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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Fads come and go. In 2016, some of the best moments can be had sitting on the Plaza of the Americas, watching people as they stroll all the way from Anderson Hall to Turlington Plaza, selfie stick in hand, to document this fascinating migration. Fitbits must always be on, because how else would people keep track of how many calories they burned playing “Pokemon Go”? Why not let everyone know what you just did by sending them a Snapchat with that puppy-dog face?

Yes, out of all the absurd yet lovable fads that came about in 2016, perhaps the most confusing one is covering up the cameras on computers with pieces of paper, a Post-it Note or, inexplicably, a piece of Play-Doh. “Oh, that’ll do the trick!” everyone must exclaim as they tweet from their smartphone that’s fully equipped with a forward-facing camera. “We ended intrusive government surveillance, hooray!”

Obviously, they didn’t. This trend was popularized when Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo with his computer (and it’s covered camera) in the background, people immediately concluded that they, too, should cover their cameras. If it’s good enough for Facebook juggernaut Zuckerberg, it’s good enough for them.

There’s a weird piece of irony here. Clearly, this isn’t nearly sufficient in terms of counteracting years worth of constitutionally questionable surveillance. But people still feel like they’re doing something to “stick it to the man.” Our question to those of you who engage in this practice is simple: Does it matter?

It would be easy to comment on the legal gray area that encompasses citizen surveillance programs. But in reality, are there any of us who would change our behavior if we realized our behavior was being monitored? How much has your behavior changed since you did, in fact, cover your computer’s camera? Moreover, for those of you who believe in God, He’s always watching. I’m sure you have nothing to hide, but good luck finding a Post-It Note so big that it blocks the Big Guy Upstairs’ view.

Here at the Alligator, we’re more than comfortable with this fly on the wall. Many of us here in Gainesville have pets. When those of you who, after a long day of studying, want to get intimate with your significant other, do you lock your dog or cat out of the room? Do you throw a blanket over the birdcage? Do you cloud the waters of your aquariums? Most of you probably don’t, because you don’t recognize the presence of these creatures as intrusive enough to warrant self-censorship.

We posit that this relationship ought to be mimicked across mediums. If some low-level NSA employee has to sit and look at our opinions editor’s asymmetrical face all day as he types out editorials, that’s the employee’s problem. If some member of a group style, 60+ only, BDSM club accidentally left her computer open during a Hieronymus Bosch-themed orgy, and that same NSA employee has to watch every bit to make sure it wasn’t really some al-Qaida Q & A, there really is no harm in this.

If you brought this newspaper to Lake Alice and asked the alligators what they thought about this editorial, it’d be surprising if they had anything considerable to say in return. When some small, insignificant piece of data gets a red flag in thousands of digital codes and is sent forward for investigation to some NSA intern, we suspect that a similar relationship is found. He scratches his head and thinks of what to make of a 13-year-old kid blowing more air out of his nose than usual because he saw a funny meme. Is this 13-year-old a threat to national security? Moreover, are our enemies so stupid that they’ll let their plans be compromised by a misplaced MacBook?

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