What the NSA and social media have in common

There has been exaggerated talk about whether the government intelligence community could create a police state. But the true horror of the East German Stasi or the Maoist Red Guard was the encouragement of informants — private citizens reporting on other private citizens and even family members. No police agency could be omniscient. The oppressiveness of those police states came from the fear every citizen had that another citizen would disclose deviations from the party line.

The relevant question here is: Are we creating an informant society, in which every overheard conversation, cellphone photograph or other record of personal behavior is transmitted not to police but to the world at large? Do we want to chill behavior and speech with the fear that an unpopular comment or embarrassing slip will call forth vituperative criticism and perhaps even adversely affect careers or reputations? Do we need to constantly monitor what we say or do in restaurants, at sporting events, on public sidewalks or even private parties?