Many governments monitor the use of the Internet by their residents for various reasons, including protecting national security.
Although this practice has raised many ethical concerns, such as the collection of data of citizens, it has been justified as a necessary evil in the interest of national security far too many times. Even though many governments cite security reasons as the cause for their surveillance, many people feel that this act actually results in unauthorized access of private information which may not even pose any type of danger to the overall well being of the nation. There are two major schools of thought in this debate, each viewing surveillance on drastically different platforms. On one hand, many Internet users believe that because they are very proficient in the use of the Internet, they do not need surveillance which interferes with their right to privacy. On the other hand, there are those who are more socially conscious and believe that the government surveille them in order to protect them from certain domestic and international threats. This school of thought usually makes the argument that if they have nothing to hide, it doesn’t matter that they are being surveilled. Surveillance, in the media has primarily been linked with governments, and more specifically the United States. Although, it has also been connected with activities such as gathering personal information of employees by companies in the private sector.
Internet related surveillance has become increasingly widespread in the recent past, due to the increasing numbers and diversity of those using the Internet. The culprits of this behavior have been pointed to as both the government and the private sectors who both attempt to gather important information about needs of the people, and also for the purposes of crimes detection and prevention in the case of most government related surveillance. Although, there are other reasons why people are involved in this behavior, such as those doing so just to invade people’s privacy for selfish, monetary gain. In such cases, people who are very skilled regarding the use of the Internet may use this knowledge to punish or pry into other people’s private information and ultimately abuse that power. Surveillance by the government is therefore very helpful, especially to those who may not be aware, and fall prey of such behavior.In the case of the United States, the government carries out routine mass surveillance through the means of the Internet primarily because of security concerns.
Before tragic, horrible terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001 people and especially those in the private sectors were not comfortable with their government surveilling their activity on the internet, as they saw this as an interference to their privacy, and a violation of their fourth amendment rights. The fourth amendment protects US citizens against “unreasonable searches and seizures… “. Despite this discomfort, the government increased its surveillance on the Internet and all other avenues which may be used to directly cause security a threat in order to curb any future incidence that may occur like the attacks on September 11th. Since the attack, there has been a significant change on the general attitude towards government surveillance because of the concern about the security and domestic terrorism. (Dandeker, 1990) points out that the US government is using every possible means to detect and prevent attacks from terrorist organizations and has formulated policies such as the total information awareness program amendment and the PATRIOT act which allows the government to have access to troves information that it may require due to security concerns. Although many people agree that this is an important step that the government has taken in ensuring that they can live in a safe environment, there are also concerns about their privacy. There are fears that personal information that does not pose any danger to the country’s security may be accessed and saved without the knowledge of the owner.
Surveillance of Internet by the government therefore creates a moral dilemma between the need of state protection to the citizens and that of protection of the people’s privacy. There is a need for the government to try and harmonize these two sides of the coin, since they are both very important. Measures should be put in place to ensure that the government is able to protect the country against attacks and at the same time refrain from intruding on the privacy of its citizens. There have been concerns regarding that government’s surveillance on the people may lead to access of information that may be used for a different reason other than that of security reasons. In order to limit this, internet service providers who may be asked to provide the government with some confidential information need to request a FISA court order in order to provide these type of required information. This also ensures that only specific people are able to access information about a third party even without their consent, if the court think it is necessary to do so.
To curb this problem, the government with in the coming years do should sufficient analysis of the possible consequences of laws that promote surveillance, especially the PATRIOT act. The war on terrorism, though important because of the overall national security, should not be a reason for innocent citizens to suffer and be robbed of their fourth amendment right to privacy. The basic rights of the people should be carefully guarded while at the same time protecting them from external forces. Since the attacks on September 11th, 2001 there has been a singular major change in government surveillance: the PATRIOT act.
This essentially allowed the United States government to do almost anything in the interest of protecting national security. This is primarily how the NSA and other governmental agencies have been able to surveille the American people on such a massive scale discreetly. The issue with the PATRIOT act is that in many cases, FISA courts will grant instant approval to almost any surveillance request if it is said that it is in the interest of national security. In addition, many people won’t even know that they are being surveilled as all court records are sealed and not viewable. This has created a vast paradigm shift tilting the balance of power towards the government greatly. While it is true that terrorist attacks may have been thwarted due to strategy, with less surveillance, it is still possible to protect your citizens from external threats while also not invading their personal privacy.
The issue of government’s surveillance on internet has elicited different reactions by a variety of people with differing opinions. Many internet users believe that, surveillance is not necessary because they can deal with any kind of threat that may arise to them while they are using the Internet. They tend to be overly concerned with their privacy in way which puts the issue of terrorism and external threats in the backseat.On the other side of the argument, many people believe that they need of this type of protection from the government because they feel that terrorism and external threats are priority number one, this putting the issue of privacy in the backseat. It is necessary for these two extremes to harmonize and create a concerted view of what the government needs to do about this issue while both respecting personal privacy and protecting its citizens from external threats.