In June of 2013 Edward J. Snowden, a NSA government employee, revealed to the media the extent of government presence in the life of the American, and foreign citizen. Snowden stole documents, which were later published, proving that the government actively examines phone calls, emails, and many other aspects contained within social networks. The government uses this information to create sophisticated maps of Americans’ social connections. The maps they create reveal several things about the American citizen including: their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information. The government does not deny their involvement in data collection and analysis of the average citizen but defend their acts as a form of counter terrorism and cyber security.
Recently, the major technology companies have called for regulation of this online spying. Some of the companies that are actively seeking to limit government access to information are: Google, Microsoft, AOL, Apple, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. These online super powers wrote a letter to the government in which they stated that, “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual”.
These companies have come together and set some guidelines in order to protect the individual’s privacy of information. They want to limit government authority in collecting user information. They believe that the government should be held accountable; if they do collect cyber information, they should do so legally. The government needs to be more transparent about why they are collecting and using private information. The free flow of information should be respected. Finally, to avoid conflict among governments, there should be similar privacy laws in all countries.
This fight for privacy is in the best interest of not only the American citizen but also the internet companies that collect the private information. In time if the government is not controlled in online spying, the average American will begin to lose trust in the online companies to protect their information and that of course will be a decrease in business for those companies. Privacy of information is important and one can only hope that the government can accept the terms presented to them, and make the necessary changes to protect our privacy.
Here’s PBS’s report on the latest events: