October 23, 2013
“Big Brother” Is Watching
Many Americans fear the recent phenomenon of the government having access to information in our smartphones. This recently leaked news is a serious issue that attacks our privacy and basic civil rights. While there are a few positives of this, the negatives definitely outweigh them. The concept used to describe this is the idea that “big brother” or the government, is watching us. Not only can they monitor smartphones such as iPhone’s, BlackBerry’s, and Android’s, but they can also tap into our computers via syncing. The National Security Agency (NSA) is spying on this smartphone system that was previously thought to have been safe, secure, and private. Government surveillance is a key component to the idea of “big brother”. It is wrong for the NSA to access our smartphone information as it is an invasion of our privacy and threatens our Constitutional rights as American citizens.
There are many features of smartphones that the NSA is able to now access. By looking into our list of contacts, they are able to see the list of family members, friends, co-workers, and various other relations that people have. Phone numbers and other information of people we know can be traced at any time. A major invasion of privacy comes with the NSA’s access to text messages. Texts can often be extremely personal. It is not right for the government to be able to view one’s text messages whenever they want. Likewise, their ability to even track a person’s location is an absolute invasion of our rights. The fact that they can always know where you are is a key concept of the “big brother” situation.
The NSA has recently even developed teams to monitor an individual’s computer following an iPhone sync. This would give them an even larger amount of data from the iPhone. Items such as pictures, videos, and various applications one uses can be accessed by the NSA. This shows that the government is consistently trying to find even newer ways to access more and more of our information. Cell phones should be kept in the privacy of the user unless it is needed to be viewed for criminal reasons. For example, if someone is being tried for a murder, that would be a valid reason for an investigator to search the accused’s phone or computer. They have no right to have constant access to everyone’s data at any time though.
While the NSA’s invasion of privacy seems completely unethical, there are a few positives that the concept supports. For example, the government’s capability to monitor our technology can help prevent terrorism in our country. Under the Patriot Act, which was passed under the Bush administration following the 9/11 attacks, gave our government a range of opportunities to avoid future terrorist acts in our country. The Patriot Act “allows law enforcement to use surveillance against more crimes of terror” (justice.gov). “Before the Patriot Act, courts could permit law enforcement to conduct electronic surveillance to investigate many ordinary, non-terrorism crimes, such as drug crimes, mail fraud, and passport fraud. Agents also could obtain wiretaps to investigate some, but not all, of the crimes that terrorists often commit” (justice.org). Surveillance that was once used against the mob now became approved to be used against terrorism. When used in this manner, most Americans would probably be supportive of this tactic. However, the vast majority of United States citizens are not terrorists, thus their smartphones should not be subject for accessibility without probable cause.
The government’s capability of spying on our smartphones goes against the United States Constitution. According to the Fourth Amendment, the government does not have the right to openly search our property without a warrant. “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” (law.cornell.edu). This proves that it is unconstitutional for the government to have full access to our smartphone information without a warrant and probable cause. As individuals possess ownership to these objects, smartphones should not be subject to open accessibility; the constant available of its access should be forbidden unless there is probable cause of investigation. “Big brother” is in full effect as the NSA spies on innocent American citizens daily.
It is important to acknowledge the fact that the United States government attempted to hide the new motive from its citizens. If it was not for the information being leaked to the public from an inside source, citizens would not have known what was really going on. This shows that the government knew that accessing our smartphones would outrage many people as they would see it as unconstitutional, an invasion of privacy, and a “big brother” type policy. In addition, the United States government was furious with the man who leaked the top-secret information, Eric Snowden. His actions were seen as a serious crime, and he “has been charged with three offenses in the U.S., including espionage, and could spend up to 30 years in prison if convicted” (Yost). Snowden was granted asylum in Russia, but the U.S. government is outraged and determined to get him back to face trial (Yost). This proves that the secret was a big deal that our government could not afford to become public knowledge.
The invasion of privacy that the NSA has brought upon U.S. citizens goes against the principles in which our country was founded on. As mentioned previously, the Fourth Amendment is completely abandoned as our technology is able to be accessed with out without probable cause or a warrant. Ironic to Snowden’s granted asylum, the NSA policy of accessing our smartphones is strikingly similar to the communist nation of Russia. The United States has no business becoming a “big brother” nation, which is associated with communism. The policy attacks the American lifestyle and what our country stands for. Freedom, liberty, and equality in which the United States was founded has become threatened under the NSA’s surveillance. Our citizens cannot have our privacy invaded by the government; it is simply a step towards communism and away from democracy.
All in all, the U.S. government is exerting too much power as it invades our privacy and basic civil rights. In an unconstitutional manner, the NSA has been accessing our smartphones without the probable cause in which it would be acceptable. Although terrorism has affected our nation in the past, the government does not have the right to monitor our devices without reason. The foundation of our country was set on principles of freedom and liberty that are now threatened by this invasion of privacy. NSA surveillance of our smartphones challenges the privilege we have as American citizens in a democratic society. Our freedom is neglected as long as “big brother” is watching and invading our privacy. For more information regarding the new NSA monitoring leak, check out this blog.