In a series of superb articles that arose in the Guardian, and subsequently other American publications, it would seem that the NSA (Nosey Spying Assholes) have been collecting vast amounts of data on millions of American citizens, plus folk overseas. The reports suggest that the NSA has unlimited access to vast amounts of calling data from Verizon, including caller ID's, call length, frequency, and if you have one of those impractical cord phones for kitsch value.
Not only that, a leaked Powerpoint document (I know) suggests that the government have a special agreement with many internet companies called PRISM. PRISM encompasses some of the biggest tech giants such as Microsoft, Apple, Google and Facebook, and gives the NSA a backdoor to search through their customer data at will. Shopping for terrorist associates will be as easy as buying something off of Amazon for an NSA employee.
|Government conspiracy or Pink Floyd album?|
This is done under the pretence that it's all about catching terrorists. When they catch one of these plots before it blows up (so to speak), they do a fantastic job of publicising it. The government wants you to think that these measures are working, so they make sure the public is aware on a massive scale. This way it'll be easier to pass legislation to give them more power over your personal data.
Considering that these reports only surface once or twice a year, is it really worth datamining all this information to protect us from so few terrorists? Even if left unchecked, fewer people would die from terrorism than from sharks throwing coconuts at us on the toilet, or whatever the popular comparison is.
It isn't a new thing either. This programme began under Bush, but continues under the current administration. Both major parties want this. It's a situation that the American people cannot vote their way out of.
As an English guy, why am I so concerned about the Internet history of the average American citizen? Why does it matter to me whether the government watches Hank from Idaho watching 2 girls 1 cup on repeat for three days solid? Well, Britain has a "special relationship" with the States in that, after giving America a blow job, Brtain stays on it's knees and allows itself to become a footstool. We share (I mean hand over) vast swathes of information to America as a show of good faith.
This weekend, foreign secretary William Hague, the least contentious politician in a barrel of corrupt monsters, appeared on TV to remind us that we are not being watched by our government and that any intelligence gathering is always done in strict compliance with the law.
|Britain's delightful foreign affairs hobgoblin, William Hague|
That's fine, but how is that any different to what's happening in the US? Everything that has happened is in full compliance with the law. Technically, by law, the companies involved in PRISM are required to outright lie about their role in the operation, and even deny its existence. This makes it very difficult to believe that our government aren't doing the same or allowing the NSA to work here also.
It's easy enough to dismiss this and say "it doesn't matter to me, I have nothing to hide". That's great, thanks for reassuring us, but I doubt even 0.5% of those who have been studied and spied on so far have ever thought about commiting acts of terrorism. Terrorism is being used as an excuse to let the government study everyone with a microscope and infringe more and more on our lives. On the other hand, it's extreme to claim that we're living in an Orwelian police state, but privacy is a basic human right that we shouldn't give any ground on. The government doesn't need to know the extent to which I call sex lines in a single week, nor does it need to know that I named my main desktop PC "poop pants1" in a fit of childishness. I would be more pleased if my tax money paid for schools, hospitals and other such civic buildings, rather than cataloguing my online conversations about biscuits.
So what's the solution? Well first, you need to take a roll of tin foil and begin wrapping it around your head. Afterwards? I don't know, an online petition of some sort? What do I look like, a man of action? I'm a man who complains. I'll let you lot do all the campaigning.