Behind the walls of Fort Meade, powerful technologies lurk – technology awesome in its power but which can become terrifying if turned against you.
Remember the scene from Batman where he has an entire city’s cellphones monitored? Well, the NSA can do much more than that. Edward Snowden, the 29-year old hacker who is waiting in Moscow for his political asylum to Ecuador, is responsible for “leaking” the fact that NSA has been using that power. And while we are fine with the government using that power where legal applicability is proven, all of us are aghast at the extent to which that power is being [mis]used – this is the true revelation made by Snowden.
We, the Public, knew that the NSA was reading mails and listening in to calls. But we all assumed we were somehow exempt from that surveillance. And nobody suspected that their “like” on a friend’s photo on Facebook would be handed over as server logs to the government’s top secret spy agency.
Everything you do online is logged on a server somewhere. It’s worthwhile to keep that in mind while using the internet. And its only a matter of time before someone [with access] can figure out what you were doing, when, from where and for how long.
I do not blame the NSA. I don’t think they should be reading people’s emails and listening to people’s phone calls. But hey! they are a spy agency. That is what spies do! They spy on people. Edward Snowden was remarkably clever and more importantly- moral and responsible – when he released the documents that the government was so keen to hide from us. Its funny how we constantly see signs that say : “this area is under surveillance”. Maybe its time for us to hang one of those signs inside our homes.
Snowden was adamant that the release should not be used as media fodder- something that most glory hounds desire. He was also careful not to release anything that would endanger his country or the agency he worked for. Remarkable traits in a man accused of espionage-don’t you think?
When the white house petition to pardon Edward Snowden reached 100,000 signatures, the news made it to the top of Hacker News and stayed there for a long time. People know that Snowden is innocent. And that’s important. Edward Snowden has educated people around the world. People are now talking about the Internet and the PRISM project and are more careful with what they do online. In fact, the search traffic to duckduckgo.com – a search engine that does not track its users like Google does – experienced double the traffic a week after the PRISM revelations.
People now know that their communication is not secure. That the online anonymity that they thought existed, doesn’t. As individuals there isn’t anything we can do about it other than be more careful. Its amusing to hear the people with authority say,”If you have nothing to hide, you should not be so concerned.” They refuse to acknowledge the fact that just because a person has nothing to hide, that doesn’t mean you should stalk her. Nobody wants to be monitored all of the time.
Snowden did not betray his government. If he had wanted to betray the government,, he could have perpetrated horrors with the information that he had access to by selling it to foreign governments. Instead, he chose to disclose the information – only just enough information necessary and no more- to a newspaper. He believed that people should know if they are being watched without a warrant. That is a sensible and ethical belief to have.
Its a tragedy that Snowden, a privacy activist, is right now stranded in a foreign country waiting for asylum while his home labels him a traitor. Let’s hope the Obama administration considers the petition that was signed and pardons Snowden.