Lessons Learned From the Snowden Scandal

8 July 2013, 13:10

On June 30, news surfaced that the NSA surveillance also covers the EU. The US was listening in on EU offices and obtained access to internal computer networks of employees at its various institutions. Ever since, the already vulnerable defence policy of Obama has no longer been able to withstand criticism, and now talks of the balance between the struggle with terrorism and respect for privacy sound ridiculous. Ally states have been disgraced; their citizens have been shown disrespect. Apparently, Barack Obama did not mean this sort of “privacy”. Scandalous anti-terrorist projects began when George W. Bush was president. Obama did not stop the lies and immorality, and his tour to South Africa is unlikely to save his reputation.

Now comes more. The case of Snowden, similarly to the earlier WikiLeaks case, reveals that the US is unable to take care of its secrets (even if they have a trace of Russia as many believe). Edward Snowden was far from the heart of the system, and his employers should have known of his liberal views. These leaks prove how vulnerable the NSA’s electronic security is: while the US monitors the entire world, its own surveillance fails to stop challenges of interference and disclosure at its very heart.

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The case of Snowden, similarly to the earlier WikiLeaks, reveals that the US is unable to take care of  its secrets.

This case also reveals the US government’s obsessions. Unlike totalitarian regimes, it does not seek to control individual consciousness. Instead, it claims to monitor how ideas emerge, including at the individual scale, by digging into Google and Facebook, emails and text messages, to see how they evolve. Apart from hypothetical knowledge of preparations for terrorist attacks, the government wants to see how individuals think in real time. 

The Snowden case also shows how the system of American administration and defence companies can join their efforts with operators like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo, augmenting and partially replacing the traditional military industrial complex. Plugged into to the endless universe of digital technologies and a myriad of social networks, the government is engaged in classical spying, but at the same time links into resources that have emerged as a function of international civil society because these resources operate on a global scale and their scope is limitless.

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Finally, let’s return to privacy. Citizens are being watched through mobile phones, pay cards, biometric technologies and other tools to find one’s location. This opens new doors to control. Since privacy is actually changing itself, these changes facilitate overwhelming spying. Our life is now more public than ever before. It is constantly exhibited in social networks to which anyone can gain access. It also shows in scientific progress, especially in the genetics that allow finding family connections. Eventually, all of these databases will not only allow people to forecast a genetic disease, but to find out whether one will decide to buy a new car in six months.

Apart from the scandal, the Snowden case obviously provokes us to think about the world in which we live.

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