Who’s Behind the Screen?


By Mabel Tejeda-Gonzalez

A recent Supreme Court decision restricting the ability of police to search people’s cell phones without a warrant is a major victory for those who think the government has too much power to look into people’s private lives.

But it is only part of a much bigger battle over privacy rights – allowing the government and private businesses to search your internet browser history and social media postings – and whether whistleblowers like Edward Snowden are doing a public service when they share government secrets.

“The government says that they need to be collecting information about Americans… and yet not once have any of its programs resulted in any benefit to our national security or to our public safety,” said Kade Crockford, director of the technology of Liberty Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

The federal government keeps track of some people using cameras, laptops, GPS’ internet browsing history, social media, and emails.

“It makes people afraid to engage in political speech and to criticize the government,” said Crockford. For her the National Security Agency’s activities have been changing the fundamentals of American society.

“You can’t have a democratic society in which the government is constantly monitoring everyone because it shows political speech and runs contrary to every democratic value,” said Crockford.

However, the Heritage Foundation, a public policy think tank, thinks the government is doing the right thing in surveilling the internet to prevent hackers from stealing and destroying information.

“Since everything from the military systems to smartphones has become linked to the Internet, the number of bad actors seeing to attack or steal from those targets has increased dramatically,” said a 2014 study by the Heritage Foundation, “Hackers compromise, steal, or destroy hundred of billions of dollars in intellectual property and real money, as well as accessing critical military secrets from the United States, every year.”

But some see the benefit to both sides.

“I don’t support or believe in what they are [the government] doing but I can understand why they’re doing it” said Daisy Guzman, development and communications associate at St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children in Boston.

“I wish they had a different approach and strategy in finding these potential terrorist and criminals and that they didn’t have to involve investigating innocent people,” said Guzman in an interview.

The debate over these issues can even spark a division between mother and daughter while registering for college in Boston.

“In a way he [Snowden] had a right to reveal the information but in a way no, because it made a major problem,” said Amy Sevigny. But her mother disagreed to an extent.

“Snowden is not a traitor, [but] he betrayed his country” said Kimberlee Sevigny. “There’s safety and then there’s just pushing the line.”

But how much personal information are businesses and civilians able to dig up?
Amy Sevigny says, “When someone is applying for a job the company has a right to run a background check, but the NSA has no reasoning to it.”

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