Edward Snowden, hero or villain, exposed to the average United States citizen that their government is spying on their communications. A number of programs have been unveiled, each with its own creative name: PRISM, XKeystore, BULLRUN, etc. While they all may be unique approaches to the government’s tactics, the case remains that they all serve the same purpose.
The NSA and other three letter agencies are essentially scooping up domestic and foreign online activity for potential reviewing. This includes but is not limited to:
-VOIP calls (Skype, Google Voice, etc…)
-Cloud-stored data (Personal calendars, personal photos, this paper as I type it, etc…)
-Browsing activity and web searches
-Location data from your smartphone or tablet
To more than most Americans, this provides a rational concern about the power of our government, on the basis that the United States Constitution was probably meant to subvert efforts like the ones the NSA is making. The Fourth Amendment reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
While this Amendment does not particularly refer to online information, but rather only to forms of information relevant at the time of writing such as papers and effects, it can be assumed the Amendment was intended to protect all forms of information, including modern-day cloud-based forms. If we are to say that this is a true premise, the conclusion can rationally be made that the activities of the NSA are unconstitutional.
Some individuals have made an interesting observation in saying “If I have nothing to hide, why should I care?” This observation can only be reasonable in the rare case that this individual really does have nothing to hide and strongly believes that all Americans should adhere to every law regardless of that law’s rationality and also should have no sense of security or privacy in communicating with others. Two (of probably many) instances that might make the observation invalid:
1) If the individual claiming he or she has nothing to hide happens to send private pictures to a lover but would be concerned if an NSA associate were to see this picture (Search for “LOVEINT” on the web).
2) If the individual does not agree that the NSA should be allowed to install cameras and microphones in their home for random access, but should be allowed to tap in on American’s domestic Skype and FaceTime calls (contradictory viewpoints; in my experience this belief is common amongst society’s older members as they do not spend much time online, generally).
It can be believed that many supportive arguments for the NSA’s activities do not consider any contradictory premises such as the two listed above. It would be important to ensure any individual who is supportive of the NSA’s activities are not ‘guilty’ of either of the two instances of contradictory beliefs listed above.
Because the government has done an impressive job hiding the NSA’s true purpose from Americans since 2007, it can be assumed that at no point should citizens take information from government officials to be true without first reviewing evidence. In this way, it would be unwise to vote for an individual on the basis that he or she is against spying, because the only way to know if the individual is actually taking action against spying is by working for the government yourself. Thereby it is important to understand what you can do to protect yourself from spying if you do happen to be uncomfortable with spying. A list of ideas to dodge spying:
-Communicate sensitive information in person, or through offline means (via sneakernet or a private WiFi network).
-Use (or plan to use) upcoming encrypted chat services such as heml.is (https://heml.is)
-Use an iOS device instead of an Android device (As far as the public knows, Apple gives the government a harder time accessing personal data than Google. This might not be the case).
-Frequently send misinformation over the internet to confuse the NSA’s automatic profiling systems, and hope whoever you’re communicating with won’t get confused.
-Abstain from using networks that could allow the NSA to create sociographs, such as Facebook and Google+.
A majority of Americans believe that the NSA is crossing the line with its surveillance activities. If we believe America is a democracy, we can make the conclusion that democratically, the government should do less spying on the basis that most people do not agree with it. If we believe the Constitution is to be upheld, we can make the conclusion the NSA should stop spying without warrants completely.