Government cell phone monitoring shouldn’t come as a surprise

recording callsIn a recent announcement, it was shown that the National Security Association (NSA) has been “secretly” obtaining private information via Verizon Wireless. With permission through something known as “the blanket order,” Verizon has been handing over a variety of call-related data, such as call lengths, locations, and other unique identifiers.

As of yet, it’s stated that the calls themselves are not being recorded; the public is turning an angry eye toward both Verizon and the government for this invasion of privacy.

But is this really such a shock? How many of us read those fine-print contracts wireless providers require to be signed? Companies are legally allowed to do a number of questionable practices, data collection included.

As the saying goes, “knowledge is power,” and it seems as though the government is willing to go to extreme lengths to get it. Ages, races, and other target demographics can be reached with the right info, and obtaining said facts is the first step in expanding political popularity. Other non-surprise factors include every political movie ever, which almost always host a widespread privacy invasion. Not to mention the ease in which spying can be done these days. There are practically invisible recording devices, and even lasers that can detect conversations by measuring window vibrations.

In this case, however, the victims of surveillance just happened to be the owners of the recording devices.

What’s Next?

While it’s likely Verizon will suffer some serious image backlash (like we needed another reason to hate the 4G-pushing giant), the information they’ve collected is already obtained. It’s also likely that the information collection will continue, whether or not the public is ok with it.

But what else can be released? Are there other networks doing the same recording and sharing practices? Are calls actually being recorded – stored and listed to for terrorist-like activity by some full-time operators? Or is this simply as “harmless” as it seems from the outside looking in?

While it’s unclear as to why the government wants to know why you made a 90-second call at Burger King May 4th, or how often you travel away from home on calls, the consensus remains that the compilation is mega creepy. A surprise, perhaps not, but a definite invasion of citizens’ privacy.

That just leads us to ask: what other data is the government collecting through our personal electronic devices?

U.S. Postal Service on the Brink of Bankruptcy Thanks to Email

It’s one of those situations where it only takes a matter of time, and that time is right around the corner for the United States Postal Service (USPS), which according to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, is on the verge of bankruptcy and will most likely default if Congress doesn’t step in and help out. It’s all mostly thanks to our migration to email and the Internet for sending things to our loved ones and peers. Anything to save 44 cents, right?

According to the New York Times, the USPS doesn’t have the funds to make a $5.5 billion payment that’s due at the end of this month. If they don’t get the funds, it’s very possible that the USPS could shut down in the coming winter months, a time when mailing gifts and holiday cards is always at an all-time high.

Thomas R. Carper, chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the USPS, says that “the situation is dire. If we do nothing, if we don’t react in a smart, appropriate way, the postal service could literally close later this year. That’s not the kind of development we need to inject into a weak, uneven economic recovery.”

Around 167 billion pieces of snail mail will flow through the USPS this year, which sounds like an insanely large and healthy number, but that’s down 22 percent from five years ago. During that time, they have recorded around $20 billion in losses, mostly because they’re legally required to provide universal delivery to around 150 million homes and addresses.

Donahoe says that he wants to cut costs by closing around 300 sorting facilities, bringing the total down to 200, and reduce the workforce by 120,000 employees within four years. Donahoe is also pushing to eliminate Saturday mail delivery and closing up to 3,700 post offices.

Even though we send email and make online payments to various things, we still desperately need the USPS. We sadly can’t send goods and products over the Internet, and while there will still be UPS, FedEx and DHL, those services can’t match the USPS’s cheaper package rates.