Ever since 29 year old Edward Snowden was revealed as the whistle-blower in the NSA and PRISM privacy disclosures the media has gone full tilt trying to understand this man and the privacy concerns. Snowden disclosed that the National Security Agency or NSA in Fort Meade MD sifts through hundreds of millions of US phone records every day looking for key words that may compromise the security of the country. The PRISM program is operated jointly between the FBI and NSA and taps directly into nine US Internet companies to gather Internet usage data including emails, photographs, audio, video and searches.
Now at first glance you may be taken aback at this disclosure and for many it conjures up visions of “big brother” from the book 1984; sales of which have skyrocketed since this information leaked. But when you think about it from a practical perspective filtering keywords and phrases is one thing but actually looking at the data is another.
The amount of data collected every day is enormous; more data than any one person could take in in a lifetime, or perhaps thousands of lifetimes. Second the actual content of most of the data that you and I exchange is negligible and contains nothing that would warrant the interest of government authorities. That being said, the question to ask is whether or not this is morally right.
On one side you have to protect the country from terrorist activities but on the other side you have to protect freedom of speech. The next question to consider is how free should speech be? If your conversations are related to bombing cities or gunning down pedestrians perhaps your freedom should be limited so as to preserve the lives of those at risk. But what if the information gets used for the wrong reasons?
Protecting our citizens safety should be of the utmost concern however my thoughts lead to the improper use of the data. Let’s consider the scenario of World War 3 for example. Let’s just say that not only is this data being collected but far more than we are aware. What if data about the apps we have on our phones is collected (which may already be for all I know).
Let’s take the scenario a little farther and consider that the government is interested in detaining Muslims or Christians due to the nature of the war. Perhaps the war is religious in nature. It’s always interesting to speculate these scenarios because if the government could query exactly who has the text of the Muslim or Christian bibles downloaded to their smartphones then these people could possibly become suspects or compared to Nazi Germany be detained in camps due to their beliefs.
I know this probably sounds a little radical but as they say “all is fair in love and war”. The point is if the data falls into the wrong hands or if the wrong type of leader is at the helm of these government organizations at the time we could be setting ourselves up for disaster.