Beware of the Green Light: Technological Privacy
By Casey Kim
As technology becomes more embedded in our everyday lives, it is crucial to remain cautious and aware of the consequences it may pose.
For years, people have proven they are able to hijack the cameras of computers, phones and even televisions, according to the Guardian. However, it was not until former FBI Director James Comey revealed that he had begun covering his webcam that most owners realized the magnitude of the situation.
After coming to the cruel realization that the Constitution’s obligation to protect its citizens’ privacy, at least in ways not mentioned in the Bill of Rights, is not a right people can take for granted, it seemed ironic to me that the enforcer of the law had become the invader.
According to Politico, Section 702, a surveillance authority passed as part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, allows the government to collect the communications of Americans under certain circumstances.
Intelligence agencies have defended this program by saying that they don’t use it to target Americans deliberately, and if information is collected, it is to protect U.S. national security, according to Politico.
Under this, government security agencies, such as the National Security Agency, can collect communications that are relevant to the United States’ foreign affairs, according to Politico. This serves as a loophole that allows intelligence officials to spy on anyone abroad, including journalists, political activists, lawyers, scientists, students and business people.
Furthermore, a four-month investigation conducted by The Washington Post revealed that in about 160,000 communications collected under Section 702 intercepted by the NSA, nine out of ten account holders identified were ordinary Internet users instead of legally targeted foreigners, and about 50 percent were U.S. residents.
According to the Guardian, these security agencies can tune in to people’s calls, read their texts, capture pictures of them through webcams, stream videos of them and read their emails.
However, ordinary American citizens are not the only people who should be concerned about this issue. According to Business Insider, years after former Central Intelligence Agency employee Edward Snowden leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency in 2013, journalists have been publishing more than 7,000 top-secret documents from him.
Snowden first shocked the world with evidence that the NSA collected millions of Verizon customers’ telephone records and collected data through back doors into American internet companies, like Google and Facebook. In the years that followed, Snowden also revealed that the NSA was hacking computers in Hong Kong and mainland China, only a few of which were military systems, and spying on millions of calls, emails, and texts from ordinary German citizens. They were also conducting surveillance on citizens in Latin American countries, including Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina and Panama, according to Business Insider.
This frightening information motivates many laptop owners today to take various precautionary measures, such as covering their webcams with stickers, and induces general suspicion of the US government.
The thought that a stranger is tracking their every move through a very personal item is one that many find hard to believe, despite it being the jarring truth. It is dangerous to brush off this aspect of our reality and deny the truth because these people are not inflecting any physical harm; the notion of invading one’s privacy will become normalized if we do not recognize such an important issue.
These invasions occur every single day through access to our most basic cellular applications. When we allow apps, such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter, access to our camera and microphone, they are able to record whenever the app is in the foreground, take pictures and videos without our knowing and livestream the camera on the internet, according to fastlane founder Felix Kraus.
Though we may never know the true reasons as to why we must fear the possibility of the government invading our privacy in this country, it is inevitable that technology will continue to be a part of our lives.
It would be an impossible task for everyone to enforce drastic precautions when utilizing their computers and phones, much less stop using them altogether. Not knowing a world without these gadgets, teenagers and young adults have become far too reliant on technology for it to ever disappear.
Especially when considering the role that social media has come to play in recent years, it is safe to say that this information would not significantly alter the way that our generation uses various social media platforms.
Thus, it is crucial to simply be aware. Until further changes are made in future years, just knowing that this is a possible issue will place us in a more powerful position than when we are ignorant.
With this knowledge, it is now up to you to determine what they can or can not see. Cover your camera, or wave ‘hi’ to the person on the other side.
Whatever you do, you are now in control.