"The parameters of a program like this should be open to examination from members of Congress and the public," the Prince George's County Democrat said. "Everyone understands balancing national security and civil liberties, but we, the public, have to be the ones to say where the line is drawn."

Edwards said the country hasn't "struck quite the right balance" since Sept. 11.

"It's creep, creep, creep," she said. "You give up one thing until you give up another thing, and then you wake up one day and you don't have anything."

Webb, the digital strategist, said news that the government was mining data from private companies should not have come as a shock. It's the responsibility of users to understand that their actions leave digital footprints that can be observed by others, she added.

"If you really, really, really are concerned about your privacy and you don't want to participate in this ecosystem, then you need to move out to Western Maryland and live at the base of a cliff with a bag over your head," she said.

"If you're going to participate, you should understand what you're participating in."

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

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