It is not recently that governmental agencies are collecting information on the public. It is possible that details of every citizen’s life, from birth to death, are recorded in some government file. However, members of the public entertained the belief that they were able to enjoy a certain level of privacy. The controversial NSA spying has however, removed that belief, as both phone and Internet communications can be accessed by the government.
This power to spy on the public is given to certain agencies, specifically the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, a warrant is needed and it is only to be given in cases where the nation’s security is an issue.
Nevertheless, as in many cases where humans are given power for the supposed ‘greater good’, that power will usually be used for the greater good of the person in charge. There have been claims on the Internet that NSA agents were also spying on their ‘love interests.’ They termed this information gathering effort LOVINT, an acronym for ‘love intelligence’. The Wall Street Journal printed an article with a committee chairperson admitting that there were such incidents, and that the perpetrators were punished for their indiscretion.
There is the concern that, if they are willing to abandon the laws by which they are governed, for something as simple as a ‘crush’, why would anyone disbelieve that they are spying on all of us.
The NSA spying on citizens
Edward Snowden brought to light the issue of governmental agencies spying on members of the public. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) gave orders, which mandated that, a certain company under the control of Verizon turn over their call records. When this information was brought to light, there was great public outcry. Many American citizens and foreign nationals were reasonably concerned.
The information garnered is for both landline and mobile phones. This is a concern for members of the public, who bring their cell phones wherever they are going. Through the device, the government can track anyone.
The Information garnered from this ‘spy cell’ includes the length of the calls you make and receive, and metadata stored on the phone and its chip. What may also be unbelievable to some is possible. The agency is able to track your phones location even if it is turned off. However, even more unbelievable is that they can remotely turn on your cell phone’s microphone, so that your conversations can be recorded, worrying indeed. It is plausible that even foreign nationals that are suspected of a crime can be targeted. However, there is no evidence to prove this theory.
After the first leak, it was later revealed that not only phone records were being accessed by the agency, but also online communication. This Internet spying on Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft users means that millions are being affected. These companies are widely used. With the increased use of these sites, many are comfortable in sharing certain sensitive information with business associates, family and friends. Unfortunately, information shared in jest or in all seriousness can be used against you.
Members of the government, including the president, have defended the NSA spying program. They have said that it is constitutional and cites a number of Acts, to which any concerned citizen can refer. The measures taken are considered logical and appropriate, because they provide protection to all citizens from any plans that potential terrorists may be forming.
Here are a few questions to consider about the NSA spying program
- If you have no plans of committing a crime, why should you be worried? The fact is that much sensitive information is shared on the web. Including sensitive business related information of major corporations. Since some NSA workers have already proven that they will use their power indiscriminately, we should all be concerned.
- Are our civil liberties more important than the government’s strategy to protect its borders and citizens from a terrorist attack? Benjamin Franklin’s statement is quite appropriate at this juncture. “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. This is a good quote to end any discussion on the NSA spying controversy.