Does Social Media Culture Condone Secret Surveillance?

Posted on June 13th 2013

Does Social Media Culture Condone Secret Surveillance?

ImageGeorge Orwell would be terrified if he was around today.  The dystopian story depicted in Nineteen Eighty-Four indirectly placed a high value on individual liberties like privacy and the freedom to hold views that oppose mainstream thought or generally accepted values.  The advent and evolution of social media combined with the recent exposure of government agencies caught engaging in secret surveillance bring the classic novel’s premise into sharp focus.

In a sense, social media embraces a flagrant disregard for one’s right to privacy.  The volume of information that is voluntarily posted can be staggering.  The most avid social media user can conceivably be tracked throughout most of their day.  Regular status updates, posting pictures, checking in, and various other comments can potentially give away far more information than the casual social media user may realize.  It’s no wonder the Department of Defense entertained the thought of using social media to gather intelligence.  

A recent Mashable article released an article that reports that 56% of Americans think tracking phone call records is acceptable if the purpose was to foil terrorist activity.  The same article quoted that 45% of Americans condoned email surveillance if it meant increased safety from terrorist activity. 

Considering the relatively high percentage of people excusing unwarranted surveillance, the dystopian Orwellian tale may not be as scary to the modern social media denizen as to the more Victorian minded people of the mid 20th century.  As people act more and more like their own social media agency to promote self exposure, the act of surveillance is probably not as intimidating as it was once thought. 

After all, keeping the masses safe from terrorist activity is a noble pursuit.  More than one study has indicated that in times of peril, people willingly trade a percentage of personal freedoms to ensure their personal well-being.  Surely Orwell would agree, wouldn’t he?  He might, until the definition of terrorism is distorted.  How far can one disagree with an established order until they are seen as a dangerous?  Then again, does an avid social media user really feel they have something to hide? 


Christopher Hansen

Chris Hansen is a freelance writer with a Master's in social studies education and Bachelor's in history.  Follow Chris on twitter @ChrisDaleHansen

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Posted on June 13th 2013 at 1:52AM

Well stated ! We have been so conditioned to be afraid of terrorists that anyone the Government defines as a "terrorist" is a subject for suspicion. Sen Feinstein defended PRISM by saying that  the data collected could be used if the subject of the search did anything in the future. We are guilty before charged.

So many Americans are acquiescing to increased surveillance under the pretense of security that we expect the "nanny state" to protect us. A while ago riots struck London and we watched as riot police were beaten back by looting mobs who burned homes and shops undeterred by shield bearing police.  Where is Monty Python when you need them ? So much for calling the police. The UK Government prohibited citizens from even purchasing US made baseball bats from for fear they might actually defend themselves or their property from rioters.

The internet has allowed anyone to become an author, artist, critic, or public pervert just by its openness. We have in many cases given up our manners, civility and what was previously good judgement about what was for public discussion and what we declined to discuss. Social media after all is commercial, it's Facebook and not ,org.


Social media indiscretions and commercial competition within its ranks make the data that's available too tempting to not sell or for a government that is rapidly jetissoning the Constitution to use against the citizens it wants to control (for their own good of course). Will you be able to buy a baseball bat on Amazon in 6 months. Maybe maybe not, just watch what you say on the phone or who you "like".