After last week’s new Edward Snowden documents were released, I am left wondering what the final straw to this whole ordeal will be. These newly revealed United States and British intelligence operations undermine the security and privacy of far too many innocent people, most of whom trust their government to protect those very same concepts. The new documents exposed a top-notch colossal cellphone surveillance program executed by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). This program gave the surveillance agencies the power to secretly monitor a major portion of the world’s cell phone communications, including voice and data. The amount of outrage this revelation garnered is shockingly minimal. Not only have we completely surrendered our cell phones and computer networks, but we have also lost our entire concept of privacy.
Even with the increasing security threats of the 21st century, these programs set a horrific precedent concerning the relationship between trusted governments and personal privacy. As a college student whose smartphone is constantly in use, a device literally storing data from every second its little lithium-ion heart ticks, I feel this should be a priority. All those text messages, private pictures and even the five-hour phone conversations with that special someone on a depressingly lonely Saturday night can be recorded and stored without your consent. I hear people say all the time, “If you’re not hiding anything, what’s the big flipping deal?” This “nothing to hide argument” claims these programs do not threaten privacy unless they reveal illegal activity. Therefore the individual does not have the right to keep these activities private.
If this is true, then the NSA, GCHQ, police chief and CFO also have nothing to hide, so they should embrace total transparency like the rest of us. Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert and cryptographer at Harvard Law School, opposed this argument, quoting Cardinal Richelieu’s famous statement, “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.”Privacy, a generally understood and accepted right in Western culture, gives the power to control access and uses of certain property, locations and most essentially private information to the right holder, and no one else.
It is undeniable everyone has aspects of their lives they would like to keep private. Everyone connected to the reported 450 wireless phone networks around the world hacked by the NSA and GCHQ are completely vulnerable to spying and invasions of property. These programs do not just include gaining information on elite CEOs and CFOs of major corporations anymore. Now even self-employed, lower middle class citizens are open to exploitation. I am left wondering when enough is enough. Even though this clearly is not the breaking point, the Snowden documents are a testament of the true intentions of security agencies around the world.
Croix Dillingham-Boston is a freshman intended political science major.