My 2Cents: Internet Privacy, the No Mans Land for Governments

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I’m not sure if you have seen this article on Buzzfeed, but it outlines how a sophomore at Ohio University, Rachel Cassidy, has basically been attacked by the forces of the internet. Why? For allegedly being a featured in a public sex video as a willing participant and allegedly pressing charges for sexual assault. Where the situation gets hairy is when an international “watchdog” organization who identifies female abusers of the justice system at the expense of their male victims, identified Cassidy such an abuser. As punishment, they have brought on hell, fire, and brimstone on this student,and she is not even the right person.

There are various aspects to this story that make me tilt my head to the side, squint at the screen, and potentially attract attention from my co-workers. Questioning looks aside, the big questions that come to mind are: how in the world did this happen and how have we gotten this place?

Right to Privacy?

Peter Nolan, the featured member of Crimes Against Fathers organization looks to correct the government’s inability to respond in an appropriate fashion to the plight of men. Slow government reaction time seems to come up repeatedly in issues as local as the need for a stoplight at an intersection to as international as a response to the war in Syria. Although we can point the finger at the inefficiency of our governments (even though they were designed that way), what really is the issue is the complete lack of privacy while online. According to the organization, appropriate punishment was to release all of her personal information. The result? A colossal case of cyber-bullying requiring Cassidy to completely eliminate her web presence and take time off of school.

In our digital world, where it seems privacy is more of a luxury rather than a right, where is the legislation and the government protections for us, the individual? Instead of shutting down the government because a political party can’t move past a battle lost, why not actually take on a real problem: creating a solution for our loss of privacy in the digital realm. But who’s responsibility is it to protect users? The provider of the service, like Facebook or Twitter? Local authorities? International governments? The NSA? (since they have a proven track record of snooping the interwebs?) There isn’t an apparent institution that could logically take on internet privacy, calling into question if our current government systems are even relevant.

The Justice System

Another aspect that our current governments can’t seem to get right is how to deal with criminals and those taking advantage of the justice system. One of Nolan’s central arguments worth discussing is the amount of abuse in the justice system. At least in the United States, the very system designed to protect the rights of all people has been reduced to a battle between who has acquired the pricier lawyer. With such constraints how can true justice be served? Furthermore, with social media a microphone has been provided to just about anyone with an opinion, individuals are defenseless to libel and slander on the internet. The target of Peter Nolan’s attack, Rachel Cassidy, has had her life destroyed for something that she didn’t even do. As great it is to have such a free flow of information, there is no oversight or no safety net to protect users. Should we be asking our governments to step up in this way? Or will they never be able to appropriately take on this task?

I for one, see this as a HUGE problem. With plans to get the entire population online, there are only going to be increased issues with privacy and power on the internet. Digging our heads in the sand on this issue, is not a solution. But educating ourselves and actively participating in our government is.

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Our World is Changing, but Are We?

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I went to a community discussion several weeks ago in anticipation as of the DOMA decision announcement. And as we discussed gay rights abroad, gay rights at home, and the right to marry, among other things, one of the panelists reminded us that nothing was permanent. He pointed to the Roe v. Wade decision, a Supreme Court decision that was seen as a huge victory for women’s rights. Forty years later, and across the country legislation to restrict a woman’s ability to have an abortion is becoming increasingly popular, making Roe v. Wade practically irrelevant.

As the rest of the week unfurled, other historic events took place in the marble halls that house our federal government ranging from removing the protections of minority voter rights in the Supreme Court to immigration policy reform in the Senate. All of these momentous decisions will have direct impacts on our daily lives….eventually. What actually impacts us today didn’t even get discussed before Congress took off for their summer homes: student loan debt.

Caring about what happens in D.C., let alone our state capitals, is time consuming and often so depressing that it is just better to find more funny cat memes (guilty!) But, sparring with your Facebook frenemy over the role of government in our lives isn’t particularly helpful either. What happened to the book burning, thunderous protesting, in-your-face statements of how we feel about our government? Are we unknowingly living in scarily realistic version of the Hunger Games? Or is it that we have given up on the system before we even tried to change it?

 I always think back on what a friend of mine said when John Mayer came out with “Waiting on the World to Change.” While I kept turning up the car radio whenever John’s magical voice would grace the speakers, my friend Amit would turn it down in disgust and say, “Why do we have to wait for change when we can make it happen now?”

As this is something I struggle with, what are the best ways to get involved in changing the world? How do you even pick which one to devote your time to?