We're being watched.

Not to sound spooky, but with the interconnectivity of the world via the internet and cell phones galore, it's not inconceivable that your tablet, smart phone or laptop will be documenting your viewing of this very column.

Why did I start off with such a creepy point? Well, I'm glad you asked.

The Washington Post reported this week that the National Security Agency and the FBI "are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets."

If that's not enough to get your cynicism against the U.S. government flowing then allow me to continue.
Who are some of these "companies" listed in the report you may wonder? None other than AOL, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, YouTube and Yahoo.

For some U.S. citizens, those sites above may service a vast majority of their internet usage. Point being, by looking at just these select few sites, you can probably tell a lot about a person.

The Beacon ran a story in their last issue on June 7 about the importance of the video hub YouTube. According to one student in the article, "you can tell a lot about a person by what they watch on YouTube" according to one quote from a UT student."

There's not a shadow of a doubt that internet histories of individuals can serve as a sans-biography of a person because of the openness that is delivered through the world wide web.
But why are people being "spied on" and having their personal information available to unwanted eyes?

According to government officials with knowledge of the situation, the goal of these sweeps is to clamp a tighter lock down on terrorism.

Not to discount the goal of these sweeps because I'm sure they are productive, but examples like this qualify as public relations nightmares for the U.S. government, which is already clawing and scratching for approval numbers.

The issue is that many already have a struggle with trusting the U.S. government, and this seemingly compounds on those who already had distrust in the inner-workings of the government while pushing any fence riders solely over the edge to a stymied anti-government sentiment.

In reality, the overall implications felt from these "research numbers" being taken will honestly not be seen, but that doesn't mean others will soon forget about it the next time they log-on for a slightly embarrassing Google search or consider uploading a slew of risqué photos to Facebook.

For example, let's investigate the hypothetical story of Jimmy and Dr. Blake.

Jimmy worked as an assistant to Dr. Blake in his small-town practice for years, learning Dr. Blake's habits and perfecting exactly how Dr. Blake prefers his setup. Dr. Blake loved Jimmy as a son and likewise, Jimmy saw Dr. Blake as a father-type figure.

But one day, as Jimmy was locking up the office, as he always does, Jimmy swiped a pen set from the doctors desk since it merely collected dust and Jimmy was short on cash for the month.

After a week the doctor took notice, and upon realizing it could only be Jimmy, he stripped Jimmy of his freedom in the office.

Multiple years of dedication are now gone and forgotten in an instant.

This is where our point takes on reality. National Security takes precedence over a lot of things, but where is the line drawn? Will American's be so scared of revealing information through a phone or laptop that face-to-face communication becomes the only safe way to converse without documentation? Probably not, but it's not the craziest thought you've ever heard.

Point being, trust takes years to build and seconds to tear down.

If the government wants its people to follow them diligently, then a trip down to Home Depot with an effort made on reconstructing the shambled trust between its citizens might be a wise choice.

Gage Arnold is a junior in journalism and may be reached at garnold@utk.edu