Mass surveillance: Who is watching and should anything be done?
Following the revelations of Edward Snowden on NSA’s data-collection programs, no doubts remain that mass surveillance exists. Therefore, the debate has shifted to whether it is a right or a wrong thing to do and discussing this will be be a great idea for a mass surveillance essay.
Specifically, you may write a great mass surveillance essay on the following topics:
1. Is government surveillance and intelligence community infringing on the citizens’ rights?
2. Can mass surveillance be justified?
3. Can the surveillance efforts of the USA be considered imperialistic and meant to intrude into the policies of other countries rather than assure home security? Should other nations resist the NSA’s surveillance?
Here are the most informative and interesting argumentative writings and speeches, which will help you decide on your position and write a great mass surveillance essay supporting it.
In a perfectly written article, David Von Drele claims that the idea of privacy, which has always been illusionary, has become totally shattered by the development of technology, which allows to collect incredible amount of information and store it virtually forever.
The article specifies the surveillance strategies and explains the logic behind mass surveillance – it is cheaper to collect all the possible information and retrieve what is needed later than pay analysts to decide what exactly has to be surveyed.
This is how the state actually justifies its methods – it admits the private information is stored, but states it is never reviewed unless the connection to terrorism is spotted. In particular, Robert Litt, general counsel to the Director of National Intelligence persuades that only specifically trained analysts can get access to the information and have to prove the suspicion is valid to get an access. In addition, they get only the network of calls with the names being concealed.
According to statistics, while only 1 in 5 Americans believe surveillance is used for anti-terrorism purposes only, the majority of citizens support current system, stating that prevention of terrorism is more important that protection of personal privacy.
The author further shows that people have already grew accustomed to limits on privacy and even voluntarily exchange it for more tangible benefits like smartphone’s help and discounts basing on the purchase history. Still, sharing the most personal details with the strangers on the Internet, people do not feel like sharing with the state that can tax, deny license or imprison.
So how can people be protected from the surveillance state? The author voices a great idea that this is the very surveillance and appreciation of the fact of being watched that can keep officials from abusing secret information:
“This, ultimately, may prove to be our strongest protection against the rise of the surveillance state. The same tools that strengthen it strengthen those who protest against it. Privacy is not the only illusion in the new age of data; government secrecy is too. Big Brother might be watching, but he is also being watched.”
how to cite
In-text: Von Drele (2013) suggests… or The very surveillance can keep officials from abusing secret information (Von Drele, 2013).
Von Drele, D. (2013). The surveillance society. Times. Retrieved from web address.
In-text: The author tells … (Von Drele).
Von Drele, David. “The Surveillance Society.” Times, 1 Aug. 2013, web address.
This TedTalks speech is made by Glenn Greenwald, a journalist whom Snowden chose to report on his archives. Greenwald, a Pulitzer winner, is the author of multiple articles in The Guardian and The Intercept and a book No Place to Hide, and this speech contains a great account of his arguments why the mass surveillance is a bad thing.
Specifically, Greenwald retorts the argument that only “bad” people have something to hide and suggests that mass surveillance suppresses people’s freedom and limits their behavior.
Another crucial idea Greenwald voices is that surveillance may be used by those who hold the power to suppress those who might oppose it. Therefore, even if you might be not worried about being surveyed, you should still oppose it, because it may harm journalists, dissidents, and activists challenging a whole range of objectionable practices and policies.
how to cite
in-text: Greenwald (2014) reminds that, “The measure of how free the society is ….” (14:30).
Greenwald, G. (2014). Glenn Greenwald: Why privacy matters [Video file]. Retrieved from web address.
in-text: time, when the idea appears in the video, not page should be indicated (Greenwald 10:05)
Greenwald, Glenn. “Why Privacy Matters.” TED. Oct. 2014. Lecture.
The author of the article criticizes the USA for the mass surveillance launched at the Bahamas, the island state that hardly possesses threat to the national security. Although spying the foreigners is within the US Constitution, the spying has been justified as the means to fight terrorism, which is far from the case of the Bahamas where, according to NSA documents, surveillance was launched to locate traffickers and smugglers.
Therefore, the author questions the expenses on launching surveillance in the Bahamas and suggests they might be applied elsewhere if the state was not acting “like imperialists of old”. Second, the author points out that while the program may be within the US Constitution, it presupposes a serious and likely illegal abuse of international phone networks. Last but not least, the author suggests that such programs may damage the U.S.’s international relations. After all, the Americans themselves, the author predicts, would have been outraged if another state recorded and stored all their phone calls, which they do.
how to cite
in-text: Friedersdorf (2014) criticizes… . The author criticizes … (Friedersdorf, 2014).
Friedersdorf, C. (2014). Information imperialism: Why is the U.S. spying in the Bahamas? The Atlantic. Retrieved from web address.
in-text: The author criticizes … (Friedersdorf).
Friedersdorf, Conor. “Information Imperialism: Why Is the U.S. Spying in the Bahamas?” The Atlantic, 21 May 2014, web address.
The article is useful for it indicates what the US Constitution (in particular, the FISA Amendments Act, which is the legal basis for the US surveillance program) authorizes – something not all people are aware of.
Namely, the law allows the government to intercept international emails and phone calls of non citizens even when they communicate with Americans without a warrant. This is performed using “upstream” technique, where all the Internet data is processed and the copies of any messages containing a selector (e.g. an e-mail belonging to a foreign target) are copied. Another method is the Prism system, under which Internet communication companies grant access to the accounts of the targeted foreign users to the government.
Recently, the convicts have started receiving notices on the methods of surveillance used to collect evidence. This, the privacy groups believe, will make them try to challenge the existing laws, which obviously infringe on the citizens’ privacy.
how to cite
in-text: The privacy groups claim … (Savage, 2016).
Savage, C. (2016). Warrantless surveillance in terror case raises constitutional challenge. The New York Times. Retrieved from web address.
in-text: The privacy groups claim … (Savage).
Savage, Charlie. “Warrantless Surveillance in Terror Case Raises Constitutional Challenge.” The New York Times, 26 Apr. 2016, web address.
Mikko Hypponen, a cybersecurity expert from Finland, provides a severe criticism of NSA’s programs. He reviews the current state of surveillance and the capacity of NSA, concluding that describing the surveillance state in 1994, “Orwell was an optimist” (1:45). Although surveying “foreigners” might not sound wrong, 96% of the planet are not American citizens and thus “foreigners” and they are surveyed in communication with US citizens too. Hypponen also names several other activities the US government is engaged in, such as ‘backdooring’ encryption codes and hacking the American companies to show it has obviously come too far and should be brought back to control.
The solution he suggests is to find the alternative to using American companies for the information and communication needs.
how to cite
in-text: Hypponen (2013) shows … . The expert criticizes … (Hypponen, 2013).
Hypponen, M. (2013). Mikko Hypponen: How the NSA betrayed the world’s trust – Time to act [Video file]. Retrieved from web address.
in-text: The expert criticizes … (Hypponen 5:05).
Hypponen, Mikko. “How the NSA Betrayed the World’s Trust – Time to Act.” TED. Oct. 2013. Lecture.
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