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What Is Edward Snowden’s All-Seeing Eye?

He shocked the world by revealing that government employees would peer through sensitive personal data. While going through large sets of personal information, the National Security Agency would come across private pictures and would then spread the photos. This was done for a number of women. By notifying the public, Edward Snowden’s actions came with repercussions so severe that he fled the country and was granted asylum by Russia. The government has been quietly watching the public closely for years by means of smart phones and security cameras.

Those invasive technologies further surveillance by the tracking of websites an individual visits, red flagging certain search terms, wiretapping phone calls and even scanning every physical movement. The tired explanation for the use of surveillance tools is that it can provide security. While the government might be looking around at information and the actions one makes to prevent terrorist attacks from happening, they are still peering through private information that is not meant for someone else’s eyes.

Although government surveillance provides safety, it compromises privacy, and breaches the fourth amendment whilst collecting sensitive information without the public’s knowledge. Rather than completely guarding information from outside sources, surveillance compromises privacy by peering through the information and even providing private agencies with it. Privacy provides a comfortable space for people to do what they please without restrictions. Without that space, individuality is restricted.

Many have smart phones that allow further self-expression, but these devices are tapped and controlled by the government to seek out disturbing information that could put ones’ security at risk. The agency views tidbits of pertinent information as well as irrelevant data points that include photographs and private text messages. According to Snowden: It’s never reported. Nobody ever knows about it because the auditing of these systems is incredibly weak.

The fact that your private images, records of your private lives, records of your intimate moments have been taken from your private communication stream, from the intended recipient and given to the government without any specific authorization or need is a violation of your rights. Why is that in a government database? (qtd in Hill) Data that is not even needed to investigate illegal actions of an individual are nonetheless still collected. The people who are studied by the government may not even know that they are being surveyed. No matter how the government tries to justify their actions, what they partake in is illegal.

The government infiltrating devices, using surveillance cameras, tracking cookies, whatever it may be, is still a breach of privacy. What is not shared with others should not be viewed by any government agency that invades privacy by pretending to benefit the public. As surveillance increases and interacts with everyone’s lives more than ever, the United States crawls more towards being a totalitarian state. Personal devices are no longer seen by the user only but by agencies that feed off the information input the user feeds the device.

It works against users in the way that it is a data collection system. One may be curious or engage in the documentation of something obscene and could possibly be red flagged for being inquisitive. A family’s innocent pressure cooker search got them into hot water with the local task force. Catalano asserted, “I had researched pressure cookers. My husband was looking for a backpack. And maybe in another time those two things together would have seemed innocuous, but we are in “these times” now…” The public is treated harshly and is scrutinized for engaging in innocent activities.

Everyone has had a questionable thought that might then be searched on google. It has gotten to the point where harmless thoughts cannot be searched because of the possibility that one may be red flagged and even arrested in conspiracy to commit a crime. Every move that is made and every word that is typed online is being carefully watched by someone that is not in the intended audience. In addition to peering through information and supplying agencies with data points, surveillance conflicts with various laws and is illegally done without the knowledge of the populace.

With having access to sensitive information as well as personal records, the government is increasingly becoming big brother. The illegality of what they do by digging deep into personal, impertinent information shifts around. It is deemed illegal by the fourth amendment which requires a warrant for search and seizure of property. In 2001, the Bush administration conjured up the patriot act which made it easy for the government to access people’s library and phone records all in the name of trying to prevent terrorist attacks from within.

The utter violation of privacy is also a violation of a basic human rights granted to every American citizen. Hafetz claims that: The impact of NSA surveillance is deep and far-reaching. Vacuuming up Americans’ communications undermines basic principles of privacy. It also chills the communications and discourse essential to a democratic society and fundamentally alters the citizenry’s relation with its government. Being under the watchful eye of this regime leads to public distrust of the government as well as the decrease of one’s humanity to evade arrest.

Through the surveillance of the public, people would not be as free to do whatever they pleased due to the fact that what they may be engaging in would be immoral or embarrassing. People would increasingly self-control oneself in fear that an innocent thought could get one apprehended. As laws become stricter and more specific to suit the needs of those in power, the democracy is slowly losing its weight, favoring a more totalitarian style of control. As citizens are treated less and less humanely and more like data points in a system, the trust will diminish as well.

Hafetz commented: Over time, the vibrant exchange of ideas essential to democracy will diminish and trust in the government will erode. At the same time, the government will be emboldened to justify further incursions on individual liberty in name of protecting the United States from terrorism or other threats. ” The population will not truly be free by keeping self-expression and thought under wraps while the government writes regulation after regulation trying to control every move citizens make, all under the cover of trying to avoid a terrorist attack. The government cannot protect its citizens from itself.

After granting citizens the right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizures without a warrant, several laws were enacted to counteract the fourth amendment. The government that once granted these rights are revoking them in fear of attacks originating from within. It is often argued that, with increasing surveillance comes the prevention and possible capture of potential terrorist threats. Indeed, the constant surveillance of the public may assist with deterring any illegal, threatening activities, but information is still collected without the knowledge of the American public and other countries as well.

In an article written by James Bamford, he describes programs the public has no knowledge of: Another major revelation, a top-secret NSA map showing that the agency had planted malware — computer viruses — in more than 50,000 locations around the world, including many friendly countries such as Brazil, was reported in a relatively small Dutch newspaper, NRC Handelsblad, and likely never seen by much of the American public… Every time an American sent or received an email, a record was secretly kept by the NSA, just as the agency continues to do with the telephone metadata program.

Though the email program ended, all that private information is still stored at the NSA, with no end in sight. Millions, perhaps billions of people were not notified by the agency that was collecting their information. Any agency that goes out of their way to engage in the racking of millions of private data points, should disclose that to the subjects that were spied on. The search and seizure of emails, phone conversations, text messages and the implantation of viruses on computers, clashes with the fourth amendment.

The foundation of the United States is disintegrating because of invasive procedures carried out by the National Security Agency. Although, surveillance can help preserve safety, it undermines the privacy granted by the constitution. Individual privacy concerns are no longer the same concerns the government has today. It no longer serves the public but rather serves itself and creates legislation based around the fact that the government, as a whole, desires to do whatever it pleases. The first documents of the United States are in conflict with what is being drafted today.

Rules are bent to justify the infringement of individual privacy rights to falsely protect the public from a terrorist attack. The government cannot draft and publish laws and then decide which ones to actually follow. The search and seizure of property, especially without the knowledge of the subject being closely watched is illegal. The justification used countless times to grant them the right to dig into the previously unexplored vast expanses of the human mind is an illegal intrusion.

Without the basic human right of privacy, the individual can no longer maintain autonomy or distinctiveness from another individual. With increasing control over the lives of American citizens, comes the possibility of the United States reaching the likes of a strict, totalitarian state. The United States will continue to pry into the private lives of citizens unless the citizens combat it by participating in their local government.

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