Gigantic as the NSA's intrusions on privacy might be, they are only part of an uncomfortably large story in which many U.S. agencies and outfits feel free to take possession of our lives in ever more technologically advanced and intrusive ways.
While in these last months the NSA has cast a long, dark shadow over American privacy, don't for a second imagine that it's the only government agency systematically and often secretly intruding on our lives.
Pen and paper have largely been replaced by digital documents and cloud storage, yet law enforcement agencies and courts have had trouble honoring the Fourth Amendment in a world increasingly devoid of "papers and effects."
Anytime our government feels the need to infringe even a little bit on personal privacy, we ought to be concerned. However, what's ironic about an overreaction to the NSA revelations is that Americans are "spied on" every day. The process is called microtargeting.
In a democracy, it is essential that the lion's share of power lay in the hands of the people. With the rise of massive data storage capabilities and powerful analytic computers, information is increasingly the currency of power.
Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, explains how our government -- given all the ways it can spy on us -- should just as determinedly use modern technology and technologists to protect our liberties.