I Have Nothing To Hide… But I Guess Nobody Likes To Be Spied On: A Response to Steven Levy’s Feature Article in Wired Magazine February 2014 Issue
// Posted by Kevin on 01/29/2014 (5:49 PM)
In the most recent installment of Wired Magazine, Steven Levy writes a feature article outlining the NSA spying issue, which highlights the effects the recent Edward Snowden debacle has had (and still continues to increase) on the way individuals… Read more
In the most recent installment of Wired Magazine, Steven Levy writes a feature article outlining the NSA spying issue, which highlights the effects the recent Edward Snowden debacle has had (and still continues to increase) on the way individuals throughout the globe view the internet. Essentially, Levy makes the case that the future of the internet is put at risk if individuals lack trust in their online security. Given the NSA’s newly revealed ability to access online records, many individuals are losing faith in their privacy when storing information on internet mega-giants such as Google, Yahoo!, etcetera. Without this line of trust between internet service providers and consumers, the thriving success of the internet is at risk of being stalled, or worse case scenario, destroyed.
Levy does a pretty good job of staying relatively detached during the piece. He does not outright attack the NSA for their selected security measures, and he does not attest that internet giants should be doing much more to fight the government and keep all information private. However, what he does do is bring to light an interesting issue in American society today in regards to the importance we place on the safety of our nation as opposed to our individual security. If the answer to this question was purely that we want our individual information secure over anything else, then the internet would undoubtedly collapse. No one would trust these gigantic company’s servers with their information because then their information would be at risk of being sent to the government. However, that has not happened yet, and Levy in no way suggests that this will happen any time soon. Losing faith in the internet is something that could happen after a long period of time, as individuals slowly decide that they cannot trust personal information over these servers that may be forced to release information to the American government. This is especially a concern from civilians living outside of the United States, seeing as using services like Gmail and Yahoo! mail may result in a foreign government receiving their information, which appears as a large violation of their privacy.
In my opinion, I do not believe that there is any reason for anybody to get worked up about this issue and lose any faith in large companies such as Google and Yahoo!. These companies have been at the forefront of American innovation for years, and have done nothing but provide the world with consistently better services. ”But I don’t want to use a service that may leak my information to the government! That is a violation to my privacy!” someone might say. Well, yes, I suppose it is a violation to your privacy. However, I don’t think that the United States Government has any interests in the selfies you took with your dog, nor the relationship troubles you’ve been emailing your friends about. Whether its these subjects that you are using internet services to discuss is irrelevant. Basically what I am trying to say is: If you have nothing to hide, then the government is not reading through your information. And by “nothing to hide,” I don’t mean a small skeleton in the closet. Of course everyone uses internet services to discuss somewhat sensitive, personal information; but the only sort of skeleton that the United States government is interested in is something of the atomic bomb, terrorist attack nature. These NSA is not even tracking in-country criminal activity of any sort. And even if they were, they could never convict anyone in court of any non-terrorist oriented crime because that would denote improperly obtaining evidence.
I do understand, however, that no one wants to be spied on. I feel the same way, and of course the idea of the government having access to a large amount of information makes me nervous. However, the question I couldn’t help but ask myself while reading this article is: If the government having access to my information could stop a terrorist attack, would I give it to them? And the answer is always yes. I know they have no actual interest in looking at my information, but simply receive a bulk of information in order to narrow it down to possible threats within the country. As stated by US Army General, Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, “We recognize that if we do [give away our power to monitor information], our nation now is at greater risk for a terrorist attack. So we’re going to do the right thing; we’re going to hold on to it, let people look at the options. If there is a better option, put it on the table.”
Frankly, I would have to agree that there is no better option. Unfortunately, America is a country susceptible to threats, and I for one would like to take all measures necessary to make sure that innocent Americans do not die from a terrorist attack. If that means the NSA receiving my personal Gmail information in a gigantic lump with thousands of other individuals (including individuals from other countries), then so be it. I have nothing to hide, and I know they won’t be interested in anything available on my account. As long as you have nothing to hide (Note: Again, by nothing to hide, I mean no terrorist plots to threaten national safety), then the American government will have no interest in looking at your personal information, whether they have it on file or not.