Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Real Life News and Commentary: PRISM and Internet Surveillance

As we in Second Life celebrate a decade of being online, in real life news have come some unwelcome developments for those who value computer privacy. First the NSA was found to be spying on American citizens through Verizon. Then a whistleblower exposed a once secret NSA data-collection program: PRISM.

Gizmodo's described PRISM as, "a secret Government  program that gives the NSA unprecedented access to the servers of major tech companies, which may or may not be 'direct,' so that the agency can spy on unwitting US citizens, with terrifying granularity, which is both different from and more aggressive than the Verizon scandal, and has the full (but contested) cooperation of tech giants, and which is, shockingly enough, totally legal." Why would the Internet Service Providers coooperate? Gizmodo commented, "they have no choice. Failure to hand over server data leaves them subject to a government lawsuit, which can be expensive and incredibly harmful in less quantifiable ways."

The responses from the Internet companies have been mostly varying degrees of denial that they cooperated. Apple (one of the last to submit according to the whistleblower) also claimed not only did they not store data related to company location, but that communications over iMessages and Facetime were encrypted so that not even they could read them, "Apple cannot decrypt that data."

The reaction from the public appears to be mostly negative, with some expressions of support. It is worth noting in this day of age of political warfare, some conservatives have expressed support for the President they oppose on other issues, while some liberals have come out to oppose him on this issue. The New York Times responded with an editorial, commenting "The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue." Supposedly when first aired, it read "The administration has now lost all credibility," and then was edited. That the President when a candidate opposed the surveillance programs of his predecessor and once in office not only continued to run them but expanded them, was not seen well by more than a few. Recent polls show him at an all time low.

Among the responses was this animation "United States of Surveillance" by Mark Fiore.

"The government … is so far completely unapologetic. And why wouldn't they be? It's easy enough to follow the letter of the law when you're the one writing it."

Bixyl Shuftan

Source: Wikipedia, The Guardian, Forbes, New York Times, Gizmodo,

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