Yesterday I attended a brief one day conference centered around security. The talks were wide ranging, from security and terrorism to security and science fiction to security and digital protection. It is this last subject that interested me most. Although I have been a blogger on and off for two years, I’m an avid Facebook user and I’m considering wandering over to Twitter, I confess that I am not the most tech savvy. So a talk on data protection and mass collection was entirely foreign territory. However, I think it warrants a blog post given the recent American upheaval over the expiration of the Patriot Act. Government surveillance is a big deal and touchy subject, but not something I have considered until my lecture yesterday.
The discussion began with an image of all the cable’s connecting the world to the internet. While I understood that the internet was grounded in cables, to see a picture of it, and to see that someone could tap into one quite easily was a bit shocking. I was also surprised to learn that an email I send from the UK to China can bounce to hundreds of different computer serves across my campus and the country before it reaches it destination. The use of wifi and instant messaging makes it seem like the internet is a direct passage, but really its a convoluted maze. This maze is something that the government apparently takes a large interest in recording. As it stands its possible for the government to access and store the content of your messages, emails, what you watch, everything! Some techies didn’t like this, and they began a cyber war against the government designing massive data encryption systems to protect information. Originally the government tried to ban this, but eventually learned it was a battle they would never win. Now most sites protect their users search history or personal information from data collection, but it isn’t always successful. People can always find a way around the encryption.
My question for this post is, is internet monitoring/mass data collection something that should be allowed or not? I observe two sides to this issue. The first is that, people have the right to privacy. In the past it would be nearly impossible for the government to mass monitor peoples meetings and snail mail. So why should they be able to now just because the internet makes it easier? Why do governments feel it is necessary to watch everyone rather than the select few who are dangerous to national security? In addition, is it fair for them to save information about you and use it against you at a later date? The second side to this issue is what are we hiding that is so secret? If you are doing something the government shouldn’t see, should you be doing it? I’m not referring to sending a naughty Snap Chat or sexting. But the purpose of the Patriot Act was to monitor people and prevent another 9/11 from happening. If the internet data collection is stopping terrorist attacks, can it be so bad?
As with any argument, their is validity to both sides. I think that I would prefer to know that what I do online is private and not being recorded by the big man. However that is a reality that doesn’t exist. This blog post is being monitored, saved and probably archived into my file of internet info. Weird to think about. I don’t like knowing everything I do is going into mass data collection, but I’m no so enraged over it that I will become an activist against it, nor will I learn better methods of encryption to hide my doings. I have nothing to hide. But I do believe it is somewhat a violation of rights.