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 Dan Misener’s CBCnews article “NSA’s spying powers don’t mean encryption is obsolete” discusses that while there are still some ways to protect ourselves on the internet, “[we’re] not going to be able to out-gun the NSA … when it comes to an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.

 

 

Comments

I'm posting to let you know that I agree with your position on this topic. I too believe that the ethical principle of the greater good wins out over the right to privacy. The NSA is interested in protecting the U.S. and countries that are allied with it. Although they are opening private emails and listening to private phone conversations, they are not interested in exposing your secrets. They are only going to care about your personal life if it is in some way related to the activities of known terrorist cells, so there is no reason that Americans (or Canadians) should really be worried. Although they may be overstepping on civil liberties, they are doing so in a non-violent, unnoticeable fashion in order to make the world a safer place. Why is there such an outcry of public outrage if the information they are gathering is being used to protect against terrorist attacks?

The subject matter of government surveillance is a relevant issue that I find very interesting and polarizing. I do not believe that the government has the right to monitor its population through private information for it infringes on the human rights to freedom and privacy, even if the government does “promise” to inform its constituents of its activities on this matter. If the general population were to agree convincingly on allowing government surveillance of phone and internet records, there would be the potential of the government abusing its power. The fact that the U.S. government did not inform its population of its monitoring activity through the NSA and PRISM is a perfect example of the government’s inclination towards secrecy and classification on these matters rather than debate. Who is to say that the government could not add to its surveillance program in the near future to the point where all actions by anyone would be known and regulated? This is a bit far-fetched, but not impossible in my opinion, and therefore, I believe there should be such a thing as electronic privacy in order for our autonomy to be respected.

Hi Isabelle,
I really liked your subject because it is from the actuality and almost everybody is concerned about electronic privacy. Furthermore, you have many facts to supports both sides of the debate and important quotes from experts in the article, which made your post more reliable. The title is spot on when it comes to identifying your topic: electronic privacy. I totally agree with you, in a society, we need to be secure and feel safe. Therefore, the government has the right to use electronic surveillance. However, like you mentioned in your article, the government should let the people know about their use of this kind of surveillance. That being said, like probably many other people, that would definitely not stop me from using my smartphone or computer because I have nothing to hide. I asked myself some relevant questions while reading your post : How does the government process the surveillance of all the electronic devices in the country? Do they have specific keywords that trigger red flags?

Elizabeth Morin

Hi isabelledion,
Your title is the first thing that caught my attention while I was scrolling through the list of articles. It stated the subject but it also intrigued me. The topic of electronic privacy is also an issue that is very current and relevant to today’s society.
With regards to this issue, I agree with your position on this matter. I also believe that the greater good of the people, in this case, occupies a greater importance than the individual freedom of each person. By choosing the public security over individual privacy, the safety of the people is further ensured. The values and ethical principles addressed are collective responsibility, individual freedom, security, greater good and the overall protection of the people. On the other hand, by choosing the latter, the values and ethical principles represented are fairness, individual freedom, justice, the Golden Rule, respect for autonomy and that we should not use people as means. While we both can agree that the government has the right to infringe our electrical privacy for the public safety and the greater good of the people, do you think there is a limit to what extent we should allow it?
-Jasna

This is a topic that really interests me, I believe that our privacy as electronic users are being compromised, but it is for a greater good. As said previously, the fact is that the NSA and the government does not care about the emails you send to your family nor about the private conversations you have with others, they go through billions of these messages for one sole purpose; safety of the homeland. In the end, if there's nothing illegal or top secret security issues written in your emails, they probably would not even get a second look. An interesting question to ask would be how exactly do they get access to everyone's information? Are they issued by the terms and conditions of the sites we use or do they hack them all?

This is a topic that really interests me, I believe that our privacy as electronic users are being compromised, but it is for a greater good. As said previously, the fact is that the NSA and the government does not care about the emails you send to your family nor about the private conversations you have with others, they go through billions of these messages for one sole purpose; safety of the homeland. In the end, if there's nothing illegal or top secret security issues written in your emails, they probably would not even get a second look. An interesting question to ask would be how exactly do they get access to everyone's information? Are they issued by the terms and conditions of the sites we use or do they hack them all?