Computers with Hands in Your Piggy Bank

National Security Administration

What role does technology have in our civil liberties?  Technology our forefathers could never have imagined.  Our right to bear arms?  Our right to privacy?  Our right to make money?  These questions are coming to the fore, particularly in light of the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden, the young Booz Allen analyst based in Hawaii.  Wait a minute, did you say Hawaii?  You mean he put an idyllic life in Hawaii at risk for our civil liberties?  Does he not know how blessed he is to have a life and job in Hawaii?

The four page order issued by Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April directs that Verizon Business Network Services turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” to the National Security Agency all call logs “between the United States and abroad” or ”wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

Wow!  Kudos for writing such an extensive order with such tight language.  My issue with this order is that we, the American people, didn’t know about it and/or have the ability to contest the government’s right to this type of extensive and all encompassing surveillance.  Maybe the government needs to have this surveillance ability to this degree.  However, what happened to the sunshine?  Should the government have this right, without its citizens knowing our communications are open game for the government?

Second, lets talk about our right to bear arms.  Is our second amendment right more important that the lives of school children and teachers in Newtown, CT or movie goers in Aurora, CO?   Where does our right to bear arms cross over the right of a person to a life safe from unwanton gun fire, murder and mayhem.  And why didn’t the government’s analysis of Verizon’s records keep us safe from these atrocities?

Third, our ability to make a livelihood?  What about the high frequency trading using sophisticated computers and computer programs in locations within feet or yards of the financial exchanges?  Are the companies and people directing and operating these computers really stealing from the public?  Stealing from those who make money the –now – old-fashioned way:  by picking stocks or investing in stocks tied to market indices?  Just because the companies and people operating that computer and its trading programs aren’t dipping their hands, literally, into your bank account, doesn’t mean that they aren’t dipping their hands, figuratively, into your bank account.

We are a society that lives with fine lines between right and wrong.  Oftentimes we push either too far to the right or too far to the left.  Corporate finance investment bankers can’t talk to research analysts.  Does this make sense?  What about the product of the collaboration of that pair, that can be entirely legal, and benefit the public?  When a Company goes public, that wouldn’t have otherwise, but for that collaboration, a whole host of people benefit:  the Company, its investors, the employees and management, the public investor who can now benefit financially from the growth of that company.

OK, where do you stand on these issues?  These are all thorny issues, where your answer will vary with your position in life, profession, and where you live, and other variables.

From where I stand, the issues are clear cut.  But then you might not have my values or perspective.   Or I, yours.