Friday, September 6, 2013

The NSA: Backdoor Burglars and Manipulators?

     Towards the end of May, America was taken by storm as Edward Snowden leaked information that would unsettle citizens across the United States. Snowden revealed information regarding the National Surveillance Agency's measures to monitor/intercept personal electronic information US citizens. As Snowden's name popped up across all information platforms, the released details of the NSA's actions become more specific, but the revelations have not ceased. 
     As I read the aforementioned article, I was surprised to see the extent to which the NSA and the British GCHQ pushed companies within the United States to make what citizens would deem "encrypted, private information" into trivially-obtainable data for governmental use. Apparently, security agencies directly approached businesses and program distributors to specifically install ways for the agencies to bypass the encryption that would prevent such agencies from accessing all information users type into the databases. The fact that vendors and companies would comply with this makes me uncomfortable, because it is almost impossible to determine whether or not what we type on any media or personal platform is public knowledge. (It is probably safe to assume "yes.") Although we know it is not necessarily safe to place so much personal information into technology, many pieces of information, like online purchases, banking information, and information regarding genuinely private statements, end up on the internet anyway, and we tend to feel like our information is "protected." Also, instead of directly cutting through the security measures and encryption that citizens depend on and trust when entering personal information on the internet and through cell phones, the NSA and GCHQ rely on the use of coding keys to maneuver around the encryption, and the keys are readily available. I cannot help but think that if the government has had access to these eavesdropping methods for the last decade, these types of risque methods have potentially fallen into the wrong hands. This may seem like a paranoid thought, but one rotten banana spoils the bunch, and if these private surveillance methods become public knowledge to hackers and decoders alike, there would be a lot more information at stake to the general public.
     Reading this article, it becomes clear that human rights regarding privacy have been unstable for some time now. However, with Snowden's ongoing leaks to the public about the behind-the-scenes actions of supposedly protective governmental agencies, I wonder what measures the government will take, if any, to further restrict the right to privacy. A couple of years ago, online censorship became an important issue because many felt that it violated freedom of speech, but with the eavesdropping of phone calls, text messages, and emails/transactions, I worry about the ways that these pieces of information could be wrongfully used against citizens. 
     On the other hand, this issue raises the question of whether or not the government is actually using these strict monitoring processes to help protect what the safety of Americans from threats within its population. This would include terrorist threats and flaws within the populace. When I consider the situation from this perspective, it becomes easier for myself to understand why the NSA and British GCHQ are taking such questionable measures put individual privacy at stake. This situation becomes an issue of personal security and peace of mind versus overall security and comfort.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting observation - it seems similar to what I said in Kelsey's post about tweets. I said I wondered if this should be publicized more - use tweets, Facebook and you give up privacy, no matter what.There are always things that are going to be leaked because we don't have control over how twitter, or NSA for that matter, run. I think it would be wise for everyone to know what it means to create a twitterFB account, or even to be entered into a computer system and how you are viewed, and who views you will remain largely a mystery to you. how to make this more apparent?