The date was May 2013, Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor left his job with the NSA in Hawaii and flew to Hong Kong. In June the same year, he released thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists:
All these documents were published in an article by Greenwald called “No place to hide”. Just a few weeks after that New York Times revealed that the NSA was creating a database with millions of images for facial recognition.
This started a wave of reports that kept coming and shocking the public. Everybody knew NSA was spying but nobody knew how much were they actually spying. The most surprising report had to be AT&T’s cooperation with NSA and another report by Washington Post according to which NSA is collecting 5 billion mobile phone records every day.
What is the fundamental issue here?
There is no denying that this is a human right violation. There is a line between security and privacy, and NSA has clearly blurred that out. The age of the internet allows the government to continue clandestine surveillance on a colossal scale.
In a long-awaited lawsuit against NSA, a three-judge panel finally ruled that secretly intercepting communications between Americans through telephone meta-data is completely illegal. And yet, not many people seem affected by it.
But if you live outside the US and think you’re immune from all this, then think again. All major tech companies are based in the US and they have to cooperate with NSA, whether they want to or not. The Guardian already reported a few years back about Microsoft’s full cooperation with the NSA, and the Washington Post revealed how NSA attacks Yahoo and Google’s Datacenters. Also, all US companies that store data on the cloud, are required to give their data over to the government whenever required.
Is the NSA only spying on American citizens?
The US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand all share a no-spying treaty. But according to a top-secret NSA document that was released, NSA spies on 193 countries around the world. Including
In fact, after Sony Pictures was hacked by North Korea “The Interview” movie, new reports revealed that NSA had been spying on North Korea since 2010 and they already knew about the Sony link. Yes, this is the same country which is governed by Kim Jong Un and is considered impenetrable.
The same country that has been claiming to have a hydrogen bomb on its hands.
And it doesn’t just stop there, Guardian also reported the NSA has been spying on 35 world leaders. If it can spy on world leaders, what makes you think the average person is immune?
Why is NSA spying bad?
Surely the NSA spies on world leaders because they are important. But why is the NSA is spying on the normal public?
For some reason, the only answer ever given is terrorism. Yes, 9/11 was a sad event. It broke everybody’s heart all around the world but there have been no terror attacks on that scale in the US since then. Also, if the NSA is so brilliantly adept at spying on terrorists, how did they miss the Boston bombers? Two of the least sophisticated bombers of all times.
At the same time, there have been many mass shootings in the US in the last few years, how did the NSA not pick up on that if they’ve been spying on cell phone conversations?
Maybe the NSA is not really looking for terrorists, maybe they’re just spying for generic information. It’s good if the government is trying to keep people safe, but does it have to be at the cost of everybody’s privacy?
Is the NSA learning something from the backlash?
We all know the answer and it is a big fat NO. There were reports in June 2015 that the NSA has actually increased its Internet snooping activities. The NSA can now legally snoop on the international communications of Americans. It can also target communications based on IP addresses.
How to safeguard your data
The first step would be to use services that are not based in the US. In fact, there are many backup services that provide end-to-end encryption along with ‘zero-knowledge’ policy. Here is a list of top backup services for you to choose from, including:
The NSA is going to be spying on people and that’s not going to change unless the United Nations take a stand against it. Which isn’t likely to happen for at least for half a decade. To keep your data secure right now, choose the right services and encrypt your data.