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NSA Prism & Telephone Tracking- Is The Hysteria Justified?

Wed 19 Jun, 2013 // Firstnumber Team
Data Security, privacy, top secret, phone hacking

International press, Twitter and the blogosphere have been awash this week with reports that contractor Edward Snowden has leaked US governmental intelligence regarding the monitoring of US citizens telephone activity by the National Security Agency (NSA).

Though polls conducted this week by Pew Research reflect that only 42% of Americans believe that these cloak and dagger surveillance tactics (codenamed Operation Prism) are unacceptable, the ripples from Snowden's revelations have spread far further than the US.

Questions have been raised in the UK and all over Europe with respective domestic government agencies about data protection laws, with many members of the public expressing grave concerns about how our “personal” data is being monitored.

The consequences of such a leak have been further ramified with accusations levied upon tech giants such as Facebook, Apple and Google which suggest that they may have given the Obama administration backdoor access to private information on their users, including sensitive personal data. All of these companies have issued staunch denials of any such violations of user privacy, with an Apple spokesman suggesting that he had “never heard of” Prism.

But is this enough to ease the public's worries? Probably not.

The repercussions of such a leak could hugely affect the way we view tech firms and telephone companies; up until now, users and customers have put good faith in these organisations in trusting them with their personal data. Regardless of whether or not these allegations turn out to be true or not, serious questions are being raised around the levels of trust that we put in the hands of these organisations.

After all, do we really own our personal data? And are our personal online accounts really “private” when it's possible that they can be accessed stealthily and without our notification by intelligence operatives and national security officers?

It remains to be seen how this will all play out. One thing is for sure though- this will eventually lead to a new level of transparency both in domestic and foreign markets, and open up discussions about how much of our information should be reasonably disclosed for national security reasons.

Whether you view them as ethical or not, in recent years the likes of Wikileaks have certainly led to a higher level of public awareness that every conversation going on behind closed doors in government buildings may not always be in our best interests.

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