The United States government has filed charges against the whistleblower of the Millenium, Edward Snowden. Quiet and unassuming, the bespectacled IT whiz was working for the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA) for years before turning on the most secretive organisations in the globe and spilling the beans on the incredible scale of data monitoring and collection being routinely carried out on citizens in their day to day lives in the name of state protection against crime and terror.
The American administration accuses Snowden of stealing information and leaking that which protects the public from danger and violence.
Is Edward Snowden responsible for theft and espionage, or is he the greatest freedom fighter this century has yet witnessed?
Spying in the Public Interest?
It is a fact that data gathered domestically protects us from attacks and organised crime. There have been countless plots by well-organised and coordinated extremist groups to undermine countries and governments, which could not have been foiled without gathering information which could lead to clues. Every country spies on each other and have been doing it internally for decades upon decades.
To make decisions in the public interest by collecting texts, emails, phone conversations and other forms of correspondence can be justified to a certain extent if found truly pertinent to public safety.
However, the NSA’s surveillance of domestic data, the stuff sent flying through the atmosphere between people like you and I, has been seen to take place on an unprecedented scale. Indiscriminate information has been collected for years, without our knowledge or consent.
New evidence is now emerging that British agencies are tapping into and sharing data with the NSA and across the globe, a culture of observation and storage of information is being entrenched.
This culture may help us sleep more soundly in some respects, knowing that the state is watching over us. It is so crucial to know that there is law and order in place. With some people out there intending to damage the fabric of civil society, we need to know where they are and what they are doing. We also need to acknowledge that the technology of criminals is ever-changing and inventive, therefore so must become our techniques to combat them.
Do You Trust Your Government?
The frameworks which protect us should also be held accountable to the public who fund their enterprises and in whose name they purport to act. Secrecy is becoming ever more commonplace within government structures and agencies.
With secrecy comes power and with power comes the abuse of power. All Edward Snowden could really have been said to do is give the public the chance to decide if they want their personal information used and recorded in ways they never dreamed would happen to them.
In the event of a protest, a reform of society or a change in the needs of our citizenship, this choice and knowledge could be the difference between overt and transparent democracy versus totalitarian control. Edward Snowden as sneaky turncoat or brave revolutionary can be interpreted how you like. It all depends how importantly you value your freedom and how much you trust your government to do the right thing in your very own best interests. Hopefully, you won’t have to think for too long about it.
Liam Shaw blogs for VESK.
Liam’s interests include privacy, ethical hacking and dystopian literature.