Excessive Internet Surveillance by NSA

About this essay

Have you ever wondered, how much of my online use and communication is monitored? The answer is all of the time by many different groups, whether it be retail services accessing your search results to better advertise products to you, or government agencies tapping in to emails or phone conversations without anyone ever knowing. Your internet activity is being monitored at all times while you are online, but what are they really doing with all of this information? The NSA has very few guidelines on what they cant do, and there are many grey areas on what they actually are doing.

While some may argue that there is not much to worry about NSA surveillance after the 2015 USA Freedom Act was passed, but this is not the case. The 2015 USA Freedom Act ended the bulk collection of of data on large areas such as an entire zip code or state. This is a good first step, but obviously the NSA has loopholes for this, and data is still being collected from perfectly law abiding citizens and violating their rights.

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One program that was left untouched by the 2015 USA Freedom Act is the PRISM program. According to Zack Whittaker at zdnet.com, “PRISM collects stored internet communications based on demands made to internet companies such as Google Inc.under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to turn over any data that match court-approved search terms. The NSA can use these PRISM requests to target communications that were encrypted when they traveled across the internet backbone, to focus on stored data that telecommunication filtering systems discarded earlier, and to get data that is easier to handle, among other things”.

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Essentially this means that the NSA can go into search engines, and target any specific search and every user that has searched it. This is very alarming because they are also not very specific about how they go about this, or what they do with the data that they obtain. Documentation shows that PRISM is the NSA’s number one source of data collection. Another potential privacy breach falls in section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Section 702 allows spying on foreign government officials, gathering information relevant to predicting the price of oil, and gaining leverage in negotiating trade disputes. This creates a problem because as the NSA is searching for potential threats and other information, their “dragnet” catches a lot of other personal information from normal law abiding citizens.

According to Sam Bell on tcf.org, “In the process of spying on foreigners, the NSA cannot help but collect large volumes of Americans’ communications. The intelligence community refers to this collection as “incidental,” but it includes vast amounts of Americans’ conversations, email exchanges, photos, and other sensitive information.” This means the the NSA is constantly picking up every day communication between citizens that they have no rights to have access to. One analysis of data shows that targeted communications are actually one tenth as likely to be picked up when compared to non targeted communications.

Now, once the NSA actually does attain information, what they can do with it also isn’t very fair or regulated. For example, once data is collected, it can be searched and used against you by other law enforcement agencies without any need for a warrant whatsoever. The FBI may search databases containing Americans’ personal information and communications to learn whether Americans are committing any crimes without any pre-existing suspicion. This is a complete violation of our rights, and if a warrant is required to search any other form of property, why is your online property and information any different? This is where suspicions really start to raise. With clearly lacking limitations and regulations on what the NSA is allowed to do, the question arises what are they really doing with this information, and is the data on what they really collect accurate at all?

There is no clear answer to this question and that is why this is such a pressing issue; we have no idea why they want certain information or target people, no idea how much information they really are collecting, and no idea what they are using the information they attain for. For this reason, NSA databases are prone to workers using them for their own personal uses. According to Sam Bell “There are documented cases of agents using databases of private information to spy on their lovers or spouses. This problem is common enough that agencies call it “LOVEINT,” a parody name modeled on other abbreviations such as “SIGINT” (signals intelligence) and “HUMINT” (human intelligence).” This is extremely alarming how easy it is to target specific people and most of the time no one even knows about it. Imagine all of the potential for abuse that arises with the power to be able to spy on essentially any person’s internet activity and communications, without anyone ever knowing.

While there are clear problems with the system and the regulations involving law abiding citizens, it is extremely helpful to have such lose regulations when searching for potential threats and other criminal activity that can be prevented due to NSA spying. The NSA is still very secretive about the information they disclose about what they find because they don’t want to disclose their secrets on how they go about catching terrorists as a community. One case that has went public is the case of Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-born man who pleaded guilty in 2012 to plotting a terror attack on the New York City subway system. It’s hard to say whether the NSA truly is catching terrorists using their methods because they don’t go public with any cases, but there is a good chance they do with the seemingly endless resources at their hands.

Even though the NSA is necessary to some extent for multiple reasons such as counter-terrorism and gaining foreign intelligence, it is clear that the current system is overstepping its bounds and violating the rights of many normal, law abiding citizens. The worst part of it all is that it all goes on unnoticed, so the mass majority of people don’t want to mess with the system. This is the reasoning for them creating these laws and programs the way they have because, while they can have success actually gaining foreign intelligence and prevent some terrorism, they also have access to much more information and communications than the overwhelming majority of people know about. The whole system is a major infringement on the rights of the everyday american citizen, and even citizens around the world, and needs major refinements and much stronger regulations and monitoring. 

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Excessive Internet Surveillance by NSA. (2022, Jun 26). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/excessive-internet-surveillance-by-nsa-essay

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