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Sunday, November 24, 2013

I Spy Something....

Pick up your phone and make a phone call…who’s listening?  Text a friend…who’s reading your text? Post a picture on Instagram…who can view your pictures (beyond those of which you allow to “follow” you)?  Post something on FaceBook…who can read your post?  Is “Big Brother” watching?  Should he be watching?
It is an old well-worn phrase when it comes to the state and surveillance that if you have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide then there is nothing to worry about. Shortly after the PRISM scandal broke government officials stated, “if you are a law abiding citizen of this country going about your business and your personal life you have nothing to fear, nothing to fear about the government or intelligence agencies listening to the contents of your phone calls or anything like that.” In other words the intelligence agencies were doing good work “to stop your identity being stolen, and to stop a terrorist blowing you up tomorrow. But if you are a would-be terrorist, or the center of a criminal network, or a foreign intelligence agency trying to spy, you should be worried because that is what we work on”.
William Hague was responding to suggestions that GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters – the UKs equivalent of the NSA) might be obtaining information on British citizens through a US program called PRISM. PRISM is a NSA Program which works with the giants of Silicon Valley to extract everything from email to VoIP, photos to video conferencing. This is done from “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” i.e. pretty much anyone who is anyone in the US internet business. Chillingly the Edward Snowdon who leaked the information about PRISM says “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type”.
Only a day before there was another leak about US surveillance activities, this one about cell phones. The leak was a copy of a court order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ordering the handing over of “all call detail records or "telephony metadata" created by Verizon… including but not limited to session identifying information (e.g., originating and terminating telephone number, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, International Mobile station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, etc.), trunk identifier, telephone calling card numbers, and time and duration of call”. Such information might seem harmless but can reveal surprising amounts, and from a privacy perspective it is completely indiscriminate as it covers everyone on the network. This is a far cry from obtaining a court order to get information about a few phones that are known to be used by terrorists.
Major opponents to this “collection of innocent data” ask the question, “Who is moderating the people moderating all of us?  What is to prevent these people in these government agencies from using the information they obtain against the citizens of their country?”
Those that support the programs argue that some surveillance is necessary. It is a key part in preventing terrorist attacks from occurring so the question has always been about a balance between security and privacy. Before the leaking of the details of surveillance by the NSA and GCHQ most people in democracies either thought the balance was about right or more should be done to ensure security. In the United States today 47% say that the government has gone too far in restricting civil liberties, up 15% since October 2010, against only 35% believing that the security policies have not gone far enough to protect the country.


Blog Topic Question: Is this whole “spying” issue really an “issue” or are people just making something out of nothing?  Is it absolutely necessary, in today’s world, for us to be expected to give up personal liberties in order to be safe?  Thirdly, can we really trust governments to not abuse the information of which they are collecting?

58 comments:

  1. An oxymoron is certainly amidst NSA’s anti-terrorism scheme: a secure surveillance. Eavesdropping does NOT bring security and the scheme is no different from a conspiracy. It might be well claimed that an upright thus fearless person has nothing to fear or doubt about the intelligence agencies as well; however, all this claim is doing is merely tampering the concept. The whole issue is being fallaciously focused on individual’s justice, rather than considering its own position of right---meaning both “righteousness” and people’s fundamental “rights”. The Fourth Amendment of Constitution clearly states every citizen “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” unless “supported by oath or affirmation”. Every human being should have privacy, but manipulations under PRISM are just like exposing our internal organs to the outside world and are truly humiliating. Regardless of the final whereabouts of the information obtained, it’s ultimately the people themselves receiving fear, suspicion, and insecurity. Besides that, one may argue that the entire fabric of this system is established and regulated by GCHQ, along with these highly educated and liable administrators who have professional responsibility and are trained to perform their specific jobs; also, they would not leak people’s information as their essential ethics. Nevertheless, not every governed has consented to it; instead, they seem to be dallied around by a seemingly perfect excuse: that’s our way of protection. Protection from terrorists?
    According to my plain experience, if I’m “a would-be terrorist, or the center of a criminal network, or a foreign intelligence agency trying to spy”, I would certainly avoid any chance of discussing the vicious plan on these devices which that I know for sure, are monitored. Or if there’s any vicious discussion being presented, it would be made on purpose. Still, would these protections from terrorism succeed to an extent? Yes, but the duration may not last for long since the rat would most likely to stay away from the cheese after first several rounds.
    Electronic warfare is much crueler and more profound than I would perceive without a doubt, and NSA’s scheme would work its way effectively on some real intense issues, yet the main controversy still falls on the people. Its indiscriminate measures silently humiliate everyone in its network---although one individual conspicuous and everyone generally shares the equality, the seed of fear for being spotted of any wrongdoing would plant in people’s mentality. And this would exactly make PRISM closer to the essence of a PRISON.
    Safety deserves sacrifices, but not sacrifices of personal liberties. The enormous expenses on this program can be used in other aspects that are more practical than strategic investigation, such as installing more high-tech detectors for bombs, smoke or fire, more protective glasses within the houses or cars, enforcement of military strength or constabulary equipments, etc. There are various ways to defend, rather than offend under the name of defense.
    The administrators are ultimately a group of common people, who are utilizing the position of authority. The judgment of “trust” is originally trustworthy because everything simply hangs in the balance. There are too many uncertainties and the best way to deal with this variability is to eliminate it from its deep roots.

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    1. You make a very good point Carrie. However, I just have to bring up one thing. Whenever there are terrorist attacks, people will always wonder "why didn't the government try to stop this?" In my opinion, this is one of the few ways to actually combat potential terrorists without actually resorting to physical violence. Also, about your point that terrorists would simply not using such methods of communication, here is something that I realized. Most terrorists don't have the time or skills to think of advanced codes or other discreet forms of messaging. If we can force these "shoestring" terrorists out of using phone calls or emails, there is the potential that we can choke the scheme before it can manifest. In the end you have to ask yourself what is worse - people listening to your conversation, or losing a loved one because no one knew something was going to happen.

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    2. I agree with you, Carrie. They promise that they won't exploit their ability because it's wrong to do so, but promises are broken all the time. It's all very nice and kumbayah to trust that the government is only looking out for the people and I won't deny that there are officials who truly care for us; alas, they are the minority. It's really depressing to admit this but time and time again, it's been proven how easy it is for a man to be corrupted when faced with power.

      And Brandon just underestimated human ingenuity again. Monitoring methods of communication won't necessarily incriminate would-be terrorists. Just have a look at past members of the mafia. Although the police knew the lingo, they couldn't sentence members because their recorded conversations technically only involved golf balls and dogs.

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    3. I don't mean to have a Kumbaya moment, but this is so perfectly written that i think i heard the angels sing :') lol but anyways....

      My only issue is that you brought up the point that "Safety deserves sacrifices, but not sacrifices of personal liberties." What personal liberties are we actually giving up? Even under surveillance, we still have the right to free speech, press, and assembly as well as many other liberties.

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  2. Recently, the U.S. government seems to be stepping on the Constitution as we speak by monitoring our phone calls, emails, and other electronic connections with each other in order to "protect" us from would-be terrorists. Critics say that this is directly prohibited by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S Constitution (as Carrie stated in her post) and that it is a jab at our personal liberties. However, we really have to think about if this is actually necessary to our common defense, or just, as some people call it, big brother at its finest. In my opinion, it is an unfortunate fact that this might actually be something done to our benefit. While there isn't exactly a terrorist plot made every day, we can all agree that there are people who wish to bring death and destruction to the innocent people of this country. All it takes is for a few phone calls or emails. What if the government hears someone call an al-Qaeda operative about an attempt to destroy Time Square? What about the New York Stock Exchange? The USS Constitution? The Washington Monument? What if... is primarily what the PRISM program is trying to keep under control. Some people wonder if the government could abuse this power. However, what would they do with a conversation about two people making plans for a dinner party? Most likely, they'll just forget about it. If they do abuse to an extent where it becomes very dangerous, even treasonous, the Declaration of Independence specifically states "...That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive [of our liberties], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." Even though the Fourth Amendment does talk about the private rights of the people, the Framers of the Constitution probably never imagined such technology would ever exist. Also, the Constitution wouldn't even exist if the Articles of Confederation were disobeyed the way they were. I do believe that, in the long run, this could potentially make us glad it's going on in the long run, because remember - we never know.

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    1. Brandon, regard to your point about PRISM's seemingly delicate plan at coping with the terrorists---terrorists are not terrorists if they can be simply defeated this way...Terrorists are known to be full of terror because of the fact that they're insidious and scheming, which means if they know this program is monitoring their conversations or any movements on these electronic devices, they can choose to 1) avoid the usage of these devices 2)use conversational codes 3) use hostages to help communicate etc. (tactics from drama and all kinds of stuff...) Therefore the "protection" against terrorists is obviously not omnipotent and it would be less and less effective as time goes by. Besides, your excerpt from DOI exactly supports the opposite view since a "destruction of our liberties" is what PRISM is doing at this very moment, and all the people who are standing against it are forming a rebellious force to abolish it.

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    2. I agree with your point that we need some type of "common defense." We can not just say this disregards the fourth amendment of the US Constitution because what the government is doing is for our benefit. We can never be 100% sure of what will happen but we still need someone of higher power that we can rely on. Your point about the Constitution not existing if it wasn't for the AOC can definitely be related to this situation. Sometimes we must loop around the rules for our benefit.

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    3. By the same logic you apply, what if this power comes into the hands of a guy who doesn't like the beliefs you believe in? It would be so easy for him to label your group as an enemy of the state and make your life a living hell. You think that your online posts and phone conversations are innocent, that they'll "most likely forget about it"? You, my friend, have just seriously underestimated human ingenuity and capacity to twist ideas. Info one can get from dinner party (that I can think of right now, I'm pretty sure the govt. can think of far more): known locations where you hang out, where you buy things, your contacts, friends of your friends. Now, which of your contacts have 'suspicious' beliefs or protest groups? Did any ever call outside the US? If so, what did they talk about? Any complaints they recently vocalized against the government? How close are you with any 'potentially problematic' contacts? And even if they check your dinner party and find it innocent, they will most likely keep it for any future references. They dig deep enough, they can incriminate you as a terrorist sympathizer or blackmail you into working for them. Have you even seen their list of 'suspicious behavior'?

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    4. yes, they might be monitoring our phone calls emails, ect., if if you haven't known there are tons of people who hate America, whether they live here or somewhere else. we have to realize that terrorist are real and can strike at any moment, and if when they do monitor the calls, emails, we don't know how many countless lives they saved.

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  3. To protect the well being of citizens someone of higher power must be in charge ,which are government officials. Government officials are elected by the people therefore we choose them because we believe they will what is best for us. We must trust someone; there will never be 100% assurance for anything. It is better to have some sort of protection rather than anything even though some people may view it as extreme. If you know you are innocent then why are people reacting in such a way? The extreme surveillance is being done for the protection of the people, not to misuse the personal information. The issue is that personal information is needed in order to make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to. The government is regulating what we do for our safety.
    Furthermore, if the “collection of innocent data” is truly “innocent” why are we worried? The people seem to be over exaggerating the issue once again. The monitoring is being done for US.

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    1. Iqra, I have to admit that this is highly-Kumbaya...! Does everything rest upon mere "trust" or is everything going to work fine and harmonious simply because people might "believe" in it? These ideologies appear to be extremely vague and Utopian. Also, something extreme is already into the form of harm right next to the "protection" at the semblance. It's not about WE being innocent, but the program itself being NOT innocent. Once again, how can you confirm with your full confidence that NO ONE on the other side of your screen is watching you typing from the perspective of an omniscient god? Should all men be created equal, making the program unconstitutional? The spies may not misuse, specifically, your personal information, but their unique capabilities allow them to get their hands on their desired one---whether it be national, or personal. NSA's scheme is a form of mental torment for the people. The fear for exposure of personal secrecy, the fear for possible further intention...

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    2. Carrie, my point was that we have to have a higher power that we can rely on and that power is the government. the government has there right to keep us safe. some type of safety is definitely better then none.

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    3. I like how you brought up that we can never be 100% sure about the ideas and schemes of our government. However, when I read the last sentence of your first paragraph, I found something odd - the fact that you put "the government is regulating what we do for our safety." The U.S. government isn't really REGULATING what we do, as much as just simply MONITORING it. The word "regulate" to me seems more synonymous with "control," while I feel that the purpose of government is really to "protect."

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    4. Sorry for the confusion Brandon. That is exactly what I meant. The job of the government is to protect.

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    5. But the government won't care if YOU think you're innocent. Legitimate criminals profess their innocence all the time. What matters is their belief of your innocence or guilt. You may think that your online conversations aren't terrorist acts, but if someone high up is convinced that what you say makes you a sympathizer of terrorism, then they can book you an indefinite vacation to special prisons like Guantanamo Bay. It's the government that has exaggerated our need for 'anti-terrorist' measures.

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    6. not to be kumbaya, but really your right. we elect them cause we believe that they are best fit, that they will pick the best people for the lower positions that do the spying. and if people aren't doing anything wrong, why care, unless they are.

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    7. You say we elected them, thus we should trust them to do the right thing but I'm not so sure, power does corrupt and once a man is in a place of power he may forget all promises previously made to get into office and just begin to carry out his own agenda.,,

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  4. The controversy becomes more terrifying when one realizes that the US government recently passed an act that allowed for 'indefinite military detention without trial or jury for US citizens.' The PATRIOT Act permits indefinite detention of any immigrants. Basically, they can imprison anyone they deem to be a terrorist sympathizer, without the need for a jury to pass judgement on the accused. I myself am an immigrant from a place where the US has always been praised as a democratic paradise where liberty abounds. These acts definitely do not sound like liberty to me. They actually make me wonder whether my family was better off staying in my country; as corrupt as our government was, at least I never had to worry about indefinite detention due to terrorist suspicions.

    Yet another problem I see with this surveillance issue is what the NSA and FBI believe are 'suspicious behavior.' The ridiculous list includes possessing an amount of food worth more than 7 days, using cash instead of credit cards at hotels, and everything in this wonderful flyer handed out to internet cafes: http://info.publicintelligence.net/FBI-SuspiciousActivity/Internet_Cafe.pdf
    It's quite disturbing that these harmless and very normal actions are the grounds in which one becomes a suspect of terrorism.

    "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely." And this is, by far, the biggest problem when it comes to this whole subject. To trust that the government will only use collected information "in the interest of national security," that they only ever look out for the good of the masses, is to be ignorant or naive. Can you honestly, sincerely believe that our government, rife as it already is with corruption, won't abuse this 'power trip' in which it can collect everything about a person and use it as long as someone up high claims that person to be an enemy of the state? What's to say they won't use that info to coerce and control people? Maybe it won't happen now. But years, decades, down the line, someone will inevitably be elected that's more than willing to exploit this. And it's better to not have it set up than to trust that every future official will be a saint.

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    1. Hannah, the pdf document you bring up is such an extension to my knowledge. Overall all these bullets for public welfare are just their pretense to justify this absolutely corrupt power. You also point out the PATRIOT Act...and it's just like another version of Alien Act which is covered in Chapter 10. This is how the Federalists are used to treat the French "aliens" in order to strengthen the central government; however, that has raised such an anti-French hysteria that comes to known as a Federalist's Witch Hunt. Now the condition is astonishingly similar, can this be a Terrorist's Witch Hunt that would in turn hurt many innocent people, who are either peeked into personal information or directly under arrested due to the law?!

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    2. I actually did comment on your post, but I accidentally did it separately!

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    3. This argument can go both ways. Yes, our US government has gone far in protection but it is being done for us. I feel in your post you describe the government almost controlling us. In my opinion, the government is of high power and has the ability of doing what they can in order to keep us safe.

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    4. Again, that's the problem, Iqra. They claim that they're doing what they can to keep us safe. Their actions are based on what THEY think are suspicious, terrorist activities. Our belief that 'storing food is common sense' doesn't matter; it's their beliefs that wield their high power and can land people in jail. Their intentions are good, yes, but the way they're combating terrorism is disturbingly extreme.

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  5. I didn't realize what the beginning of your post had to do with the topic, until I read the rest. It actually is somewhat creepy that our government is actually becoming corrupt, to the point where it deems itself able to basically step on the Constitution multiple times. I do believe that the "99 Ways We Know You're a Terrorist" idea is very much out of line, but I believe that the government still has to have some strength to know what is going on it its populous. The scenario can be compared to the "Happy Times" as the Germans called them, in World War II, during the Battle of the Atlantic. The British didn't protect their invaluable merchant convoys well enough, and as a result, Kriegsmarine U-boats sank supply tonnage by the millions, nearly suffocating Britain into submission. The government can't be powerless, otherwise terrorists, being unrestrained, could see this as a moment of weakness and strike targets with blood-curdling efficiency. We have to think about something - when it comes to the personal safety of ourselves and our fellow Americans, what is worse - too much or too little?

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    1. Sorry, this was actually meant as a reply to Hannah's post!

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    2. You don't have to apologize. Mistakes happen.

      Back to the topic: I'm not saying that the government should be powerless; it should know about the people they're governing (otherwise, how can they pass effective solutions that deal with the common man's problems?). I just have a problem with how extreme the US government has taken these so-called anti-terrorist measures. The paranoia is running so high that their 'resolutions' have become so comical, I could laugh if it didn't mean the masses are under the mercy of a government that's both highly detached from reality and more than willing to prove their strength to the world.

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    3. Point of clarification Brandon: the harsh reality is that the United States of America is in fact one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and has been for a while. According to a study done by the Physical Journal, which was studying the correlation between GDP of country and corruption, has determined that relative to other countries, the US has one of the highest rates of corruption. The reason why that we, as American citizens, do not hear about such widespread corruption is due to it being hushed up on nearly every level of the government. So, it is not surprising that "our government is actually becoming corrupt", because all the signs point to it being very corrupt indeed.

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  6. What have you got to hide? That’s the question they’ll ask you as you insist that “spying” is and “issue.” The “spying” is being done to keep us safe. Some may make the argument that it’s not about hiding something, it’s about feeling secure and having the right to say what you want to say. However, Does it not make you secure that this surveillance is keeping you safe from terrorist attacks and electronic warfare?
    ‘“Big Brother” is watching.” US surveillance activities and the people share a relationship much like one between an older brother and younger sister. The older brother watches to make sure his sibling doesn’t date the wrong guy or get in with the “wrong” crowd. He steps in to keep his siblings safe from harm. We NEED a “Big Brother.” Let’s think about it this way; without the “watching,” where would we be?
    In today’s world where electronic warfare exists and terrorism haunts many, it is absolutely necessary to have some sort of surveillance. However, it is not absolutely necessary to give up personal liberties. Even under surveillance, we still have the right to free speech, press, and assembly as well as many other liberties. What liberties are we giving up? The only difference under surveillance, is that a “would-be terrorist, or the center of a criminal network, or a foreign intelligence agency trying to spy” would be restricted from using “servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple” because otherwise they’d be sought out.
    Lastly, there HAS to be some sort of trust that the government will not abuse their “collection of innocent information.” Why would government agencies use the information they obtain against the citizens of their OWN country? This is the U.S. government is after all “by the people, for the people.”

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    1. Your point that spying on us will do no harm as long as you do nothing wrong yourself is good but how would you like to discover that the NSA were reading all your texts and tapping into your phone calls and listening to what your saying? It is an invasion of privacy no matter the angle you look at it.

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    2. Can we as humans, truly trust the NSA with that type of power? I mean it impossible for this not be used as a weapon. If we are innocent than whats the point in using money into eavesdropping? There should be a limitation to when the NSA can use this type of process.

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    3. Nirali,
      Your argument is really convincing. It contains much support of opinions and overall well written. The analogy with the Big Brother also stuck out and really helped prove your point. However, do you realize that the NSA has access to wifi passwords, locations of cell phones(even when off), any social media post(even on private accounts, can turn on cell phone microphones or cameras at any time? Doesn't this seem a little bit too much. A certain degree of "Big Brother" influence is needed but it isn't always right to take all privacy.

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    4. Pranav, even thoughh we don't totally agree in some cases, the support you had was very strong and I believe that it showed that your Argument may have been right in a way, and truthfully we shouldn't give up that right for privacy, especially since the government may have other ways of finding out information rather than looking into personal texts and phone calls that may not even help in some cases.

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  7. The government defiantly has the right to guide us to the correct path. They must act as the "bigger brother" because of the higher power. I also agree that we must have "some sort of trust that the government will nit abuse" their power. After all we are the ones who elected the,.

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  8. to be honest, i believe that the government should have the right to spy on us. i much as i absolutely hate it, cause somewhere there is someone seeing everything thing i do, sceaves me out, but its all for the greater good. if we didn't have this spying system, who knows how many more lives would be lost, would be taken away from loved ones, but we have to look at the bright side. the bright side being that if we didn't have them spying on us, we all know pwoplw don't like America that much, so how many attacks on the well fair of the people would there be, either a bombing, shooting, ect. they protect us of those such things.

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    1. Michael,
      Your argument seems to be a little flawed. You go from stating how it scares you that the government spies on you but then you suddenly shift over and say how it is for the greater good so it is justified. You should be more clear with your introduction because it seems dual sided at first and then it shows that you are for the use of government spying. Also, there are numerous spelling errors and grammar errors that could have been avoided, which also take away from the post.

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    2. I'm sorry, but I had difficulty trying to understand what you were saying.
      I understand that "the government should have the right to spy," but last few sentences are incomprehensible. The government's surveillance is there to seek out instigators of pressing issues such as electronic warfare and terrorism as well as other disturbances.

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  9. Although the government does have a duty to keep each and everyone of its citizen safe, there is no need for such drastic measures. The idea of a government constantly spy on everything a person texts, posts, etc. is completely absurd. The issue of spying should not be entertained and accepted because it is not right to impose on the populous. Let's think of it through an analogy: Imagine the government as your parents and society as the parent's children. Even though they could, parents shouldn't constantly monitor what their children do at least not to the point where the kids have no privacy. It would be rather strange if the kid was 40 when the parents still monitored over them constantly. To get back to the point, personal liberty is being snatched away from us with the potential of catching a terrorist, which doesn't happen too many times. The NSA has the ability to turn on cell phone cameras and microphones on request even while a phone may be off. On top of that, in 2011, the NSA had requested major cell phone companies to report particular cell phone locations over 1.3 million times. This is definitely unnecessary and extraneous cautionary measures that seem unnecessary. The very premise of our founding fathers argument was that everyone should have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but with the intrusion of our life through every electronic mean possible, this goal seems unfulfilled. Our private lives should remain private not be published with government officials monitoring us like we are children. Recent terrorist acts like gun violence and bombings are definitely an issue, but this is not the solution to counter terrorism. Spying on every action someone does is too extreme and we should take a different approach in tackling such problems such as gun control laws, but that's a completely different argument.
    How can we even be sure that the government will not abuse information gained as well. The NSA has access to things like phone location tracking and wifi passwords, which can easily be abused by government employees. It is exactly like Mr.Gehm says, "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely." In this case, absolute power is contained because government spying agencies get utmost priority with the majority of companies, so they could essentially gain any information they want.

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    1. Hey vinit, I liked your analogy with parents and their children but the NSA don't actually spy on everyone, they simply don't have the man power to do so and it is just impractical from their point of view.

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    2. DRASTIC MEASURES! whats so drastic, that our government is saving lives by monitoring us? they are saving lives cause out there in the middle eastern area (not being stereotypical or racist) and in America, there are people that hate us and will take their own life at the cost of innocent americans, and if they didn't spy, how would we get hints on why, how, when they are doing this. this is information we need to save lives of the innocent.

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    3. Vinit, I am afraid that you do not understand the concept of PRISM. The program does not store any information except for possible terrorist-relating information. A more appropriate analogy is of parents who forget all the mundane things in their children's lives, and only recognize the most important things, good and bad, in that child's life, and take appropriate measures to make the child's life better, whoever reluctant the child is. The public overall does not know what is the best for it, and it is the same for child: even though they both do not think they want it, it helps improve the quality of life.

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    4. Rob, they do have the man power to do so. They've recently completed the country's largest spy center in Utah (Utah Data Center). It's 7 times bigger than the Pentagon, and it's able to process all types of communication and all kinds of personal data (Internet searches, online purchases, receipts, etc). Its storage is in yottabytes (equaling a million exabytes; 1 exabyte=1 billion gigabytes). Plus, they're demanding phone companies and social media/Internet engines (Verizon, Google, Yahoo, etc) to give them the metadata and content those companies inevitably collect from their users.

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    5. To Micheal, elaborate drastic measures. "What's so drastic, that our government is saving lives monitoring us?" How about that is can opress and could obviously be used AGAINST the US people. Even with the NSA doing what their doing there are still crimes happening in the US.

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  10. The argument against protocols such as PRISM are very weak when comparing the amount of damage that can come with not doing such a thing. The people who think they have a "right to privacy" need to look around. This is the Age of Technology, where everyone posts and upload every second of their lives. With the advent and progression of the Internet, it is impossible, even if one doesn't have a social network or even a computer, to be completely protected. If one has a problem with the government trying to avoid a catastrophe like 9/11 due to privacy issues, then the person needs to get a reality check, because even strangers have the potential to find out everything about a person in this age. There is also the obvious point of "What do you have to worry about if you haven't done anything?" The US, as powerful as it is, cannot possibly even begin to record everything everyone says online or on their phone. The program PRISM is designed to look for specific keywords that have the highest probability of being connected with terrorism plots and the like. Everything else is simply deleted without a second look by any real person, because the amount of "space" needed to keep all the information is simply unimaginable. With the information age in full swing, the word "privacy' is nearly antiquated, so why not let the government monitor the public for the sake of all its inhabitants?

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    1. "...even strangers have the potential to find out everything about a person in this age." You brought up a good point. Nothing is really "private" or "protected." If I really wanted to I could find out where you live, how much you payed for your house, your telephone number, the last item you purchased with a credit card, and much more. As technology advances, I think it's best to have some sort of surveillance "protecting" us from electronic warfare and terrorism.

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    2. I do believe that people should be responsible with what they post on the internet or what they texted to a friend. But should it be all their fault if it's used against them as blackmail. I'm not saying the NSA would do something like that but an individual would. The oppurtunities of corruption can be used to oppress people of the US.

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    3. I believe it is wrong to spy on us. We should not have to subject ourselves to a life in fear, worrying if something we post online will be mistaken later on getting us in trouble for saying something someone else did not like. As citizens of a free country, we should not have to constantly be worrying if someone is watching us. If thats the case, then the prescriptions for paranoia will only increase as the decades go by...

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  11. Unless it has any correlation with a case the NSA should not have the right to look at other peoples phones or e-mail accounts. It will give the NSA absolute power which corrupts absolutely.Some may argue that if we are innocent then we have nothing to hide. However, can't a similar argue made against it? If we are innocent than why are you looking through my messages.

    Lets an ordinary man looks up some "inappropriate" stuff would it be be possible for the NSA or an individual from the NSA to leak or use this as blackmail to the public. We all have secrets that must stay secrets. Exposing flaws like this will make people be considered weak or deceitful, when in reality, there just like any other human being. It's a measurement between justice and corruption, democracy and corruption. Personally, its a lot more corruption.

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    1. The ordinary people do not need to worry about looking up inappropriate" stuff" because if that is the only thing that they are looking up, and not terrorist keywords such as "how to make a bomb", programs such as PRISM will simply throw that information away. It is not embarrassing to look up anything if no one is ever going to see it. An individual cannot simply extract the information they need to blackmail the country though the PRISM program, if you think so, you are sorely underestimating the US government, who protect their computers so securely it is near impossible to get any information, and even by some miracle do, the US government will arrest and jail that person for treason. The NSA and its constituents are not kings that are above others, they have almost as limited access to programs like PRISM as the rest of us, which is why it was such a big deal when Snowden did it.

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    2. I consider your attempt to counter "...if we are innocent then we have nothing to hide," weak. You propose the statement that, "If we are innocent than why are you looking through my messages." But how can one know or determine if another is truly innocent unless they have been observed?
      Another thing, when you say "we all have secrets that must stay secrets," could you agree that many people have done similar 'wrongs' and that since they are "just like any other human being," they should NOT be embarrassed or considered ‘weak’ if the "secret" were to be revealed (which it won’t)?

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    3. I am considering the fact that the government may abuse the power to look into our text messages, however may it be a crucial part when looking into a serious investigational case? However, aren't we supposed to put our trust in the governments hands? That is why we have a central government and then the power of the people, to keep us safe from whatever harm may come to us from the outside world.

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    4. I think the people that Dylan is talking about are those in charge of the program and those in the US government. Yes, a lone individual outside government will probably never be able to hack inside federal data banks but what about those who oversee the very program? We've already seen the corruption that can grip even the pettiest government officials, how much more if a man is handed the power that the PRISM offers?

      Also, point of clarification: the NSA has quite a lot of access to PRISM, considering the fact that they are the head of operations.

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    5. Dylan, I agree with your point 100%. Although, as mentioned in the prompt, is the world we are currently living in not allowing the NSA to be the way that it is? As contradiction on my behalf, it allows me to think that yes, all of this spying is necessary, however, to a certain degree.

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  12. Listening in on the average persons phone calls or monitoring their texts is completely wrong but at the same time completely necessary. Spying is most definitely an issue that if left unchecked may become a serious problem in the future but as long as it is shackled down with a few regulations it should elevate into a major problem.
    There is a multitude of planned terrorist attacks that never hit the headlines thanks to the NSA prevention system. So which is more important, letting the government listen in on a few calls or a relapse of 9/11? In order for us to live in relative safety we must give up a few personal freedoms ourselves, the U.S is hated by many nations around the world and their are many extremists groups that would love to see us go up in flames. So to prevent this we must have people monitoring communications so disasters such as 9/11 can be stopped before they've even come in to motion.
    To prevent terrorist acts we really have no choice but to trust the government not to use our personal information against us, they have sanctions in place to prevent this from occurring so all we can do is hope that those sanctions remain steady.

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    1. Rob,
      This post is pretty persuasive. You did however forget to acknowledge whether the government could abuse this information or not. With great power to gain information, wouldn't you agree that the information gained could be used by government employees personally rather than the good of our nation? It sounds good on paper that they are saving lives, but there is really no way of knowing whether if it is actually helping or not.

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    2. I most definitely agree with you Rob, it is crucial for is to have this in order to stop terrorists and people that may harm our people, however abusing their powers to sneak into personal and private text messages while spying on teenagers may play a different role on how crucial it is to monitor their phone calls. For example, when looking through online sources, you will not look for a teenage boy or girl'a text messages when you may be in search for a suicidal bomber. Those would be two different scenarios that shouldn't really intertwine in any case possible, which shows that, if the government does have possible powers to go through ANYONES messages and phone calls, the case should not be to look through careless and unnecessary stuff such as that.

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  13. In today's society people all over the world think that social networking is a safe haven for them to express their emotions and how they feel on electronics, instead of face to face conversations. With the technology today, people post anything and everything that they do without a care that someone is watching them. With the government, I believe that they do have a right to look into your personal messages or phone calls. However they should only look into special information that has to do with the special case that they are investigating. There is no reason whatsoever that they have the right to look at the 'love notes' that you may send your boyfriend, that may be personal and none of their concern.
    There can be two sides to this argument, however in a serious case, if there may be a criminal on the loose and are in desperate need to look at personal conversations, i think the government should be allowed to have that right. Abusing that special rule should specifically call for the restriction and punishment of the officers or government officials who attempted that action. We put the trust of our safety in the government's hands, but after all that is why we have a higher power isn't it? To keep is safe? It should be their duty to make sure we are safe in our environments and know we are safe. That is potentially the ONLY reason they should be looking into privately stashed texts or calls that may be important in a deathly case that may harm mankind or the world around us forever.

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    1. Juliet, I completely agree with you on the fact that the government should only go to a certain extent when they are keeping tabs on us. I feel as citizens of a free nation, our privacy is to be equally ensured as our money is.

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  14. This whole debate on spying is a catch 22; if the government does not spy on us, then terrorists have the facility to coordinate an attack. Although, if they watch us, then does the inalienable right to our privacy go right out the window? To a certain degree I believe people are making something out of nothing. Then again, there are others like Edward Snowden who make you think twice about answering your phone.
    In today's society, I believe many would agree to allow the government see what its people are up to, however, with limitations due to the fact that the not everyone residing in the United States is a terrorist (with some exceptions).
    In no circumstance should it be EXPECTED for us to give up personal liberties in order to be safe. A government should only resort to that in very extreme situations, not on a regular bases. In other words, if a country has to begin to strip its citizens liberties away just to be able to ensure their safety, that can only mean 2 things, 1) they are not doing a very good job in protecting us. Or 2) This country has given its people way too many freedoms. Either of the two options are not very friendly to consider, although, those are possible scenarios.
    As humans, creatures who roam this earth, we are entitled to our natural rights. Therefore, we should not have to subject ourself to a rule where a hint of privacy is not even remotely ensured.
    In terms of trusting the government not to abuse our information, who is to say we are to trust anyone in the first place?! It is natural to believe that the government is something we can resort to in case of any fear, although when strange conspiracies with good supporting evidence begin to appear about it..you begin to feel safer behind the locked door to your own home. Also as mentioned previously, Edward Snowden has revealed much vital information on the nation's top surveillance agencies about how much exactly the government wants to know about us. Who knows, they may be watching me type this blog this very moment, one word after the other..

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  15. I look at this whole spying situation as a neccesity. People are always being watched either way. Everyhwere in the world theirs cameras, someone is always watching. Its a neccesity because not everybody in the US thinks its the land of opppurtunity. Some want to see the country burn,others dont want it to exist anymore. Its the goverments job to protect the people from outside forces and therefore they must take some sort of measures. No ones getting searched or arrested its just viewing if someones a threat to the country. the goverment doesnt care about a persons daily life all they seek is for the protection of the people. Thats what matters most, people are really exagerating. Its honestly not a big deal.

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