Catlin Gabel School, Catlin Speak
As a young person, I am terrified of government surveillance programs and the lack of concern surrounding them from many young Americans. If teenagers are the greatest consumers of technology in this country and these programs continue to grow, why wouldn’t we care that we are being spied upon?
For years, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been surpassing what they are legally allowed to do in order to keep the country safe, and have possibly been tracking every American’s phone and Internet history. The NSA convinced the largest telecommunications companies to give them call records and with advanced surveillance gear, they can monitor a massive amount of Internet traffic.
The absurd realm of spying has extended outside the country, with the NSA watching over several other countries. Edward Snowden, the source the largest leak of government information, recently released new information stating every conversation in the Bahamas is recorded.
Teenagers innately want privacy in their lives, but government surveillance infringes on our privacy in an illegal and immoral way. The government’s invasion of privacy is not about concern for your well being, and it’s far from personal. Electronic surveillance is about the government having complete control over its citizens.
Countless stories about high school students having trouble with college admissions after admissions offices have viewed embarrassing social media posts are told. However, that is not the type of spying I am talking about. Government surveillance systems are not stopping at public domain, but are digging into the roots of the electronic lives of their citizens.
The government claims their security systems are protecting us, but at what cost? They still have access to a copy of every call I have made, every Gmail chat I have typed, every text message I have sent on my iPhone and every other technological record in my life. When the government has access to everything, they have the ability turn it wrongfully against me.
There is a scene in the Batman flick, “The Dark Knight,” in which Bruce Wayne asks friend and CEO of Wayne Enterprises, Lucius Fox, to use a city-wide tracking device that listens to every conversation in Gotham to find his nemesis, the Joker. Fox states that this device is too much power for one person, and I think most viewers would agree. After 9/11, the Bush Administration amped up the surveillance in the US in order to catch the “bad guys,” but rather than just watching the suspected criminals, every citizen’s life started to be documented. Systems like these allow for abuse of power.
While the rates of technological surveillance have continued to rise, transparency levels have not. These surveillance systems are supposedly keeping us safe, but NSA employees have before Congress about what is occurring behind closed doors to the people and even parts of our government. If these surveillance systems are really helping us, why are they so hidden?
The Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights begins with, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized..” The government constantly spying on citizens without probable cause is an example of of an unreasonable search.
Teenagers are avid users of technology, sending millions of Snapchats and Facebook messages each day, but do we think about who might be seeing all of the data we send out? According to reporter, Glenn Greenwald’s NSA news website, The Intercept, the NSA can mask themselves as Facebook in order to infect American computers to make them easier to spy on. We don’t even know the extent of what else the government can do.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has pushed back against the new surveillance methods that have been released during the past decade. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is one of the greatest advocates for transparency in the NSA and has been a member on the U.S. Select Senate Committee on Intelligence since 2001. By challenging and suing the government, demanding the release of information and keeping the issue at their forefront, they help to make a more free America.
If we do not clearly confront the government about their over-reaching usage of technological spying this year, it will be worse next year and many years to come.
Do we want our homes to end up like the houses in George Orwell’s “1984,” with cameras streaming to the government and “Big Brother” watching? The fictional book serves as a warning, yet we are allowing it to come to fruition.
The government needs to lessen their tight surveillance due to its overwhelming power. Searching through citizens’ information is not allowed, therefore it should not be done.