Well over a year ago, former NSA security contractor startled the world with leaked details of extensive U.S. spying, some of it on our own citizens. The debate continues between the "it's unconstitutional" camp and others who would say, "if you don't have anything to hide, then you have nothing to worry about."
Most people who claim to be A-OK with the NSA's all-access pass to your online presence will claim that they "have nothing to hide."
It makes sense. I'm willing to bet that all of my readers are good people. Many of you - me included - still feel uncomfortable about someone who we don't know having a porthole directly into everything that we've ever done online.
Well, journalist and privacy crusader Glenn Greenwald just came up with a bulletproof counter-argument to the "I'm a good person" defense. Greenwald was the first person that the notorious whistleblower (or traitor, depending on which side of the debate you're on) Edward Snowden contacted when he was planning to leak thousands of NSA documents.
In his latest TED talk, Greenwald explained a challenge he poses to anyone who claims to be a good enough person to give up all of their personal privacy:
I get out a pen. I write down my email address. I say, 'Here's my email address. What I want you to do when you get home is email me the passwords to all of your email accounts, not just the nice, respectable work one in your name, but all of them, because I want to be able to just troll through what it is you're doing online, read what I want to read and publish whatever I find interesting. After all, if you're not a bad person, if you're doing nothing wrong, you should have nothing to hide.'
Greenwald is a respected journalist. While NSA analysts have been known to pass around nude photos they find on the job, sending Greenwald all of your personal information would probably end up with an in-depth analysis of your online footprint completely anonymously.
Still, everyone he hands the sheet of paper with his email address to refuses to send their passwords to him. Why? Well, the answer is obvious: Privacy is a lot more important when you can decide whether or not you want someone looking into your past. Whether the NSA's spying is ethical or not, Greenwald's test says one important thing about the situation: People refuse to allow a respected journalist to participate in an experiment doing something the NSA can do anytime, even without a warrant.
I don't like it. I know that many of you don't like it either, but I'm curious about something: Would you take the test? Would Greenwald find anything scary - or embarrassing - if he was to check in on your online life? Let's take the discussion to the comment section.
Want more brutal facts about the NSA?
- NSA puts spies in U.S. companies. How to stay protected.
- The NSA can bug your phone even when it's off
- Leaked NSA documents: 9 out of 10 intercepted conversations weren't with the intended targets