There is a children’s book titled Big Nate: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? As you might expect, it concerns a ne’re-do-well tyke with great ideas that somehow go bad—like the one where he tries to get into his teacher’s desk while she’s away because he has forgotten his research topic assignment and must find the master list.
There are many “what could possibly go wrong with that” moments in America these days. I was reminded of one just the other day when a nice man came to the front door and said his company is making my neighbor’s house more energy efficient. I took the brochure. Inside there are before-and-after photographs of houses taken by thermal-imaging cameras. These devices are able to detect from outside your house where the heat inside your house is coming from. Think body heat, for example. What could possibly go wrong with that?
Oh, it’s all fun and games now. Like the early days of the internet when personal data gathering by faceless powerful companies was a remote possibility of concern only to the tinfoil-hat crowd. Like the “black boxes” being installed in new model cars that will tell what you were doing for the 10 seconds or so (for now) before a fender-bender. Those data recorders are so useful for settling disputes between the manufacturer and driver. What could possibly go wrong with that?
All the states who held out their hands for President Obama’s stimulus money for education simultaneously agreed to set up National Security Agency–like longitudinal data-collection systems to follow each student from kindergarten to adulthood. All 50 states now have them in place. A good idea for tracking the child’s progress, right? What could possibly go wrong with that?
Remember Congress passing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)? Soooo yesterday. In 2011 the U.S. Department of Education broadened the interpretation of FERPA to increase the number of interested parties who can access your child’s personal data, data that will now include such things as religious affiliation, medical conditions, voting status, and family income.
What, my fellow Christian, could possibly go wrong with that?