By Gregory Jouvenat
Government access to everyone’s private information in the name of national security has been a hot political issue for some time now, and allowing the United States government to snoop around in private lives could cause more harm than good.
With technological wonders like the Internet, it has become easier to communicate with friends and family. In this new age of information, the government has created measures in order to collect data such as emails, phone calls and texts.
Documents released in 2013 by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, revealed that the NSA uses the PRISM program to gather the private data of American citizens. The data collected from this program comes from widely used corporate entities such as Google and Facebook.
According to a report drafted by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, the program collects Internet communications exclusively and targets specific email addresses, not names.
Snowden suggested in his disclosures that the size and the scope of mass data collection was much greater than the public realized.
It is unnerving to think that a federal agency can potentially single out any individual account in this country and have access to its search history and email communication patterns. That information should only be distributed at the discretion of the account holder.
It has been argued that if one has nothing to hide, then one has nothing to fear. This stance puts unnecessary pressure on members of the public who would otherwise be critical of such spying programs. If someone was to speak out against mass surveillance in the name of national security, it could be seen that there is a nefarious plot with the individual’s agenda.
Instead of shifting the responsibility on the masses, we need to ask the various government entities why they think these surveillance programs are our only reasonable defense against national threats. It is not an unreasonable demand to try to understand why we need to accept giving up our privacy rights to organizations that are making promises of safety that they cannot even guarantee.
Lately, Apple has found itself in some legal trouble. As a result of the San Bernardino shooting that took place in December, the FBI is asking Apple to create software that can ultimately unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters. This software would not activate a failsafe that could wipe the data after a certain amount of wrong entries. Apple says that it has done everything within its power and within the means of the law to aid the FBI’s investigation into the shooting, but the company refuses to create the tool despite court order.
Even though the San Bernardino shooting was tragic, this court order could set a dangerous legal precedent. If Apple cooperates, the entire world will know that there is a way to maneuver around the iPhone’s security protocols. The FBI cannot promise that something like this will only happen once. Apple “or any other corporation for that matter ” could be strong-armed into hacking its products as a means of retrieving private data.
There has to be a better solution to address the rising concerns regarding national security that does not include a mass invasion of privacy done by a country’s governing body or state servants. Leaders need to engage in an honest discussion about the issue and reach a conclusion that can provide both a shield from threats to the citizens of this nation and also respect the boundaries of their personal information.
Sungah Choi / The Poly Post
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