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Psssssst!

In the age of internet marketing and NSA spying, is the concept of "privacy" dead?

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We have secrets. All of us. Who among us who deal with the online universe hasn't googled something they'd just as soon other people didn't know about? Who, for that matter, hasn't internally got some response ready in the — presumably unlikely — case of discovery? "Well, you see, I was doing a research paper and I figured the best thing to do was to go to the source."

Right.

And there are few of us, though we may profess to prefer "shopping local," who have not purchased a lower-priced item online. Putting up with a little internet tracking and the resultant stalking adware is part of the price we pay.

The fact is that the hackers and hucksters are way ahead of us. They'll find a way to invade our privacy — or our illusions of privacy — particularly when, in this age of social media, most of us are doing all we can on our own, via Facebook or Twitter or Vine or whatever, to get our lives out in front of the wide, wide world.

Voluntarily or not, we are increasingly laid bare to all sorts of onlookers — authorized, semi-authorized, and downright covert — who know as much about ourselves as we do. And they are constantly feeding the data they glean into databases that provide a context for whatever they want to do to (or for) us — or sell us — next.

And now, as we know, it isn't just the commercial predators who are doing this to us; it's our own government at the highest and — for all we know — the lowest levels.

Are we supposed to have so much leftover venom from the long-gone Cold War as to develop a good case of rage against Russia's Vladimir Putin for providing shelter to Edward Snowden, the erstwhile systems analyst for the National Security Agency, who went whistle-blower on his former employer's spying habits? Are we supposed to be outraged that Snowden revealed the depth of the data being collected about U.S. citizens, even to the point of requisitioning the records of major phone carriers?

Did you pay attention to all those Verizon ads about how large their network is? The NSA obviously did.

It is too early to tell if Snowden, whom the Russians have promised a year's sanctuary, is the Erin Brockovich or the Daniel Ellsberg of our time or just another self-justifying mischief-maker. But how does the Scripture go? "By their fruits you shall know them." The fruits of what Snowden has revealed are voluminous and troubling. And not so much about himself as about the folks he used to work for. That much we know.

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