Whistleblowing: Wanna be a Hero?

CC-by-sa ethify.org & dilemma

Who’s the hero? President Barack Obama or Edward Snowden? A short brainstorm. Image if someone you don’t know have a list of all your phone calls inclusive duration and frequency, maybe also the GPS position when you were calling someone, a summary of all your messages you wrote, all the timestamps you used any social media network or even have access to the microphone or camera of your smartphone at night? Isn’t it frightening? Isn’t it alarming that this is reality?

But who could be interested in doing this and further why is our personal information so interested to them that they gather and collect data incessantly? Actually we are all nice and innocent people without thoughts about terrorism, mistreatment or corruption. There are several, I don’t know weather i call them agencies or companies, I will call them „intelligence services“ out there which only have the task to collects data 24 hours each day the whole year. To name but a few: BND (Federal Intelligence Agency) in Berlin, the NSA (National Security Agency) in America, CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) in America, the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) and so on.

Only to take a single example: According to records of the BND (Federal Intelligence Service) they send more than 1.3 billions of meta data each month to the NSA. That means for each year more than 15 billions of meta data! Each of those „intelligence services“ developed and focuses on their own programs and analyzes on special areas. However, whats their goal?! Basically they what to find suspects within a haystack. And for finding those people they gather endless information about them. Further analyzes, observations, measurements show if the certain person is of interest.

So called whistleblowers are the enemies of those federal intelligence services as they publish schemings, affairs, corruption or misapplications, to put it simply: they public top secret documents. Commonly they do not go public due to pursuit and danger of death. But sometimes it changes: A short review back to summer 2013, in the USA. Edward Snowed, an employee of the NSA, headquartered in Maryland and ex secret agent, gave insights into the big extent of spying and monitoring of all intelligence agencies and occurred trough that the NSA-affair. Snowden leaked that information, especially those about the „PRISM“ and „Boundless Informant“ program to the „British Guardian“ and to the „Washington Post“. Trough a web crawler and his position within the company as system administrator he was able to glean thousands of documents with top secret information. Seemingly he copied more than 1.7 millions of such documents on a USB device. According to him his his motivation for leaking was that he felt like a part of a system which seemingly makes more harm than good. But what’s the „PRIMS“-program about and whats the utilize behind?

PRISM was founded in the year 2005 and is a program to analyze all electronic media, information and stored data. According to a presentation also big internet companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Apple are also on board with that program. Their focus is to analyze, observe on monitore people in- and outside the USA which communicates on any digital way. Also „Boundless Informant“ as a part of the NSA does the same. They uses data minings to create coherences on base of digital communication, further to filter out terror suspected persons. Both programs are leaked by Snowden and sparked a big crown. Since that leak Edward Snowden is on the run, hounded by several agency and is currently under protection of russia, living in a unknown city somewhere in russia.

So the main target of the NSA is to get all available communication information nevertheless which kind of media they have to use. Initially they only wanted to collect communication information abroad but meanwhile there’s also a focus on interior goals. The NSA basically records everything, filters, analyses and measures and in fact stores them for a periods of time. Simply said they want to know everything regardless of whether they will need it or not. Their only thoughts are if they have access they use the opportunity to collect the data to get the full perspective. It doesn’t matter if lawful or human rights are get harmed, the only thing which counts are the collected information. More and more rights fall by the wayside.The question is: Who stands behind that intelligence services and why don’t we care about our human rights? Is it totally okay that they monitor us 24 hours and what happens with our data? 

Also Gabriel Kollreider, an InterMedia Student at the University of Applied Sciences in Vorarlberg agrees, that the society was never enlightened what those „services“ stands for. However we have to „deal with“ that wisp of information whether we know if they harm our basic human rights or not.  In fact many people would be interested what they do with all that information which they have about us. Do they sell it, deal with it or whats the harness thereof? Snowden even leaked that trough those services also more than 120 politicians all around the world were auscultated. Only recently a mail showed that the BND (Federal Intelligence Service) also spied out the mail communication between Vienna and Luxembourg. 

With his AdBuster „Who’s the Hero“ he would like to show two faces, the one who always told us „Yes we can!“ and the other face who told us recently „Yes, they scan!“. So is it ethically right, that those „intelligence services“ and the hush and silent „government“ behind are allowed to censor information, collect on the quite pieces of information? Leaked debacles like data preservation or data abuse or even any other topic which concerns the whole society only appears for a short time in media and disappears without a trace. I wonder why … ! Why are they allowed to censor and even change information and injure thereby our human rights? Why does the politicians don’t ask us before introducing such a system of surveillance into the society?

Also Gabriel means, that basically all relationships between people relies on responsibility. And this litte piece of responsibility within our society which is left is not able to be replaced, there is no controlling system out there which is able to erase completely all of the humans disgraces. Gabriel asks himself if society respectively if we are afraid of the freedom and how far let we persuade oneself about this fear? The debate of principles about all this questions have to start. The key problem will be that this discussion or even this debate is quite hard due the society do not really feel aggrieved within their privacy trough this attack. But time will come and people will recognize, awaiting that’s not to late then.

Lavanya from Cloudwards has put together a pretty comprehensive article on government internet surveillance. There's a lot of information out there and our guide was designed to cut through the noise a bit. Read here https://www.cloudwards.net/prism-snowden-and-government-surveillance/ However, it is not clear who is behind the article: is Cloudward a hosting company (based in the U.S., so not bound to the GDPR data privacy regulations), an activist network or paid to review? So always be cautious with sources!

Some further sources: