How to Stop the NSA's Sweeping Surveillance of Your Online Data How to Stop the NSA's Sweeping Surveillance of Your Online Data
How to Stop the NSA's Sweeping Surveillance of Your Online Data
The Daily GOOD
Get our daily dose of information and inspiration. Sign up Now ›
George Orwell's vision of "Big Brother" is feeling less and less like science fiction—especially after yesterday's shocking news that the U.S. government has direct access to the data from nearly all the communicating we do online or over the phone.
In case you missed it, the Washington Post and Guardian published a leaked document from the NSA that details a top-secret surveillance program, PRISM, which gives the government direct access to data from the major tech giants: Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and others.
It's really a chilling thought, but not a totally surprising one. There have been reports of this kind of snooping for years now, hinting at the direction the government's surveillance powers were heading in. This timeline from Mother Jones does a good job at illustrating how we got to this point, step by step.
And while plenty of people have raised warning flags along the way, there really hasn't been much outrage or action trying to stop it. It's a pet peeve of mine: American citizens have been either unaware or turning a blind eye to the implications of the government's expanding powers, distracted by the fun and promise of the web. We feel kind of creepy about the fact Gmail's reading our email and serving up targeted ads—but it's so convenient! We shrug it off.
I hope—and think—the PRISM leak will be a tipping point, to mobilize people to make action, or at the least, take notice.
So what can we do to stop it?
The online advocacy groups are already on top of it, of course. A spokesperson at Electronic Frontier Foundation told the Verge that there are three ways to stop the sweeping NSA surveillance: "The executive branch could say, ‘We’re done, we’re stopping this.’ Congress could make them stop one way or another, either by passing a law against it or defunding it. Or the third way is for the courts to issue an order saying this is illegal or unconstitutional."
With Congress split on the issue, EFF is going the courts route. The organization in a statement today, "We're leading the charge to stop the NSA’s domestic surveillance program in the courts. Since 2006, EFF has challenged the NSA surveillance."
The ACLU has an "emergency" action campaign up on its website, calling on people to stop government surveillance. So far 23,786 people have pledged their support to the campaign—the goal is 25,000.
"It's time to get angry," the ACLU writes on its site. "Be part of a strong public outcry against this program by signing the petition immediately and telling your friends so they know what's happening in this country."
The Center for Democracy and Technology has been warning even before the PRISM scheme that we must not let our right to privacy expire. It is petitioning Congress to update the current privacy law, which isn't sufficient in the digital age.
"Each day more of our private communications go into the cloud, where the government claims we have no Fourth Amendment rights," the CDT writes on its website. "Congress knows there's a problem (it's common sense!) but it won't act without a push from voters."
A CDT spokesperson said after the PRISM news hit, that "this may be the broadest investigative program in US history."
You can also take action on a person level to protect yourself from the NSA's roaming eye. There are countless resources on the web with tips for protecting your privacy online. (Some good ones here and here and here.)
The most basic thing you can do is to simply stay informed and aware. These things are a slippery slope. In a post on Medium today, Ryan Singel got it right with this point. "It’s time to bring that apparatus into the sunlight, think about what could be done with it," he wrote. "If we do not outright smash it, we should start to unbuild it."
Turning Rubbernecking in Bangladesh into a Lifesaving Moment Without 9-1-1 or a reliable ambulance system, one med student and 100 volunteers launch a mobile-based emergency response system
Female Monks Challenge Buddhism’s Misogynistic Tendencies Long relegated to being the handmaidens of the more revered male monks, devout Thai women are now establishing their own religious order
If You Really Love Nature, Don’t Live Anywhere Near It Almost universally, people living in urban locations have a much smaller environmental footprint.
For Ernesto Yerena, Los Angeles is the City of Hustle and Hope Artist Ernesto Yerena’s visual love letter to the City of Hustle and Hope.
Books Stop Bullets at Tragic FSU Shooting A tragic shooting, a confusing profile of a would-be-killer, and a student saved by his library books
These Grandmas Smoke Pot For The First Time. And They Absolutely Love it. They take a few epic bong rips before waxing poetic on the merits of ironing, mistake a vaporizer for a sex toy, and stonily lose track of whatever thoughts they were briefly attempting to articulate.
If You See One Iranian Vampire Western Movie This Year, Make it This One The chador-wearing, skateboarding, vampire protagonist of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night would fit right in to a John Hughes movie
There’s No Reason for Any Nation Not to Vaccinate its Feral Dogs Targeting the semi-wild dogs that roam city streets and rural hamlets all over the world can break the chain of rabies transmission and eliminate cases in humans
The Secret Origin of Neil deGrasse Tyson It took perseverance, intense training, and a willingness to defy expectations to turn a curious kid into the sharp, affable scientist we know today.
VITAMINS 101: Know What You Need Get the dish on your nutrition
Games Theory: 6 Views of a Mockingjay Just how socially relevant is The Hunger Games? Let us count the ways.
Here’s to You A toast to local hotspots around the world The best of the world’s neighborhood nooks.