War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. As the slogan for the political party in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, these words provide a symbol for a grim future – one that may already be ushered in the years to come within our very nation. Though Orwell’s future paints a tale where society is so heavily censored that the government controls all means of thinking and thought, our very future might be headed into our very own dystopian direction. How so, you may ask? If the President’s proposed national Internet ID Card actually carries through in future years, the steps towards a government-controlled society becomes less and less of a nightmare, and more and more of a reality.
On January 9th, President Obama signaled to give the United States Commerce Department the clearance to regulate and create an individual distinctive identity for each Internet user. Naming it the “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace” and placing it under the guise of a “national cyber security measure”, it would provide the government with the means necessary to be one step closer to monitoring every single activity we do over the Internet. By creating a unique footprint for each user who travels to a website, it essentially gives them an Internet ID Card – one that would remove the anonymity of a user’s browsing ability – an identity that could be shared with both the government as well as corporations the government desires to give that information to. Although some would argue pretentiously that this would not be a problem unless you had something to hide, it still pushes the government one step closer to controlling all our information, and thus our thoughts.
There are four essential reasons why this cybersecurity measure will harm us more than it will “protect us” in the end. First, the system will give government access to all our Internet activities – once this happens, the privacy of everything we do will be gone forever. As users continually flock to social networking sites and as companies and individuals become closer to digitalizing more and more of their information, the government will garner potential access to an arena of information never before possessed by one by collective entity. Because our founding fathers could never envision something as massive as the “Internet”, allowing various viewpoints from one part of the country to travel to another, there is obviously nothing in the Constitution in regards to it. However, according to the fourth amendment, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and Warrants shall not be issued, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” One could essentially come up with the argument that because everyone has a unique home in the Internet, the government has no right to access our private visits due to the fourth amendment.
Another reason this proposed idea is detrimental to our society as a whole is due to the control this will give the government. It will allow the government to control what sites people visit, how often they visit it, and reduce the freedoms that were ushered into the new millennium with the widespread usage of the Internet. Let us not forget that the Tea Party itself was born when conservative forces who believed in smaller government united through the superhighway that is the World Wide Web. Third, the government will be allowed to monitor all our Internet activity if this law were to pass. Though this can do some good in stopping potential terrorist attacks or child pornography visits, the legislation is not intent in doing just that – it is intent in monitoring all its users and could provide a stepping stone to eventually regulating our thoughts.
A final reason that this law is more pejorative than it is beneficial is the potential risks it can bring. By creating a database that has all our information all in one place, the potential for hackers and cyber thieves to access everyone’s information at once places a historically unprecedented risk in our lives. With the amount of data increasingly being put online by users all over the United States, a security breach could result in the loss of massive amounts of privacy, not only to the government, but to hackers as well.
Our Founding Fathers could not have possibly predicted the birth of the Internet and the freedoms it would bring in a society invested in the art of communication. In this modern day and age, the government potential for a takeover of the last bit of freedom we have is coming closer and closer to a reality. As the media’s ability to control and propagandize the public is on a pattern of continuing decline, the ability of the Internet to disseminate ideas to a massive public is on the rise. The government’s takeover of the Internet will not only destroy that privacy – it will jeopardize our very freedom, and lead us one step closer to the dark future George Orwell predicted. In the end, even though we got past 1984 with our freedoms still intact, the future might not bode so well. After all, War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. And Ignorance is Strength.