, Gloucester, MA


August 5, 2013

Letter: Why privacy is important to us all

To the editor:

Amid revelations that our government is spying on us, you’ve probably heard someone say, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear.”

But if you think about that for very long, you’ll realize it simply isn’t true. History, from ancient to very recent, is chock full of counter examples — good people who are wrongly accused, wrongly convicted, blacklisted or suffer at the hands of authority simply because they stand up for their beliefs.

Here’s just one example: Using DNA evidence, the Innocence Project has freed 311 people from jail, who had been wrongly convicted of a crime, 18 of whom had been sentenced to death.

So I was glad to see the unusual Times editorial “A sad victory for secrecy” on Tuesday, July 30. Although Editor Ray Lamont found a local connection in lauding Congressman Tierney for voting to defund the National Security Agency’s broad-based collection of telephone and Internet records, this editorial broke from the Times norm of addressing strictly local issues. Perhaps that’s because it’s such an important issue that affects every Times reader.

I would take this issue beyond the problem of secrecy and ask why, in this land of the free, do we give our government unbridled access to substantial details of our daily lives — whom we call, where we call from, all our Internet searches, where we are when we search, every email we send and probably more stuff we don’t yet know about.

This is an insidious invasion of our privacy. This situation seems upside down to me.

We let large companies collect vast amounts of data on us in return for the convenience of making phone calls, searching the Internet, communicating via email, text, etc. What we need is a government who protects our privacy by ensuring those companies keep that data secret and secure and don’t misuse it. Instead, what we’ve got is a government who secretly demands that those companies turn our private data over to them and then forbids those companies from telling us they’ve done so.

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