Internet surveillance infringes on our rights

By The Beacon | November 7, 2013 2:47am

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By Parker Kimball |

Edward Snowden’s revelations confirm what has been suspected all along. In this age of digital information, it is no surprise that governments around the world keep one ear to the ground when it comes to Internet surveillance.

Snowden’s leaks about the U.S. Secret Service were justified. He stood up for telling the truth at a great personal cost. To defend his actions, the former NSA contractor said to Reuters, “Instead of causing damage, the usefulness of the new public knowledge for society is now clear because reforms to politics, supervision, and laws are being suggested.” These suggestions Snowden speaks of are just beginning to take hold. According to the Russia Times, “on November 2, Germany and Brazil submitted a new draft resolution to the U.N. General Assembly which calls for an end to excessive electronic surveillance, data collection and other snooping techniques.”

Surveillance has impended on individual’s rights to free speech, civil rights and civil liberties. Government transparency is essential for not only a citizen, but for international trust amongst cooperating nations. European Union leaders say their “relations with the U.S. have been undermined by reports of NSA spying on European leaders and ordinary citizens.” Similar scandals have been provoked between the U.S. and a number of countries in Latin America and Asia due to Snowden’s revelations of the U.S. allegedly scanning emails and tapping the phones of world leaders and their citizens.

Yet with all of this news circulating, we are ultimately unmoved by the actions and intrusions established by the U.S. government. Americans are relatively undecided as to whether Snowden was justified in his unveiling of classified surveillance programs. According to a TIME poll conducted back in June following the first leaks, “51 percent said the administration is right to continue these programs” originating during George W. Bush’s administration, while “48 percent said the NSA was wrong.”

It seems that civil liberties are important to the public, but such liberties being infringed upon is less of an ordeal when the government is doing so in the name of fighting terrorism.

It is easy to go about our daily lives, utilizing numerous social networking sites routinely and without consequence. Yet if we were to, for some reason, investigate by any means available a typical student, the compilation of everything that person has posted online both in public and private most likely gives an accurate representation of who that person is. Ultimately any unsuspecting individual could have something incriminating somewhere posted on the Internet. Even non-incriminating information can circulate. The entire online history of an individual can be discovered.

With current security practices left the way they are, the online resources in existence would not allow for any individual to adequately shelter themselves from the overseeing eye of the government. With the continually expanding data on every individual increasing online, we must hope that, in the name of fighting terrorism, the government’s eye doesn’t peer into aspects of our lives we don’t want them to see. Edward Snowden has revealed to the world the comprehensive online spying our government currently performs, in the hopes of halting the NSA from becoming the Big Brother for the entire world.

Parker Kimball is a junior computer science major. He can be reached at kimball15@up.edu.

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