I used to work for a telecommunication company. The government had access to call records, although the process for obtaining any information required manual requests and processing. That is why I am not surprised by recent news related to PRISM, an NSA-led initiative to gather intelligence related information from internet providers and communication services providers.
The revelation by a whistleblower has shocked US citizens and those outside of the US to the core of their privacy beliefs. Many ask: “How can our governments do something like this and intrude into our privacy?”. However, experts have expected this type of activity for years.
There is a saying that the power drives those holding it to want more power. Same is true with the governments and their information hunger, which despite being smoke screened in the name of anti-terrorism activities, presents great danger to unsuspecting citizens. Just because they can, does not mean they should.
And if there is any doubt that the snooping laws will allow even greater intrusion into our lives, look no further than the UK. In this democratic country, CCTV cameras have been used to snoop on citizens who did not commit offenses listed in the bill that allowed CCTV use in the first place.
There is no doubt that the information that is collected about individuals, albeit perhaps legally today, will be used against the same individuals tomorrow. People tend to forget the promises that a snooping program only looks at potential terrorists and criminals.
Due to its openness and interconnectivity, the Internet makes it easy to hide messages. In other words, those who want to be secretive can do so to the point where intelligence services are powerless. Protocols such as PGP, OTR, S/MIME have all been designed, when properly used, to prevent a 3rd party to listen to the conversation. No doubt educated criminals have been successfully using these for some time.
What this means to me and you, ordinary citizens, is that our taxes have been used for snooping systems that barely add value and will have been out-dated the moment they are switched on. That said, if we allow our governments to build or continue use “all you can eat” access to our data, we only deserve we lose our privacy for good.