Detail from the cover of “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy.” (Nation Books)

In an excerpt from his new book, “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy,” Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer describes how leaders in business and government abuse the Internet to deprive people of the privacy that is essential to the creation of a strong, independent self.

In the excerpt, published at Salon, Scheer begins:

It’s true that snooping has been with us from the earliest gossip grapevines linking our grass huts. And we’ve endured modern forms of surveillance such as wiretaps and bugs. But those methods tended to be obvious—picture a couple of bored cops sitting over their coffee, listening on their earphones, transcribing tapes, filing folders. It was labor-intensive and tedious. But what we have today is different by several leaps and bounds. Old spying had to be selective, targeted. New spying is like a high-powered vacuum cleaner; one that scoops up every bit of information it comes across, even the extraneous or incomprehensible stuff.

In the pre-Snowden world, the government surveillance programs I wrote about had different names, such as the NSA’s Echelon and the FBI’s Carnivore, but the pattern was the same: a reckless disregard for Americans’ right to privacy in the name of our security. Less than a year later came the September 11 attacks, the perfect rationale to dramatically ramp up both domestic and international spying to a magnitude that portends nothing less than the end of this nation’s grand experiment in democracy.

Now, nearly a decade and a half later, we are clearly losing the continuing battle between individual freedom and collective conformity that has marked the history of human society. The right to be left alone—to think, to experiment, to contemplate—has been essential to the development of individual personality. The private space, protected from the intimidating observation of others, is the sacred ground where self-discovery occurs, and to the degree that external forces intrude, whether of the state, church, or marketplace, the sense of self will wither.

Continue reading here.

They Know Everything About You -- A new book by Truthdig Editor Robert Scheer. Order an autographed copy now!

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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