Overheard on CNN.com: Dear government, my omelet was delicious this morning
A surveillance program monitors "bad" words on Facebook and other social-media sites, a privacy group's lawsuit reveals.
March 9th, 2012
03:36 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Dear government, my omelet was delicious this morning

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

"Drone came by yesterday. I was sitting on the can. Asked what I was doing...snapped a few pics. I flushed. 'Why do you want to know?' 'Just doing my job, sir ... just wondering what you were doing.' 'Look suspicious?' 'Not sure ... you were sitting, not standing, right?' 'Right,' I said. 'I'll put that in my report ... why did you flush so fast?' 'I was done.' 'You know that can't be verified, sir.' 'Sorry,' I said. 'We'll be watching,' it said. Then it left. Yes, without another word, it flew away and disappeared into the blue, afternoon sky like the brilliant cyber creature that it surly was."
–Floyd Mills

Comedian Dean Obeidallah wrote a column expounding on the government's Twitter searches. Readers responded with comedic takes of their own.

The government is reading your tweets

Some suggested we ought to watch the government.

rlowens1: "Perhaps, we can clean up Washington, if we insist that all candidates for public office, should they be elected, consent to have ALL of their communications monitored for the duration they are in office? Sure, it infringes on their civil rights. But, isn't that ok, as long as it furthers the public interests and improves security for us all? That is the argument they're using on us."

Others wanted to sabotage the effort.

FoxTS: "So in short, everyone should make sure to use 5-7 of these words in at least two posts every day. Thus making this data mining project all but useless."

ENDFEDNOW: "Smallpox, virus, nerve gas, anthrax, dirty bomb, radioactive, nuclear facility, and hummus ought to do the trick... ;-)"

rlowens1: "No, that would just make it more expensive."

Imagine your breakfast on a billboard.

MyNewScreenN: "One simple solution: stop tweeting and posting every single thing you do on FB."

r0n77: "Exactly. If you don't want everyone, including 'Big Brother', to know what you ate for breakfast, then don't put it on the internet for the whole world to see. It is no different than putting a billboard on the top of your house and saying that "My omelet was awesome today!" There is no right to privacy when you choose not to be private."

MyNewScreenN: "Posting what you ate for breakfast is not freedom of speech, it's useless information that nobody cares about and should be kept private anyway."

Tweet, tweet, tweet.

stevedadude: "Only birds and bird brains tweet. It's like shouting on the courthouse lawn."

One poster pointed out the utility of social media and got replies about the spread of movements like Occupy Wall Street and the recent interest in Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.

Jeffrey Mershon: "Of course DHS is monitoring twitter! It's the fastest way to find out about breaking news, and it has been widely used victims, responders, and the curious during a variety of disasters, large and small. I would expect and hope that many agencies are doing the same (eg: FEMA, NIH) so they can respond as quickly as possible to some disaster or issue within their purview. This list of words Mr. Obeidallah refers to is like the ingredients to a recipe–you don't know what is being made without knowing the process. Could there be nefarious intent on the part of DHS? Of course! Is there? You can't tell just by reading a list of keywords–there is *much* more to social media analysis than that."

jbird: "This is about the Occupy movement too. They organize some flash activity by Twitter. We have the government running scared over the 1% vs the 99%. So now they bring warrantless wiretapping of a higher tech scale, down on all our heads. The ones who thought this up should be tried and convicted of high crimes and give the appropriate punishments due traitors ;/ They are truly unamerican. (Janet) Napolitano cansuck it."

gregkells: "jbird, please. The government isn't running scared from the occupy movement, it's barely even a legitimate movement anymore. This started long before the anti-capitalist, Canadian hipster magazine 'Adbusters' put together the first Occupy Wall Street gathering. Frankly, I'm surprised that OWS got even one mention on this forum. They are last year's hipster cause. Get with it, it's all about Kony now. The guys at Starbucks are gonna laugh at you if you keep talking about OWS."

But then, there is other kinds of information. Willthefree asserted that people who post online expect and even desire that their content is read by others, with the possible exception of more private messaging. But other commenters weren't so sure.

WilltheFree: "This author makes it seem like there's a bunch of gray area when from a legal and ethical perspective there is no gray area at all - public is public."

Ruddy: "It's not just 'public forums'. It's everything that leaves your house and goes through a server! And your privacy settings do nothing."

This reader pointed out the economics involved.

sammylane12: "There is nothing free online. If you think you getting something for free, wise up, you are not the customer, you are the product. There is no privacy online, just the opposite. Billions are made selling personal information. Google tracks you, your phone apps track you ... it gets worse every day."

Is privacy the issue that unites everyone?

fjrchooser: "I'm actually surprised to see all these comments on CNN. Perhaps liberals and conservatives aren't as far apart as on some items as our elected reps make it seem."

Bubba01: "Most people are moderates with a hot-button issue. We find some radical who is fixated on our issue and send him or her to Washington to work on it. That's politics."

Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Vestidos de Noiva

    Hi I'm Abeln Kriegler, a Canadian, originally of Nova Scotia, living life across the pond in London, England with my beardy British beau and a very cranky cat.
    Vestidos de Noiva

    May 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
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