English 4 p. 6
24 February 2014
Digital privacy concerns, which have been a major issue in our country since 2001, increasingly violate our basic human rights as global citizens. The growing amount of government surveillance has manifested in the enactment of acts such as SOPA and CISPA. Although their intent on stopping digital piracy and attacks were clear, both were immediately met with harsh criticism; they allowed big corporations to violate our privacy rights by sharing our personal information with both other companies and the government. Our President, although publicly expressing his acknowledgement of the issue, failed to discuss an array of other pressing dilemmas regulated by the recently exposed National Security Agency (NSA), especially those involving the mass data stockpiles and the rights of foreigners against immoderate and disproportionate surveillance by the US. Furthermore, the intentions of the NSA still remain unclear; why is the collection and the extended retention of this data useful? Those in power believe that the collection of this information allows them to preempt terrorist attacks; a very difficult claim to prove. Our lack of clear answers demonstrate the need for a larger audience who support government transparency. The NSA’s misconduct has dealt multiple blows to the rights of millions both at home and abroad, and the amount of secrecy involving this agency shrouds it in obscurity, inhibiting public debate about these crucial matters.
I strongly believe that the protection of our country should not come with the abandonment of our universal rights. Descriptive metadata, or the logging and collection of content into databases, has been taken in excessive amounts; unjustifiably being enforced by the NSA. Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act allows mass metadata collection by the NSA; both through the program and through their hold over major companies. This comes in many forms: text, audio, and video being the most prominent. However, phone calls, medical records, financial documents, school records, credit card purchases, and even videos and surveillance tapes are also subject to search as was disclosed by Edward Snowden, a former CIA and NSA contractor. And with 3 billion phone calls made and 150 billion emails sent to and from the United States every day, the collection of this personal data without specifying the limits to their searches is unclear and unjust. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo among many others have recently, under protection from the Obama administration, revealed details as to the statistics of government collection. Even our nation's biggest telecom companies, AT&T and Verizon, were obliged to work with the NSA, lately disclosing information on the filtering equipment they were necessitated to use. The storage of this data for prolonged periods of time also makes these companies and their users vulnerable to security breaches such as...