Government VS. Google: Internet Surveillance and the People That Want Change

It is somewhat worrying just how much the government knows about us. Our every move is monitored and it’s a different but equally unpleasant Big Brother state that George Orwell imagined.  Every email, every text, every tweet and even our online gaming chats are recorded like transactions on a bank statement.

firefox osSome people have expressed the opinion that they have nothing to hide and therefore don’t care if the government stores their personal data. While it may be true that most of us aren’t criminals and shouldn’t worry about being arrested for anything we say online, it’s the principle of it that bothers a lot of people.

For those of you a bit unsure about the recent events that have sparked public outrage, we’ve broken down some of the recent key events below:

  • Whistleblower Edward Snowden first leaked documents about US and UK government agencies the NSA and GCHQ storing our personal data to journalists in Hong Kong earlier this year.
  • One of the first documents Snowden showed was a secret court order detailing millions of phone records of US customers of phone network Verizon. The Guardian was the first to publish the story.
  • The saga has sparked a huge debate around the world with government agencies claiming that bulk-gathering of data is necessary in order to prevent terrorist attacks.
  • Tech firms including Google, Apple and Yahoo were ordered to hand over data of their users for matters ‘relating to national security’.
  • Apple published details of requests it received which revealed that the US government made between 1000 and 2000 requests in the six months to 30 June.
  • An open letter to the US President and Congress was published and signed by eight tech companies calling for reform in government surveillance.
  • Human rights group Amnesty International has announced it will take legal action against the UK government over concerns its communications have been illegally accessed.
  • NSA and GCHQ recorded gamers’ chats and used agents to infiltrate Xbox Live and popular online games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life.
  • More than 500 authors including five Nobel Prize winners demand a ‘digital bill of rights’.

Google LogoIt seems more and more people are following the lead of the eight tech giants (Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL) that signed the open letter, (whether their reasons for publishing it were selfish or not), and public outrage is increasing every day,  but it still isn’t enough.

There were many, many companies whose signatures were absent on the open letter including Verizon which was one of the first companies at the centre of this debate. Companies like Amazon, eBay and Visa are also absent, which means if any significant change is going to happen then there must be backing from ALL large tech companies, not just eight of them.

It might be years until any kind of law is put in place to protect people’s data from being stored against their will. In order for any change to happen though, more companies and more individuals need to voice their opinion. Without solidarity, there will be no reform.

If this ‘spying’ continues then what will the world be like in 10 years’ time? The beauty of the internet is the freedom it offers to voice opinions but now that we know everything we do is being stored by government agencies supposedly trying to protect us against terrorism, we could become too afraid to use the internet freely just in case something we say or do might be deemed controversial. Our freedom is being compromised.

Let us know your views below.