Like a number of friends, I have mixed feelings these days about being on Facebook. The admission of the company that is allowed data on 87 million of us be used by others without permission is startling on one point but also not surprising in a world where we live in pubic data space.
For the most part, my life is — and for the most part always has — been part of the public domain. As a newspaperman, I wrote often controversial columns and covered events that drew a lot of attention by people.
As the Internet came along, I worked — as a staff member of the Congressional Technology Committee — on helping move what was the old DARPANet to become “the information superhighway.” As we learned, it also became “the misinformation cowpath.”
Capitol Hill Blue, my project created as a personal experiment and launched on Oct. 1, 1994, remains the oldest purely Internet political news website. I owned a web hosting operation in Washington that hosted national news and political websites. I still own more than 200 web domain names.
Most of my life is an open book. I am a recovering alcoholic — sober 23 years and 10 months on April 6 — and have admitted and written about personal failures and misdeeds over the years. I’ve worked for more than a dozen employers — fired by three of them — promoted and praised by others and owned a few businesses of my own.
There’s a lot of information — and misinformation — on the Internet about me, what I’ve done and what I’m accused of doing. No, I’m not the Douglas Thompson convicted of his wife’s murder in 2011. Online, I’ve been called a heretic, a liar, a faker person who is a nom de plume for other writers and worse.
I make mistakes but try to correct them when I learn that something was wrong. But, as young girls who send nude selfies to their boyfriends learn, what goes on the Internet stays there, forever.
Which takes us back to Facebook. I enjoy the site because it keeps me in touch with friends from around the world, many of whom I reconnected with because of they found me or I found them there.
In many ways, the Internet destroyed privacy as we know it in today’s world. It’s not alone. Uncle Sam tracks the movements of most Americans each and every day through a program called the “Total Information Awareness” system created by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Washington that monitors financial, travel and other public records. It also created DARPANet, which is now the Internet.
If you use a credit or debit card to buy gas for your car on the way to work this morning, that transaction if captured by the Total Information Awareness System. All such purchases are captured. The system tracks your posts on social media, your bank transactions and any and all information available on the computer networks of the world.The computers use that information to build a pattern of your travel, your habits and your lifestyle.
If that information matches the travel or other actions of other “persons of interest,” a file is opened on you and delivered to the Department of Homeland Security.
I know. I started writing about it in the late1990s and I was on the Federal “No Fly” list after 2001. They didn’t stop me from flying but I was singled out at airports for additional searches and interviews. I was questioned about stories I had written and places where I had visited.
Besides the NSA, the Pentagon, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security and dozens of private contractors are spying on millions of Americans 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. “It’s a total effort to build dossiers on as many Americans as possible,” said a former NSA agent who quit in disgust over use of the agency to spy on Americans.
My stories were listed in the book, Censored 2007: The Top 25 Censored Stories.
The White House, the Pentagon and others claimed it was not happening. Then Edward Snowden turned over NSA files over to the a London newspaper that proved it, and more, was happening.
Welcome to the real life in the Land of the UnFree and Home of the Not-so-Brave.