Should There Be Such a Thing as Electronic Privacy?
by isabelledion on September 10, 2013 - 10:49pm
Before discussing the issue at hand, which is electronic surveillance, let’s first define two keys terms. The NSA is the National Security Agency and Prism is the mass electronic surveillance program it operates since 2007 in the United States. Prism collects data stored in internet communications. The recent breach of information by Edward Snowden, an American computer specialist who was contracted by the NSA, and who leaked private information about the program to the mass media, caused the issue of electronic surveillance to resurface. The debate between the public’s right to privacy and the need to better protect the population from treat will be discussed in this post.
The article “U.S. surveillance program whistleblower is ex-NSA contractor” by The Associated Press on CBCnews, presents the point of view of the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, as well as Edward Snowden’s. Clapper has “decried the revelation of the intelligence-gathering programs as reckless” from Snowden, and because of this has declassified previously unknown information about the program to the media about the intentions of the government. According to the article, “an internet scouring program, code-named PRISM, allows the NSA and FBI to tap directly into the servers of major U.S. Internet companies […] scooping out emails, video chats, instant messages and more to track foreign nationals who are suspected of terrorism or espionage.” The articles further mentions that although the NSA is collecting telephone records, conversations are not actually recorded. Thereby, the NSA is implying that these tools and information are collected for the greater good; thinking that this is the solution that would cause the least harm when considering the possible outcomes. Values such as collective responsibility, security, and patriotism, are being asked by the government.
Snowden’s motivation, as he said, “is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” Dan Misener’s CBCnews article “NSA’s spying powers don’t mean encryption is obsolete” discusses that while there are still some ways to protect ourselves on the internet, “[we’re] not going to be able to out-gun the NSA … when it comes to an arms race.” The use of these surveillance techniques, such as wiretapping, video surveillance, and interception software by national security agencies, is often viewed as a violation of the right to privacy and oversteps on the civil liberties of citizens. Misener goes on to suggest that change will and can only come from reforming government policies. He points out that “Canadians [should] reach out to their elected officials and … help put online security and privacy on the agenda.” Presently, there are campaigns that petition for the right to information about the extent and details of the spying programs; StopWatching.Us and No Secret Spying. Honesty, justice and individual freedom are values that are being asked by the citizens to the government.
Personally, I believe that there are risks in anything, and if electronic surveillance is what it takes to ensure or at least improve the security of the larger population against treats, then infringing individual privacy is a sacrifice to make. The only thing I would ask from the government is to inform the population as to how they are being monitored, not too much as to compromise the program but enough so that citizens are aware of how the program functions and its policies . Basically, I think that the “greater good” wins the battle against individual privacy, but that the right to information should be respected. Let’s imagine the claims are true, and that the NSA has ‘’cracked most online encryption and that they can access BlackBerry, Android and iPhone data‘’, as Misener discusses in his article, will that stop you or anyone from using these technologies?
Misener, Dan. "NSA's Spying Powers Don't Mean Encryption Is Obsolete: Dan Misener - Kitchener-Waterloo - CBC News." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 10 Sept. 2013. Web. 10 Sept. 2013. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/story/2013/09/10/f-vp-w....
Press, The Associated. "U.S. Surveillance Program Whistleblower Is Ex-NSA Contractor." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 09 June 2013. Web. 10 Sept. 2013. http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/06/09/nsa-leak-guardian.html.