If you've done any reading of 20th century European history then this story will seem familiar. Back then there were places where you had to be careful about what you said to whom. It could really be anything you said to any number of people including close friends, family members, and business associates. Conversations, even out of context comments, could be used against you for any reason. Trumped up charges or a violation of some old, obscure law could get you detained by the police or worse.
Here in the United States we had our constitution and, more importantly, the Bill of Rights to protect people from an over-reaching government. We didn't see first-hand what many Europeans did. We felt protected based on a few words written down on paper. We became complacent.
An article was shared with me earlier today. The Guardian retells the story of police coming to someone's home and interrogating the resident based on their Google searches and what they have viewed on the Internet.
Some might say "but after <fill in the event here> we have to do something so it won't happen again". Sure, there are things that need to happen to help prevent such future activities but "doing something" isn't a real solution.
Fear drives power and if there is power up for grabs then the scariest thing wins. Detonate a bomb and you get fear. Unfortunately talking about detonating a bomb usually generates more fear. Many people will give up nearly everything just to have someone tell them that they are safe. Right now privacy is what's taking most of the hits and it's easy to understand why. It's easy to control people, make a lot of money, and generally be able to "terrorize" anyone you don't like when you have the keys to their thoughts. Having access to people's thoughts is even easier today than it was fifty years ago. Today people talk via email, IM, and other digital means that generally go through a few centralized servers. Get to the servers and you've got access to the thoughts and feelings of millions of people. You now have leverage over almost anyone you wish.
Unless we want history to repeat itself we need to stand up to these types of actions. It is not okay to go sifting through my Internet searches. It is not okay to read my email. It is not okay to come to my home and interrogate me and my family. It's time for this to stop.