Technology may aid governmental security, but it often does so by sacrificing civilian privacy. While in the past, a spy would have to be in your apartment to hear your conversations, the government can now collect text messages and recordings of phone calls.
As technologies related to data mining and analytics become more readily available, the monitoring of phone calls and text messages can aid an effort to promote security. Key words can be used to flag suspicious conversations and images can be processed to ensure that they don’t contain illegal material. In theory, this information can be used to target people performing malicious acts against the government, thus increasing the security of the nation.
While government monitoring of communication may help counteract malicious actions that could hurt civilians, the idea that nothing is private in the modern world also hinders the relationship between the government and citizens. Few people feel comfortable with the idea of the NSA monitoring their emails, yet programs like MUSCULAR infiltrate Google and Yahoo data centers even after being brought to the public’s attention by Snowden, and there are several other similar secret organizations that collect information from almost every form of electronic communication, some storing petabytes of data (Gellman, Wikipedia).
People often have the perception that some agent is actively listening to their calls, but this most likely not the case. Rather than being concerned about people listening into their calls, I think that people should be more concerned about the fact that these organizations are storing the metadata, which can be used to learn a lot about an individual (Weinstein). Just as there are constantly reports about credit card information being stolen, when there are multiple organizations storing your phone calls, texts, and emails, there’s a higher likelihood of that information being compromised, which to me, is a bigger issue than the idea of someone reading a conversation filled with bad memes.
Overall, the idea of all of our data being processed for malicious intent is not pleasant in of itself. While this technology can be used to keep the public safe, the idea of being constantly monitored brings to mind ideas reminiscent of 1984 and “thought police” – the idea that the government has the power to punish you for anything you say or do, thus forcing the majority of the population to live in fear. Even if we assume that our own government will not misuse our data, in a world where many companies make money off of data, it’s easy to imagine how valuable this information is, which raises some concern about what someone would do to get our texts, calls, and emails, and what they would do with it. While this technology has been developed to keep civilians safe, it also creates vulnerability.
ABC News, ABC News Network, abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/governments-phone-text-email-spying-explained/story?id=19347440.
Ball, James. “NSA Collects Millions of Text Messages Daily in ‘Untargeted’ Global Sweep.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 16 Jan. 2014, www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/16/nsa-collects-millions-text-messages-daily-untargeted-global-sweep.
Gellman, Barton, and Ashkan Soltani. “NSA Infiltrates Links to Yahoo, Google Data Centers Worldwide, Snowden Documents Say.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 30 Oct. 2013, www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-infiltrates-links-to-yahoo-google-data-centers-worldwide-snowden-documents-say/2013/10/30/e51d661e-4166-11e3-8b74-d89d714ca4dd_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.132a03d6bc27.
“List of Government Mass Surveillance Projects.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Mar. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_government_mass_surveillance_projects#United_States.