It all started when it was leaked to The Guardian that the NSA put out a secret order to get Verizon Communications’ records for the past three months.
This is part of a bigger program called Prism. Prism allows the government to gather data like phone records, chat logs and emails from companies like Facebook, Google and AOL.
Former CIA employee Edward Snowden revealed himself as the source of the leak earlier this week.
And everyone is mad. Companies and privacy groups are upset because they see it as an intense invasion of privacy. Congress and the White House are upset because they see it as a threat to national security. And the American people…well, they’re on the fence right now.
A Pew Research study says that 56% of citizens support the NSA getting secret court orders for phone records for the purpose of preventing terrorism, while 41% don’t approve. The margin becomes even closer when it comes to accessing emails, with 45% in favor and 52% against.
Those against the measures are speaking up. Stop Watching Us is a petition to lawmakers backed by companies and organizations like Mozilla, the World Wide Web Foundation and the Media Action Grassroots Network (of which Generation Justice is a member. MAG-Net is an advocacy network of grassroots community organizations that use media in the fight for social justice).
Now you may be thinking, “So what if the government has access to the baby sloth videos I watch and the endless Gchats I have about them?” It’s the same reason you should be concerned about private companies using your information in shady ways – it’s your information and you have a right to disclose it as you please.
amalia deloney, an Associate Director with MAG-Net, mentions how at the end of the day, the NSA’s policy unfairly targets poor people and people of color. She mentions that a policy like this can affect people “three, four steps removed from the target. It’s not the activity – but who is doing it.”
deloney makes an interesting point. When it comes to certain crimes, we’ve been conditioned to think of particular demographics committing them. Sadly, the profile that America has painted as a “terrorist” is a young Arab man. When people feel threatened by nothing more than your mere existence, it becomes understandable why you would want to protect your privacy.
It’s easy to forget gravity and impact of policies like these when you’re going about your business online. As you’re checking your email and reblogging posts on Tumblr and searching for smoothie recipes, the debate about civil liberties versus national security probably isn’t at the forefront to your mind. But as young people we have to a) inform ourselves and b) speak out and step up if we don’t like something we see. The key, deloney says is “having young people lead the way.” “Not only as the messengers, but as the visionaries.” So if you have the vision, share the message.
by: Jonquilyn Hill