this online state of mind has added meaning to my life. I know that the petitions I post on WhiteHouse.gov protesting our bans on whaling don’t go completely unnoticed. Even when texts to ex-girlfriends go unanswered, somebody in a dark basement is feeling my pain, silently agreeing that I’m going to die alone.

But most importantly, constantly thinking about my government stalker when I use the web keeps me from looking up something I shouldn’t because in reality, Guantanamo Bay is full of teenagers who didn’t think twice before Googling instructions for a gravity bong.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Samuel Schanfarber at samuel.schanfarber@colorado.edu.

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