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What did we expect?

Nov 4, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

There is no one to blame for intrusive electronic spying but ourselves

A boy grips a baseball, hurls it toward the kitchen window, and then is shocked when the window breaks.

"What did you think might happen?" asks incredulous Mom.

"I don't know," the upset boy replies. "I didn't think about it."

His stunned remorse is real, but the glass is still broken.

Today, our entire technology-crazed nation is the boy who threw the baseball. And our consciences ought to be the mother questioning him afterward.

The sudden outrage being expressed over electronic spying and lesser surveillance on citizens of the United States and elsewhere in the world is disingenuous at best, ridiculous at worst, considering our heedless, headlong, reckless plunge into the world of electronic information sharing as a form of recreation and social communication.

A faraway respondent answered an advertisement for a job opening at the newspaper Wednesday. It took less than 10 seconds of keyboard and mouse clicks to reveal his picture, the names and places of residence of his children and grandchildren, his favorite music, his favorite dessert and TV news channel.

All this from information he readily and eagerly supplied for all the world to see on one (or more) of the ubiquitous social networking sites on the Internet.

Checking the chatty comments on the same page, it is revealed that he also is among those outraged to learn that not-so-different technology has been used to spy on millions of Americans and foreigners - apparently including some heads of state of high-profile European allies of the United States.

Outraged? Really?

What did he -- and the rest of us -- think would happen when we linked ourselves to everyone in the civilized Earth through computers, wires, satellite signals and smartphones?

Did we think that everyone with access to the technology would use it exactly as we did, or as we would wish, or as we would predict? We're no smarter than the kid who threw the ball.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, privacy is largely a thing of the past, and it has less to do with nosy government spies than it does with ignorant, na´ve, but very enthusiastic people who have done most of the work of the spies for them -- all so that it might be easier for us to watch cats flushing the toilet on our computer screens, inform our friends on what kind of salad dressing we had last night, or argue viciously about politics.

A couple of days ago, President Barack Obama wondered aloud whether "it was right to do something just because we know how to do it."

That's a very good question, and an important one.

It's also very late.

We ought to have had that conversation with ourselves, with each other, and with our elected leaders at least 10 years ago, and probably 20.

Choose your metaphor for the result. The cat is out of the bag. The toothpaste can't be put back into the tube. The lid from Pandora's box has long since been removed and discarded.

This is happening. Short of a technological catastrophe of the sort on "The Walking Dead," it will continue to happen. We have brought it on ourselves, cheerfully.

And there is no use whining that we didn't know what was going to happen. Just ask the little boy with the baseball.

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