Government Surveillance Of Internet Activity Essay

3543 words - 14 pages

Government Surveillance of Internet Activity

1. Background

Back to late 1980s in China, some young people in college or research institute had a chance to surf the Internet through a fairly low speed, roughly routed World Wide Web connection. But a big surprise for them was that the Internet was a real freeway, a freeway escaping from strict government control, a freeway for people who wanted to see but couldn’t see and who wanted to say but couldn’t say.

Stepping into the 21st century after more than a decade, the Internet service in China has already been almost the latest generation in the world. However, a new surprise for those “old” surfers and new comers is that the traffic on the Internet freeway is jammed or totally blocked. Some internet writers, even anonymous ones, have been monitored and arrested. Chinese people realized that what could be seen and reached through the Internet becomes less and less, and what could be spoken on the web now leads to a huge threaten to individuals as the consequence.

Why is that? Someone blames the advanced software technology which is now available to the Chinese government. It is argued that new technologies enabled the government to turn on red lights in the Internet freeway and use “web polices” to intercept violators who were chasing the freedom. Indeed, not only in China, such an observation becomes globally prominent. At a recent internet technology conference sponsored by the Internet Society in Montreal Canada (INET '96), a new discussion emerged which is focused on the increasing number of governments intent on erecting barriers to free speech on the Internet [1].

1.1 Government surveillance exists in many countries and in a variety of forms.

Normally, people wouldn’t be really surprised when someone reminds the existence of government surveillance in their everyday life. There are true stories covering a wide span of time and continents, from the secret police in East Germany last century [2], to the intelligence gathering activities in some campuses today controlled by CIA [3]. As a solid example, wiretapping is conducted in nearly every country in the world and is frequently abused. The US Department of State, in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1994, reports widespread, illegal or uncontrolled use of wiretaps by both government and private groups in over 70 countries [4]. Government surveillances are generally targeted to human rights groups, reporters and political opponents. In some countries, the state owned telecommunications companies were active participants in helping the security services of their government to monitor human rights advocates. In other countries, multiple forms of surveillance are used. For instance, hidden microphones were found in the offices of the Mexican Human Rights Commission in 1991 [5].

1.2 Communication through the Internet is no longer a freeway as what people might imagine.

Internet has the capability...

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