The of surveillance. People use this as

The question often arises as to what we have come to
today, as a society. Some of us truly believe and suspect that modern day
technology has been an excuse for the government to be able to spy on us. Each
fragment of our lives. No longer is this a mere speculation, this has been
proved with solid evidence. Devices that are seen
as tools used to expand the regions of technology have in turn been collecting
our personal data and tracking our every move. Both the UK and US government
are using mass surveillance as a way to spy on the public whether the individual
is innocent or not. There is a common law within the UK that states ‘innocent
until proven guilty’.  However, this does
not come into the equation in how the government perceive you. In their eyes,
we are all guilty until proven innocent. But why hasn’t anything been taken
into action? This is simply because it has been happening behind closed doors. Surveillance
has always been part of our society- in a sociological sense surveillance is
the intent to collect data in order to manage and control. Ironically, we think
that we are the only ones being spied on. However, people as a society are
involved in surveillance. We are a ‘surveillance society’. Social media apps
such as Instagram and Facebook which are seen as a way to enjoy our freedom is,
in fact, a tool of surveillance. People use this as a way to spy on others.
Something which is even more ironic- is the fact that the government rely heavily
on these companies’ data to collect and process information about us.


    Social media has become a way in which we
communicate and express ourselves. It has completely taken over our lives. Yet
people fail to realize that social media is merely a tool for governments to
keep Tabs on us. With every comment you make, with every tweet you tweet; it is
all being collected and reviewed by the government. However, social media is
not the only way in which intelligence agencies are able spy on you. It is the
internet as a whole. The internet was made to collect data, this is not
something new however. Through internet today, surveillance has never been greater.
Once you connect yourself onto the internet, all the things that you do will be
seen by the intelligence agencies within your country. The American
intelligence community, known as the NSA, are and have been for many years
forcing systems such as Facebook, google, Yahoo and many other Internet companies
to cooperate with them in giving personal information on many citizens within
their country. Following the 9/11 attack a tremendous amount of fear was
instilled within citizens in every country around the world. Many innocent
lives were taken that day. The aftermath of the attack made the US Government to
bring it upon themselves to increase the security immensely within their
country. This also brought with it the use of mass surveillance. The
Government, With the help of the NSA and CIA changed their way of surveilling
the public. They do this under a program called Prism. Prism allows the NSA a kind
of “backdoor” into the data stored on servers that are maintained by
Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, etc. Also, another program known as XKeyScore- which
is a much larger database that is able to collect metadata through the internet
using Prism’s database, is NSA’s search engine similar to Google that is used to
collect metadata on a much broader spectrum than Prism. This program uses three
methods to obtain data; F6, FORNSAT and SSO, these methods allow an easier
access into difficult-to-obtain information. Furthermore, it was revealed that
the NSA were using the optic-fibre cables to intercept people’s data. It was
shown that these optic-fibres were mainly going through the US even if they
were not part of communications going to and from the Unites states. All this
data that is being collected is known as Metadata. Metadata is described as
data generated through communications you have with other people while using computer
devices. Metadata simply provides information of certain contents of people’s
personal texts, emails and phone calls. It provides information such as; who
you texted, when you texted them, who you called and how long you called them

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In addition to this, the US government have also been
sharing the data that they have collected with four neighbouring countries,
that are; The UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. This is an alliance
project- known as the Five Eyes. The aim of the project was to increase the
chances of combatting terrorism. Along with their alliances, America obtain
intel from countries that are geographically closer to terrorist groups; which
include-Syria, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Turkey and Israel. Furthermore,
America have been able to conduct all this through the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act (section 702); which has been allowing US officials to spy outside
of America, through the internet and telephone communications. However, this legislation
has been passed on secretly, which raises some concerns within America, Also, this
legislation is due for renewal at the end of the year. American intelligence
agencies a weary that the law would not be able to be renewed. If this
legislation is not put through- Mass surveillance would have to be shut down as
a whole.

     We have all
been enlightened of such information thanks to the well-known whistle-blower
and former NSA employee Edward Snowden. Snowden was an outstanding computer
whiz that leaked extremely classified information about the NSA, revealing
exactly what and how they have been spying on millions of American civilians-
around 1.2 million citizens are on the watchlist as potential threats to them. The
way in which he leaked this data was by contacting Glenn Greenwald, A
well-respected journalist from The Guardian and the filmmaker Laura Poitras- who was at the time
making a documentary about mass surveillance. By contacting Laura Poitras
first, Snowden sent an encrypted email- that could only be seen between them.
stating the facts that he knew.



In many interviews snowden appeared on after the leaked
documents. He clearly emphasised the fact that this happened in many other
countries not just his own, he actually stated that if surveillance is this bad
within America, it could be worse in other countries. In fact, the UK also play
a big role in mass surveillance. The UK alone has a number of 6 million CCTV
cameras and have an agency that solely collects data from telecommunication
companies, this Agency are known as GCHQ. This agency uses a program way more
intrusive than both NSA’s programs Prism and XKeyscore. They have a program
called Tempora; that not only uses metadata to spy on the public but the entire
data records that can be retained for three days. This agency also allegedly
has a ‘Smurf’ program which is able to turn on your smartphone, listen to your
conversations through the mic and track you without your knowledge. GCHQ
unlawfully collect information to pursue criminal prosecutions and share them
to other countries. This was brought to light in 2014, when many foreign
internet service providers took GCHQ to court, claiming that they have been
using malicious software to hack into their networks and claimed the cyberattack
breeched the Computer Misuse Act 1990. However, this has not been the only case
of GCHQ allegedly committing these types of acts. In 2013 The Guardian brought
forward that alongside the NSA; GCHQ tapped into optic-fibre cables to secretly
spy on internet users phone calls and data. GCHQ used Tempora in order to
achieve this. Unlike the NSA, the UK law against mass surveillance are very
weak. Recently on November 2016, the UK passed the highest form of Mass
surveillance law, The Investigatory Powers Bill. This law will in turn allow the
agency to have a much greater power to access billions of Metadata of phone
calls, emails and other methods of communications every day without a warrant. This
caused the human rights organization liberty to respond by challenging the
investigatory act and make it judicially reviewed; this was accepted by the
High Court.



The widespread phenomenon of data mishandling at the
hands of third party companies, allow an openness to collecting ‘personal
data’. This can be frightening to citizens; however, there are a couple of laws
that are set in place to allow an individual the right over their own personal
information. The two main laws that allow this are the Human Rights and Data Protection
Act. The European Court on Human Rights, under Article 8, states that:

                                 “1. Everyone has the right to respect for
his private and family life, his home and his


On the other hand, the Data Protection Act (1998) and the
Data Protection Directive article 2(a), only applies to the ‘processing of
personal data’. In this case, the directive defines ‘personal data’ as to
whether the data collected is of an identified or identifiable natural person.
Also, the Data Protection act tackles the issue in the same way as the
directive, but, firstly they consider whether the information collected amounts
to ‘data’ (either processed by automatic means or non-automated). These laws
came into action when the European Union investigators questioned the data
controllers Microsoft of what their hidden Agendas were- when they launched the
.NET passport program, In 2002. The two parties discussed the issue and came to
a conclusion that, Microsoft had to make changes to the program and allow more
user control over the data shared.


Even though mass surveillance has its dark
side to it, there is also a benefit of living in total surveillance. One of
which is when a former FBI agent was caught before he tried to release classified
information about the CIA operation in Yemen. This was found using metadata.
However, the truth of the matter is there are not enough cases like these that
support the use of mass surveillance. There will always the controversial opinion
on whether what snowden did was right or wrong. Snowden was a professional in
his job, so were his bosses and co-workers; however, what stood out to the
public and society in general was the fact that he spoke out towards the things
that were being taken place within his country. Snowden risked his own life and
jeopardized his career by exposing the malicious things that the NSA were up
to. His own conscious didn’t allow him to know all this information and not
tell this to the world. His own morals didn’t allow him to carry on his life as
if nothing was going on within the United States.

   So why haven’t
the government done anything about terrorism? Well, it was actually reported
after the 9/11 attacks that the 9/11 commissions had in fact found that America
collected all the information the information they needed to detect this plot.
They had records of phone calls from the United States and outside. The CIA had
all this. They knew who these guys were. The problem was not that they weren’t
collecting information to be able to have the entire ‘haystack’. The problem
was that they did not understand the haystack they had, this is what Snowden
had stated in one of his interviews. This also plays a role with the suspects
of the Boston marathon bombings, for example. Russia had even informed and warned
the NSA about the suspects, by name, prior to the attacks. At the end of the
day, the question boils down to what parties are right in this situation. By
looking at the facts that have been stated and comparing it to the computing
code of conduct, both parties are legally and professionally wrong for what
they did. Both the Intelligence agencies (in the UK and US) and Edward snowden were
wrong in acting the way they have but most importantly-there will always be
number of controversial opinions on whether both parties did were ethically
justifiable in doing so. People will always argue if a situation that has
occurred is ethical or not, this is due to the fact that not everyone has the
same morals as each other. People who work for the government might think that
spying on every single person within their own country is the right thing to
do. However, someone who’s on the receiving end of the issue would think that
it is a total violation of privacy.


As the years go on this world will naturally progress
into a much larger technology world than we have today and will eventually start
to integrate almost anything into a computer, more devices will end up having geo-location
and other forms of computer features that will start carry out many functions
that we will seek refuge in at a later stage. This is, in fact, what gives a
better reason for us to reorganize our surveillance and privacy at this moment
in time. We have to ask ourselves do we as a society want to be free or become
a society that are controlled by computers.


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