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NSA Leaks Timeline -

Zdnet provides a detailed, eighty-four slide timeline of the NSA mass surveillance data leaks led by Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee. The timeline lays out the structure of the leakage from the first whistle blow on June 6, 2013, to December 4, 2013. The leakage coverage begins and ends with phone use, both cell and landline, and government access to personal phone date. The first leak, published by The Guardian in June involved U.S. government's demand to to vacuum up millions of Verizon customer details, including information on phone calls both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries. 

In December of the same year, new leaks published by Washington Post tell us the U.S. National Security Agency gathered close to 5 billion records a day on cellular devices around the world, allowing the agency to track individual's movements. According to the post, “The records flow into a vast database that can store the location of "at least hundreds of millions of devices," according to the documents.The NSA is understood to keep about 1% of the records - some 27 terabytes, according to the documents.”

People (and of course corps, because they are people, too :) are perturbed, and are not going down without a fight. While Verizon remains silent on challenging any secret U.S. court order that authorizes the mass vacuuming of U.S. and international data, a growing number of technology firms called on Congress for greater transparency and data request reporting. Apple, CloudFlare, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Yahoo, and Foursquare, among others, called on Congress for greater transparency surrounding secret government data requests for customer and user information. 

Perhaps this concern is only because there is a possibility for those high up in these firms to be found out for one thing or another. It seems unlikely that corporate concern about surveillance has anything to do with consumer protection. The mass surveillance conducted by the NSA would not have been possible without internet and telecommunication companies amassing as much data as they can on their customers.

US citizens are not the only ones concerned and outraged by leaked NSA activity. Amid claims the U.S. government was eavesdropping on EU offices in Washington, New York, and Brussels, a top German official accused the U.S. of using "Cold War" methods against its allies regarding the ongoing spate of leaks detailing the NSA's surveillance operations. Of course, the UK is heavily involved in this global surveillance as well.

Deemed a hero by some, but a whistleblower and a traitor by others, Snowden has been forced to flee the country and take refuge elsewhere. This brings to light a major moral issue: why can those who expose the truth (whistleblowers like Snowden) considered traitors in a free, capitalist democracy? What does that reality tell us about our political system and current democratic state? 

The exception to this question are those who are concerned only with security measures; those who fear secure government information could reach the hands of terrorists, etc. 

Is the Internet Good or Bad? Yes. - Zeynep Tufekci

Tufekci argues that the internet is both good and bad; it can facilitate both a lack of independence and a means of organization and mobilization. While social media has proven as an effective way  to organize protests and other social movements, effectiveness is severely mitigated by surveillance, which allows protests, etc. to be shut down before they even begin. Tufekci says that resistance and surveillance are inextricably linked in the modern internet world. He says, “Our understanding of the dangers of surveillance is filtered by our thinking about previous threats to our freedoms.” 

We are more wired in today than ever, giving us the illusion of independence. People are finding news in a more “independent” way through individual sources on social media, rather than through mainstream media like television. Unlike television, Twitter has no editor. Content is created and immediately aired. In this way, the internet is incredibly liberating. It is interesting that so many individuals did not even realize the level of censorship going on in their country, namely Turkey, until the social media movement. However, this liberation can quickly turn to oppression through surveillance. If a post goes up on Twitter that hits the NSA’s radar, arrests can be made before acts are even committed in the tactile world. It is interesting that so many individuals did not even realize the level of censorship going on in their country, namely Turkey, until the social media movement. 

Discourse about the negative of positive nature of the internet is often soothed by one statement: the internet is just a tool. Tufekci says, “It’s just a tool.” I had heard this many times before. It contains a modicum of truth, but buries technology’s impacts on our lives, which are never neutral. Often, I asked the person who said it if they thought nuclear weapons were “just a tool.” Humans have always fought, but few would say it doesn’t matter if we fight with sticks, knives, guns, or nuclear weapons.”

Is the internet good or bad? Yes. If the internet is a tool, it’s nature is contingent upon the nature of its user. The question really becomes, how often is the internet used for good verses bad? How often is the internet used for the perpetuation of selfish wealth and oppression versus community and empowerment? The question might not be whether the internet is bad, but rather whether humanity has the capacity to handle the power of the internet in a way that is more conducive to creation than destruction of life. 

The Internet is a Surveillance State - Bruce Schneier 

Bruce Schneier says that maintaining privacy on the Internet is nearly impossible. If you forget even once to enable your protections, or click on the wrong link, or type the wrong thing, you've permanently attached your name to whatever anonymous service you're using. 

“In today's world, governments and corporations are working together to keep things that way. Governments are happy to use the data corporations collect, occasionally demanding that they collect more and save it longer, to spy on us. Corporations are happy to buy data from governments. Together the powerful spy on the powerless, and they're not going to give up their positions of power, despite what the people want.” - Bruce Schneier 

Is this argument extreme? How many of us feel so overwhelmed by the state of surveillance that we have given up on the option of protest? 


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