|by C.J. Chase|
If you follow the news, you may have heard of the latest possible scandal involving PRISM or Boundless Informant. And if you have, I hope you’ll enlighten me in the comments section. I’ve been trying to get a handle on this, and everything I read and hear seems to contradict the last thing I read/heard.
Is it a data storage facility for every email, phone record, carrier pigeon message and Inkwell blog comment ever created—or just a means to track foreign threats? The paper breaking the story claims the US government is amassing an unprecedented repository of every possible form of communication Americans engage in. The government spokesman claims they only look for possible threats. Of course, given (1) the recent revelation about the government tracking of AP reporters’ phones and Verizon customer phone records and (2) the admissions about the IRS targeting certain groups for extra scrutiny and audits, the government’s credibility on the privacy front is somewhat lacking these days. (In which case, hello, government analyst assigned to track me. I hope you’re enjoying the Inkwell blog. And do be try one of my books while you’re reading.)
Knowledge is power, and few things attract the proud like power. After all, if I know best, that it only stands to reason you should do as I say. Satan’s three temptations of Jesus all involved power – either the misuse of power (changing the stones to bread, throwing himself from the temple) or the prideful acquisition of power (bow down, and Satan would give him all the kingdoms of the world).
Data is easier to track, gather and analyze than ever before, and in the information age, data is king. Manipulating past data allows companies to predict future behaviors. For example, based on your credit history, credit card issuers analyze the risks/rewards of offering you credit.
But with every new bit of data collected about you, the risks to your privacy, your finances, and perhaps even your person increase. There’s a cool techno-word for attempting to acquire data from unsuspecting or too-trusting people (data such as passwords, credit card numbers, etc.)—phishing.
And while some might say we don’t have to worry about government data collection if we aren’t doing anything wrong, we know all governments on earth are comprised of fallible human beings. Do you remember in 2008 when a government employee leaked private financial information about “Joe the Plumber” to the press? More recently, a spokesman for a traditional marriage advocacy group testified before Congress that an employee of the IRS leaked confidential donor information to political opponents—opponents who then proceeded to harass the donors.
I confess to a certain queasiness about the notion of anyone collecting data about me. Have you ever heard it said that once something is on the Internet, it can never be erased? It will exist somewhere, in cached bits and bytes.Whether through an honest mistake or malicious hacker, private information sometimes becomes public knowledge.
Do you know who else keeps data about us? In Matthew 12:36, Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (ESV).
Ouch! Ponder that for a minute: Every. Careless. Word. Have you ever impulsively said something you wish you could call back? Yelled at your children? Snapped at your spouse? Complained about the minister? Gossiped about someone who annoyed you? You know the problem with that children's ditty "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." It's not true. Words said with anger or scorn hurt.
And those hurtful words reveal deep facets of our character. Just like companies use the information they collect to learn about us, our words reveal what is inside. Right before Jesus told us the consequences for idle words, he said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12: 34b, ESV)
I don't know the truth about whether the US government is spying on its citizens. But I do know that in the end, everyone—writers, readers, bloggers, mothers, teachers, lawyers, presidents, janitors, and government data collectors—will have to give an accounting before God. And that's reason enough to choose my words with care this week.
Do you have privacy concerns in the Internet age? How do you find balance between privacy and convenience?
After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Her current release, The Reluctant Earl, is now available in online bookstores. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at www.cjchasebooks.com