RESEARCH protect national security in the digital age.

RESEARCH QUESTION- Is performing illegal surveillance in order to protect one’s country the moral thing to do?What is illegal surveillance? Also known as mass surveillance, according to Wikipedia it “is the intricate surveillance of an entire or a substantial fraction of a population in order to monitor that group of citizens.” (Wikimedia) So how is conducting mass surveillance wrong? Well, according to the UN “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation.  Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” (United Nations) And as technological progress advances the use or in other cases of surveillance is more and more widespread, as a result, attention has been drawn towards this topic. This is rather controversial as mass surveillance has often been said to be a necessity to protect national security in the digital age. On the other hand, mass surveillance has been criticized to undermine privacy rights and limiting political freedom. Another criticism is the fact that mass surveillance can lead to a total surveillance state and cause a one-party dominance which could end up in a totalitarian state.GLOBAL PERSPECTIVEAccording to a former NSA agent, Edward Snowden “There is an infrastructure in the US and worldwide that the NSA has built in cooperation with other governments worldwide that intercepts every digital communication, every radio communication, every analog communication that it has sensors in place to detect, with these capabilities basically the vast majority of human and computer to computer communications are automatically ingested without targeting and that allows individuals to retroactively search your communications based on self certifications, for example, if someone wanted to see your email, your wife’s phone calls or anything like that, all that person has to do is to use a selector, any kind of thing in the communication chain that will uniquely or almost uniquely identify you as an individual, for example email addresses, ip addresses, phone numbers, credit cards, even passwords that no one else uses…” (Poitras)These kinds of infrastructures allow organizations to conduct mass surveillance on a global scale. One of such organizations are known as the FVEY or the Five eyes, an intelligence alliance consisting of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. These countries all have a similar common law, as they were all once British colonies. During the Cold War, a surveillance program-  ECHELON, was developed in order to monitor communications of the once Soviet Union. “Nowadays it is used to monitor billions of private communication networks worldwide.” (Wikimedia)In 2013 after a former NSA agent, Edward Snowden leaked government files on surveillance, the practice of mass surveillance was called into question by multiple news networks.Over the past few years, there have been multiple anti-government surveillance groups taking action against the collection of metadata. For example “The Day We Fight Back” was a one day protest against the NSA, GCHQ, and the FVEY. The “digital protest” took place on February 11, 2014, it had more than 6,000 participating websites, which primarily took the form of online ad banners that read, “Dear Internet, we’re sick of complaining about the NSA. We want new laws that curtail online surveillance. Today we fight back.” (EFF) Organizers hoped lawmakers would be made aware “that there’s going to be ongoing public pressure until these reforms are instituted.” (EFF) The protest was announced on January 10, 2014, by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It created awareness about the issue and by mid-day supporters had sent “104,000 emails and made nearly 50,000 calls to Congress.” (EFF) And on Twitter, “hashtag “StopTheNSA” was a trending topic.” (Wikimedia)Another one of such groups is privacy International, it is a UK-based registered charity that defends and promotes the right to privacy across the world. Founded in the late 1990s, the organization’s activity and projects have focused on privacy more specifically the collection of data. One of their projects focused on the UPR or Universal Periodic Review, it focused on the advocation of the right to privacy which is often unaddressed. It’s result was “The United Nations working on a resolution for the General Assembly calling upon states to respect—and protect—a global right to privacy.” (Raine, Anderson)From the current statistics and data, I believe that different countries will have a different approach to this problem and some will increase the amount of surveillance and others will be more free and give more privacy. As according to 2511 respondents to a survey created by Lee Rainie and Janna Anderson, “some 55% of these respondents said “no” they do not believe that an accepted privacy-rights regime and infrastructure would be created in the coming decade, while 45% said “yes” that such an infrastructure would be created by 2025.” (Raine, Anderson)An executive at a high level domain name operator said that, “Big data equals big business. Those special interests will continue to block any effective public policy work to ensure security, liberty, and privacy online.” (Raine, Anderson) while, a promoter of global internet who works on technical and policy coordination wrote, “”By 2025, there will be an international consensus among Internet organizations on how best to balance personal privacy and security with popular content and services. The patchwork approach of national privacy protections will be harmonized globally in 2025, and the primacy of security concerns will be more balanced by such an international consensus. In 2025, the public will see the need to reduce the primary focus on security and create a better, workable balance in favor of protection privacy.” (Raine, Anderson) From these bits of information, I believe that overtime there will be more surveillance than before, and it will not go unnoticed, and people will start more petitioning and more protesting and finally there will be a global right to privacy that is respected and protected.”The sources I have used to research this topic ranged from highly reliable to rather questionable. This was due to fact of how little media coverage this issue had and most of the quotes I have found were from compiled reports by other people. For some parts of my research I defaulted to using Wikipedia as it had a wide range of information, and despite its infamy is actually more reliable than most expect as long as the article is crossed referenced. I also used quite a lot of internet blogs as I wanted to see what people who were the most affected by this issue thought, even though it wasn’t the most reliable source, I believed that it was important to look into what the public thought. For my facts and statistics I utilized more trustworthy websites like the UN and government recognized NGOs. When I started my research I was quite surprised at the fact of how practically every country in the world conducts some form of metadata collection, as living in Hong Kong I didn’t feel like my privacy and freedom was threatened. I think that metadata can be crucial to preventing terrorist attacks as we are in the information age, and communication is key to success. I also think that the UN cannot do anything about the collection of metadata by different governments, as even individual governments have problems with controlling its own agencies. This is probably due to the fact that the agencies work as separate bodies from the central government. I think that the morality of global surveillance is a blurred line and there is no black and white solution to this matter.NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE (US)For my national perspective, I decided to focus on the US as the Snowden incident had an impact on a global scale, being reported in countries other than the US too.According to a former Central Intelligence Agency employee, and former contractor for the NSA, Edward Snowden, “Stellar wind was a program used by the NSA used to sort metadata, which allowed them to effectively “spy on everyone in this country”, AT&T provided 300 million records every day to the Stellar wind program.” And,”NSA officials were raided to keep them quiet about the program.” (Poitras)Also during the FBI’s COINTELPRO operations, illegal surveillance was conducted in order to target political enemies (e.g., anti-Vietnam War organizers; activists of the Civil Rights Movement or Black Power movement such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Black Panther Party; feminist organizations; independence movements (such as Puerto Rican independence groups like the Young Lords); and a variety of organizations that were part of the broader New Left.) “This program was kept secret until the year 1971 when the Citizen’s Commision burgled an FBI field office.” (Wikimedia) Taking several dossiers, they passed the information to news agencies to expose the FBI. Many news organizations initially refused to publish the information. “Within the year, Director J. Edgar Hoover declared that the centralized COINTELPRO was over and that all future counterintelligence operations would be handled on a case-by-case basis.” (Wikimedia)Another past incident took place in 2006, a technician, Mark Klein revealed that the NSA was tapping into AT&T’s network in San Francisco. The customers filed a lawsuit, but years later the litigation is still in the preliminary phase.”In Chicago, every person who has been arrested in the past 4 years will ranked from 1-500 on how likely they are going to commit crime again.” (Ferguson) And, “in Baltimore, drones were flew over the city capable of filming everything overhead. The company conducting the surveillance – Persistent surveillance systems gave its data to the Baltimore Police Department” (Ferguson) “The LAPD in partnership with Palantir a technological firm, are mapping criminal associates and gangs using social networking technologies” (Ferguson) In the US, it’s not just the governments that are monitoring the people but even the small firms that are doing so. “Afterall, there are over 17000 law enforcement agencies in the US.” (Wikimedia)In the US there is no shortage of anti metadata collection NGOs. is an organization that rallied against mass surveillance at Washington DC on October 26th, 2017. They have handled more than half a million petitions against the collection of metadata in the US, and wrote a letter to congress.Electronic Frontier Foundation is a foundation that speaks against government surveillance by creating awareness through online blogging. They also helped organize “The Day We Fight Back” a protest against mass surveillance, statistics on that was mentioned before.I think that the new technology developed by technological firms will be utilized by the larger government agencies to monitor the US population, as even after tens of thousands letters and pleas to congress nothing has changed. I also believe that crime rates will severely drop as technology allow for more efficient monitoring and tracking of citizens.I think that I used a lot of information from wikipedia when researching my national as there wasn’t much statistics or data on government websites as they were TOP SECRET. In order to obtain this information I also used a lot of news websites and blogs to find information. In the US organizations such as the NSA and FBI use programs to spy on its citizens and collect metadata, after the 2013 Edward Snowden incident, it has been revealed that operations such as the COINTELPRO program executed by the FBI has been used to undermine the ability for freethought of non violent racial equality activists such as Martin Luther King Jr and Albert Einstein. This new light has made me rethink the idea of mass surveillance as this information is used to restrict and inhibit a society’s ability to improve and also prevents any action against the current political party. I believe that mass surveillance to some extent is necessary to prevent terrorism etc… but taking away a citizen’s privacy in order to prevent them to have free speech and thought is simply a breach of several human rights.I believe that in the US the degree of government surveillance would increase as Edward Snowden states that the GCHQ has an even more invasive version of collecting metadata, and the NSA building new surveillance centers could be because they want to collect more data and information on its citizens. Maybe in the future, the NSA will work as one with the rest of the federal government because as of right now all the “secret agencies” are essentially separate bodies in the US government. I think that in the US the government agencies are loyal to their country rather than to its people, this may not be the moral thing to do, but it certainly is the patriotic course of action.LOCAL PERSPECTIVEIn China, the Chinese government is quite open about the usage of  mass surveillance to monitor their population. In fact, the government of China has installed over “20 million surveillance cameras” (Wikimedia)across the country. Chinese officials say that with the aid of these surveillance cameras over 100,000 cases have been solved. (Wikimedia) “A demonstration of the use of these cameras was shown by BBC reporter John Green, it took them 7 minutes to find him with the security cameras and catch him.”(BBC)”And by 2020 Chinese citizens have to participate in a “Social Credit System” where the government will rate their “Social Integrity” through 4 different categories; “honesty in government affairs” (????), “commercial integrity” (????), “societal integrity” (????), and “judicial credibility” (????).” (Wikimedia)In January 2014, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television announced that the real names of users would be a requirement for uploading videos onto Chinese websites. This is to “prevent vulgar content, base art forms, exaggerated violence and sexual content in Internet video having a negative effect on society.” (Wikimedia)In China, there are no NGOs against mass surveillance as there are no independent courts in China. And there would be no point as the privacy laws are few. The BBC reported that there is over 170 million surveillance currently in China and in the next 3 years they are trying to build 400 million more. The Human Rights Watch reported that the Chinese government are collecting DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, blood types, and in some cases without informing the population. (WP Company) The source reliability of my research on China was rather questionable, as I couldn’t find any facts or statistics written by locals. But I did find a lot of information written by trusted news outlets and to fill in the gaps, and some bias I used wikipedia as it provided a more informative take on the matter.I believe that in the near future China would turn into a total surveillance state, this would result in a monopoly of government parties, and would give the Chinese population very little freedom. I think that the amount of surveillance conducted by the Chinese is quite excessive and it has made me rethink the value of freedom. I believe that to a certain extent mass surveillance is quite necessary in order to maintain peace and order in the society (which China is doing quite well at), I just think that having iris scans and DNA samples of the general population is rather unnecessary. The real question isn’t the morality of collecting the data of its citizens, but rather whether or not such private information has to be shared and collected.PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE/CONCLUSIONI think that I do personally relate to this issue as I am an internet user and often use the web. I believe that the right to privacy is important but can be sacrificed to keep one’s country safe, but rather the right to free will and speech is valued to me. I think that people who have access to this information shouldn’t inhibit one’s ability to free speech and thought as long as it isn’t violent. But I can also understand why governments would prevent activists from breaking down the society and destroying the system.Personally, I wouldn’t try to change the current situation as mass surveillance has prevented terrorism and also helps keeps the law in check (piracy, etc…) But I do think that the government should be more open about what they are doing behind the scenes as lying to one’s country and being exposed would result in an even worse condition that coming out with the truth. I wouldn’t become an anti-government surveillance activist, but if there was a petition on the government telling the people what they are doing I would sign that petition.In conclusion, I think the answer to the question depends, it’s not a good answer but really there is no real answer to any given question. And how moral something is, depends on the person, one person may argue that white lies are acceptable while another person could say that a lie is still a lie. So personally I believe that trying to protect one’s country through illegal means is acceptable if they are not trying to hurt another person in any way. The idea of using illegal means to help society is almost like being a vigilante, some may view them as heroes others, not so much. But one thing I can have a very firm view on now, is the fact that governments should have more transparency and be able to tell their citizens what they are doing, as ultimately governments were made to serve the population and if the population doesn’t even know what their “laborers” are doing, there is no point in hiring them in the first place.


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