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Your data or your life

Submitted by Shashank Avvaru on February 11, 2014 – 2:12 amNo Comment

A lot ha­­s been said about the clandestine surveillance being conducted by the National Security Agency. Calling their activities hateful would be an understatement and while there are no grounds for forgiveness, it is essential to understand the facts, the background and the reasons behind what is being dubbed by many as the “greatest unpunished crime in the history of the world.”

We are living in a world that has gone from being a simple, self-sufficient global village to a powerhouse of technology and development. In the Information Age, a terrorist doesn’t have to plant a bomb or arrange an assassination to cause terror. He/she can cause anarchy, deploy nuclear weapons and even cause global annihilation using something as simple as a computer.

General Keith Alexander of the NSA stated in a recent conference that “NSA’s surveillance has been instrumental in saving 54 countries from terrorist attacks.”

The NSA, in one way or another, prevents thousands of crimes from happening each day and night. Everything from credit card fraud to mass murder is included in the list of crimes that the agency has prevented from occurring.

It’s also important to separate fact from public opinion.

Fact: every country’s government participates in surveillance.

Every country has its crime detection radar blinking every minute of every day. In fact, Russia’s constitution (SORM and SORM-2, to be specific) allows the government to tap into phones and private records without a warrant as long as there is justification for the tapping.

Surveillance and collection of intelligence are necessary if a nation wants to increase security on both domestic and international levels. It is the backbone of a country’s intelligence framework. It is also both a privilege and a responsibility that a nation’s government is entrusted with.

In the US, however, without a warrant issued by courts such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), surveillance isn’t even allowed. When Edward Snowden, an ex-analyst for the NSA caused a global uproar with what he claimed were revelations about the government’s illegal collection of information, most governments were so busy enveloped in the hoopla, they didn’t stop to wonder how much of it was actually true. What do we really know about the “records” that Edward says he possesses? In spite of the entire world demanding it, nothing – actual collected information, statistics, metadata – has ever been made public. This begs the question: how much of it is factual? Even how much of it can be considered factual is impossible to determine.

NSA’s actions are horrendous but so are threats to governments through things such as religious extremism, terrorism and the ever-present threat of anarchy.

Are the actions of the NSA unethical? Absolutely.

But in a world where everything is unstable and anything can happen, a government indulging in surveillance and saving lives because of this surveillance– while abominable– is ultimately a necessity.

Is privacy really worth the price of safety and security? If it came down to it, what is more valuable: your data or your life?

 

 

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