Privacy, Surveillance, and the New Media You

by Edward Lee Lamoureux (Author)
Textbook XL, 248 Pages
Series: Digital Formations, Volume 96


Very little in the American way of life functions adequately under surveillance. Democracy itself may be at mortal risk due to the loss of privacy and the increase in surveillance.
Examining challenges in a wide range of contexts, this book investigates and critically examines our systems of data management, including the ways that data are collected, exchanged, analyzed, and re-purposed.
The volume calls for re-establishing personal privacy as a societal norm and priority, requiring action on the part of everyone at personal, societal, business, and governmental levels. Because new media products and services are professionally designed and implemented to be frictionless and highly rewarding, change is difficult and solutions are not easy. This volume provides insight into challenges and recommended solutions.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • How the Heck Did We Get Here?
  • Technological Complexities in Data Collection: Out of Sight, Out of Reach
  • Appealing to Consumers’ Lowest Common Denominators: It’s All Good?
  • Supporting Economic Interests of Business and Industry: Doubling Down on Data
  • Unwillingness of Government to Protect Its Citizenry from Itself: Corporations Are Our Most Valued People
  • Concerns over Terrorism and Security Risks: A Darned (In)Convenient War on Terror
  • Family Observations: A Personal Anecdote
  • Chapter Previews
  • Chapter 1: The Harms
  • Loss of Control over Personal Data
  • Hacking as Lawlessness
  • Leaks and Sponges: We Were Not Supposed to Collect It or Lose It
  • Costs and Harms of Data Breaches
  • Undermining Constitutional Protections
  • Encroaching on First Amendment Protections
  • Encroaching on Third Amendment Protections
  • Encroaching on Fourth Amendment Protections
  • Encroaching on Fifth Amendment Protections
  • Encroaching on Fourteenth Amendment Protections
  • Article III: No Harm No Foul? Perhaps Not So Much
  • Personal Data and the Value Equation
  • Chapter 2: Centerings
  • Theoretical Orientations
  • Interrogating New Media
  • The Framework of Contextual Integrity
  • Identifying Loci of Control
  • Ideological Powers in Platforms
  • Chapter 3: FIP 1: No Secret Data Collection
  • When Is a Contract Just Barely, or Not, a Contract?
  • Data Anonymity via Aggregation as Oxymoron
  • Even the Most Private Datum Isn’t
  • Knowing about the Unknowable
  • Quick Reminder: The Constitution Is Supposed to Protect Our Privacy
  • Chapter 4: FIPs 2 and 4: Discovery and Repair
  • You Can’t Fix It If You Don’t Know About—And Can’t Access—It
  • Online Privacy and the European Union
  • The Right to Be Forgotten
  • Ownership of Social Media Accounts in the Enterprise: “Unhand My Stuff!”
  • Toward Chapter 5 and the Third FIP
  • Chapter 5: FIP 3: One Use Should Not Bind Them All
  • Data Collection and Security: Commercial Entities Sharing with the Government
  • Battles over Encryption and Cryptography
  • Encryption and Export Controls
  • The Snowden Revelations
  • Data Collection and Insecurity: The Government Sharing with Commercial Entities
  • Crossing Government and Commercial Streams within the Data Marketplace
  • We Claim to Know Better but Do Not Act Like It
  • Chapter 6: FIP 5: If You Don’t Protect It, You Should Not Have It
  • Improved Data Reliability via the Marketplace
  • Big Data Can Aid Problem Solving
  • Recommendations Can Help
  • Improved Targeting Can Be Good for Both Sides
  • The Usability and Functionality Lies
  • Unreliability via the Marketplace
  • Data Abuse via the Marketplace
  • You Can Touch This Because I Can’t Protect It
  • Chapter 7: Recommendations
  • Action Proposals for Government
  • Executive Leadership
  • Federal Agencies
  • Congressional Legislation
  • Congressional Legislative Action on Commercial Activities
  • Congressional Legislative Action on Intelligence Activities
  • Intelligence Community and Law Enforcement
  • Judges and Courts
  • State-Level Actions
  • States and the FIPs: Constraint of Government Agencies and Law Enforcement from Predatory Practices
  • State-Based Actions in the Commercial Privacy Environment
  • Action Proposals for Commercial Entities
  • Industry Leadership
  • Executive Leadership
  • Worker Behaviors
  • Protocol Changes
  • Privacy Policies and Terms of Service
  • Flip the Defaults
  • Offer Multiple Versions
  • Reconsider Data as Revenue Streams
  • Reengineer Data Anonymity
  • Nonprofits: Great Responsibilities
  • WE, the People
  • Notes
  • Chapter 3: FIP 1: No Secret Data Collection
  • Chapter 7: Recommendations
  • Works Cited
  • About the Author
  • About the Front Cover
  • Index
  • Series index

| ix →


Academic writers are enabled by their editors and publishers. In my case, good fortune has granted me wonderful working relationships with Peter Lang’s Mary Savigar and series editor Steve Jones. Both are friends and valued professional colleagues. I’ve been able to, mostly, be good to my promises (if not our deadlines). Lang provides the best copyeditors and proofreaders in the business; my thanks to Alison Jacques and Suzie Tibor.

Former student, Bradley alum, and longtime friend Matt Crain provided both motivation and wisdom, by writing a fantastic doctoral dissertation that helped me better understand aspects of the topic that had otherwise alluded me. Additionally, Matt and I exchange roles as reader/writer—critical work that benefits us both. Bradley University’s security guru, David Scuffham, spent time listening to my explanations and then guided me toward better understandings. BU senior system administrator Paul Carpenter has long been more patient than any geek should be with a dilettante such as me.

I am grateful for the support of my BU supervisors and colleagues, Ethan Ham, Paul Gullifor, and Jeffrey Huberman; my colleague Chris Kasch is always available when I need him. I am grateful to many undergraduate students who put up with the long-term development of the ideas in this book, across numerous offerings of not-quite-ready-for-prime-time privacy courses. ← ix | x →

I toil in the shadows of my family: my long-suffering wife, Cheryl, and now-adult offspring Alexander, Samantha, Kate, and Nicole. They move me.

Any errors in the book are mine. Hopefully, the NSA, the data marketplace, and I can keep those closely guarded.

| xi →


At the start, I will avoid using the word ‘apocalypse’ and the phrase ‘the end of civilization as we know it.’ However, I admit to membership in the Chicken Little and Paul Revere social clubs. The sky is falling and, although the British are not coming, we are under attack. People who research and write about privacy and surveillance run the risk of being labeled Luddites at best and perhaps fanatics or lunatics at worst. Even one, like myself, who attempts to address the subject in moderate and measured terms sometimes finds that the arguments they, or I, put forward appeal only to a segment of the audience that may well qualify for those pejoratives. I have given public presentations after which the reasonable people left quietly (only moderately convinced) and a few not-so-reasonable people approached me in paranoid fashion, wanting to discuss a wide range of topics and approaches that struck me as ‘way over the top.’

This is a very odd and momentous time in United States history. There are political, economic, and sociocultural battles across a wide swath of disciplines and activities. American-style capitalism is under siege by global forces that threaten to narrow every nation’s ability to grow its economy. American-style capitalism is based on potential and actual growth. Factors that appear to limit the potential for growth, or that actually constrain it, seem to be almost un-American. ← xi | xii →

Leadership by the United States in the development of technologies has long been at the forefront of both the country’s ability to produce economic growth and the high levels of its domestic prosperity. Despite the continuance of social inequities along race, gender, and class lines, the United States and its high technology have long stayed ahead of the curve, leading the world in productivity and standard of living. Clearly, the United States is not the sole world power with the ability to develop innovative technologies. Likewise, it is no longer alone in the world as an economic leader; demographics in China and India, not to mention many other developed and developing countries, long ago put an end to American hegemony over the global economy.

In the spirit of technological achievement, however, the collaborations between the US government, its military, post–World War II intelligentsia, and technology companies led to the development of computational communication-based technologies that changed the equation across almost every segment and sector of economic and everyday life, here and abroad. The rise of computers, computer networks, the Internet, and technologies within the so-called ‘information revolution’ have introduced numerous socioeconomic complexities.

On the one hand, we could list almost unlimited advances that have increased opportunities for citizens, businesses, and governments to improve every aspect of society. When one laments potential drawbacks of the Internet, robotics, mobile communications, and the like, one risks sounding archaic and faces dismissal from all corners. Who in their right mind would be willing to go without credit cards, mobile/cell phones, the World Wide Web, the Internet, GPS-based technologies, robotics, and digital television, film, and radio, along with an almost endless list of other modern conveniences? The Internet of Things/Everything (IoT) promises to interconnect limitless numbers of devices, to produce uncountable savings, while producing untold levels of productivity and growth. Why would anyone want to question the preferable and inevitable? Doesn’t everyone know that there is no reasonable resistance to the pace of technological advances? It is not for nothing that we call critics ‘Luddites’ and scoff at their unwillingness to go bravely into the future.

There is of course a fly in the ointment—there always is; the devil is always in the details. Simply put, digital leaves tracks. There’s no debating the physics of it: The X’s and O’s in programming code are fairly easily tracked and copied, stored and shared, analyzed and bought/sold. Every single device and every single procedure involved in ‘new media’ or the ‘information revolution’ ← xii | xiii → or the ‘digital economy’ is designed to be machine-readable; after all, that is the point of programming and at the heart of the value of computerization.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that privacy and surveillance together is the single most important subject in relation to American-style democracy.

Very little of the ‘American way of life’ functions adequately under surveillance. We should not have to be reminded that our fellow citizens most under surveillance are in prisons. Almost everything about being a citizen of the United States, under the sign of democracy, requires privacy. Generations of Americans hardly thought about it; privacy was taken for granted and was only rarely violated. For example, for a few decades in the early years of telephone service, Americans put up with a telephone operator making their connections. These operators had access to the ongoing conversations and could route or reroute calls so that unwanted third parties could listen in. Even though only one person might have listened in, Americans did not tolerate that arrangement for long. Eventually, they considered the practice to be intrusive and demanded that the phone companies develop private-line systems. As hesitant as Americans are today to have or use hardwired phones at home—most would rather use their mobile phones—I would wager that if they returned to hardwired service, they would not consider going back to a party-line system. The notion that others could listen would seem intrusive.

Sometimes, we arrest, prosecute, and jail people who inappropriately view and/or record the private actions of others. We have laws against making recordings of people at the workplace, in public restrooms, and in private changing rooms, and that punish strangers for peeping into our windows at home. We vote in a private booth, we pray in churches without recording our attendance. In effect, it often seems that citizens of the United States have a fairly clear sense of the importance of privacy. In some ways, it seems that Americans remember that their Revolutionary ancestors went to war against the British because those patriarchs from across the sea forced their way into our homes and everyday lives. Most Americans, when confronted with an inability to gather with associates, speak freely, or practice their religion freely, are concerned that their democracy is being compromised.

Americans seem still to know that privacy is important and that surveillance is troublesome. Unfortunately, however, they do not act like they understand or care about either.

The new information and technology economy has encouraged Americans to turn their backs on the value of privacy and to ignore the dangers of ← xiii | xiv → surveillance. We are accustomed to the conveniences of a technologized society. We have been unwilling to demand that our elected officials be vigilant. We have been bamboozled by claims that services are free (and apparently without consequences). A government that is deeply involved in surveillance of its own citizens has lied to us. We have allowed fears of enemies and terrorists to cause us to forget the real parameters of a free society.

Commercial films are often an interesting harbinger of our greatest fears. Films sometimes prey on our fears, reflect our subconscious concerns, and appeal to our sense of impending danger. I’m struck by how very often our popular films and television shows represent our fears of totalitarianism. Regardless of whether the invaders are from earthly, yet foreign, soil or are extraterrestrial in derivation, a ragged group of survivors always seeks to regain lost American ground and to reestablish our way of life. And whatever actions these patriots take, they are generally supported by mass audiences who applaud their heroic fight against overwhelming surveillance and the undeniable loss of privacy.

Then, after leaving the theater, folks pull out their mobile phones, tap in a few text messages, make a phone call, go across the street and pay for an ice cream cone with their credit cards, get into their computer chip–laden, partially robotic automobiles, use their GPS navigation systems to find their way home, sit down in front of a computer or digitally enabled television, and tune in to some (more) programming from service providers to which they have subscribed and provided information about themselves. Every one of these steps takes place under surveillance without either the legal expectation or the everyday reality of a shred of privacy.

People argue over whether Edward Snowden is a hero or a traitor. From one point of view, Snowden tried at first to be a whistleblower and then, when blocked and frustrated, gave up his freedom, in support of American democracy, by exposing the bad behavior of our government and our technology companies. From the other perspective, Snowden is a traitor for having turned over an uncountable number of state secrets to an untold number of enemies. I do not know how Snowden will be viewed (or charged) in either the short or long term. I do know, however, that each of us now must face up to the same dilemmas and choices that challenged him.

I fear that the sky has fallen and that privacy is dead. I fear that I am one of a relatively small number of serious thinkers who believe that our democracy is at risk. I’m an exceedingly minor player in this drama. As an educator in new media technologies, mostly in terms of theory and criticism, I bear some ← xiv | xv → responsibility for helping bring young technologists into the working world without adequately arming them against the forces and choices that they will have to face and make. I bear some guilt over this. Although I have tried to teach about these issues, I have often done so ineffectively and so have contributed to the professionalized cadre of technology workers who do not sufficiently question and challenge their employers about invading citizens’ privacy and collecting and selling information into the data marketplace.

Gratefully, I am not alone in my concerns. Increasing numbers of functionaries within the new media environment are raising alarms about privacy and surveillance. For example, Washington Post reporter Joel Achenbach, in “Meet the Digital Dissenters: They’re Fighting for a Better Internet,” recounts a number of critiques:

Without wearing a pointed hat made of aluminum—to ward off surveillance and signals—and living in a cave, I write this book in a serious attempt to join with others to raise consciousness and to sound the alarm. Marshall McLuhan often remarked that gaining awareness of the effects of new media is a very difficult endeavor. Generally, by the time folks understand new media well enough to be able to be concerned about them, society is immersed to the degree that citizens can no longer see or care about media effects.

We are, indeed, in over our heads. Whether we can rise to the surface and see clearly is very difficult to know. But the stakes could not be higher. Democracy as it has been known in the United States is at mortal risk due to our loss of privacy and the increase in surveillance. It is time to wake up, to take action, to stop business as usual, and to reshape our culture. I fear it’s too late, but I pray that it’s not.

| xvii →


We have known, for a very long time, about the foundational privacy principles in the era of computational data management. In relation to the collection, storage, and dissemination of electronically gathered information and records, fundamental objectives and procedures for protecting citizens’ privacy have been articulated with authority and regularity at least since 1973.

In that year, the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) issued a report by the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems titled Records, Computers, and the Rights of Citizens. At a time when electronic records were beginning to dominate the governmental scene, the report provided guidelines for federal agencies’ handling of electronic records and databases. The report cited a number of basic and definitional aspects of privacy:

Privacy is the claim of individuals, groups, or institutions to determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent information about them is communicated to others. … [T]his is the core of the “right of individual privacy”—the right of the individual to decide for himself, with only extraordinary exceptions in the interests of society, when and on what terms his acts should be revealed to the general public. (Westin 1967: 7, 373, quoted in Records, Computers 1973: sec. 3) ← xvii | xviii →


XL, 248
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (November)
Privacy Surveillance New Media Big Data Data Marketplace Personal Data Fair Information Practices Right to be forgotten Intelligence National Security Agency (NSA) Edward Snowden
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XL, 248 pp.

Biographical notes

Edward Lee Lamoureux (Author)

Edward Lee Lamoureux (Ph.D., University of Oregon) is a Professor at Bradley University. He is lead co-author of Intellectual Property Law and Interactive Media: Free for a Fee. (2015, 2nd edition). He served as editor of the Journal of Communication and Religion from 1998-2003.


Title: Privacy, Surveillance, and the New Media You