The world erupted in outrage following revelations by Edward Snowden regarding the extent of surveillance perform by the National Security Agency. Privacy becomes one of the hottest topic of 2013 and was chosen by the world’s most popular online dictionary, Dictionary.com, as the Word of the Year. However, the government is not the only one that conduct data gathering and surveillance. Employers often monitor their employees, and businesses collect data on theirs customer. The morality of these practices is a topic that generates heated debate.
One type of surveillance is employee monitoring. Many employers monitor their workers’ activities for one reason or another. Companies monitor employees using many methods. They may use access panels that requires employees to identify themselves to control entry to various area in the building, allowing them to create a log of employee movements. They may also use software to monitor attendance and work hours. Additionally, many programs allows companies to monitor activities performed on work computers, inspect employee emails, log keystrokes, etc. An emerging methods of employee monitor also include social network and search engine monitoring. Employers can find out who their employees are associated with, as well as other potentially incriminating information. (Ciocchetti)
Employees are not the only people whose information interest companies. To a far greater extent, businesses are looking to gather data on their users and the market in general. User data collection has become one of the most important components of market research. For example, online retailers can use data collected from a consumer’s purchase to target advertising on products that the consumer is most likely to buy. Additionally, tracking clicks and page views allows companies to measure the effectiveness of their marketing strategy. There is, however, also a dark side to these kind of data collection. Companies collecting user data are vulnerable to attacks in which these data are lost to the malicious attackers. For example, just last year, Adobe was attacked and 2.9 million customer’s data were lost (Gabbatt). Even worse, companies may collect personal information to sell to other, potentially disreputable, organizations.
Bulk data collection is not only done by companies, but by the government as well. While it is well known that some government agencies are responsible for collecting intelligence, the recent disclosure by Edward Snowden reveal the extent to which the National Security Agency is gathering data. One of the key programs mentioned in the released documents is PRISM (Gellman). The program allegedly allows the NSA to collect information directly from the servers of many companies (such as Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google) in real-time. Data collected from PRISM, as well as other collection methods, are then can be query using a program called XKeyscore. According to Greenwald, any low level analyst can read content of...