Last night, the world found out about the NSA's pervasive, encompassing PRISM surveillance program. We learned that we are all being monitored, in a literal sense, and that the largest tech companies on the planet are involved. There is no way to avoid it. And I just can't find any reason to care.
To be perfectly clear: Yes, this is shocking and crazy and important, on a massive scale that justifies a great many conspiracy theories and paranoias about the American government. This is not boring, exactly. If pressed, I'd pick the "No thank you" option on being PRISMed. Actual civil liberties are at stake, and I will probably limply retweet or click through to various missives from the try-hards doing the actual work of unraveling this thing.
But there's this weird disconnect between the breathless hysteria deployed to write about it and how it affects me (and, presumably, most of you). Yes, your data is vulnerable, and your privacy has been shot to smithereens. But how does that affect you? How does your life, as you live it, change in any tangible way?
I am unimportant, on a practical and metaphysical level. So are you, probably. And so is absolutely everything any of us do on the internet. No one gives a shit about our information.
Oh, we handle important things online, or at least, things that are important to the immediate world around us. The internet is littered with mortgage payments and sensitive company projects and our homemade sex videos and email and texts and instant message conversations that cover topics ranging from embarrassing taste in music to stark political views. It's deeply personal stuff.
But the fact that all of that information is sitting there, existing as parseable data that might even be read over, doesn't change what music I listen to or save to my phone, or if I remember to call my mom every week, or what I write or think or convey to anyone or about anything in my real world life.
If the United States government wants to disclose to the public that I have the porn viewing habits of a hyperactive and presumably dehydrated 14-year-old, I can't really stop them. But the thing is, I also don't care. Any mess I've made on the internet, whether it's a social disaster or simply deviant behavior, is not something I'm alone in. We're all goddamn weirdos online. It's a level playing field. And no government analyst is going to waste time trying to parse your SkyDrive uploads.
I'm not naive enough to think that this information can't or won't be abused, and PRISM's merit as a legalized threat deterrent is for other, boring people to decide. People who own suits, people whose other decisions similarly have zero bearing on my life. As far as walking down the street or through a grocery store, I'd bet PRISM has less impact on the average American life than a corn subsidy does.
There are certain world-changing individuals for whom PRISM may be chilling. There is a rich and real history of government agencies silencing people whose voices could enact real movements. I'm just not one of them. I'm a jerk with a laptop. I don't want anyone's voice silenced, or worse. But if I'm being honest, I don't know that I care beyond maybe signing on online petition someday. Or, you know, probably not.