Imagine a world where nothing is secret and everything you do on the Internet is monitored, kept under surveillance and stored as data. Remember that Skype chat you had last week? Or how about that Facebook conversation you had yesterday? Yes, it’s a chilling idea.
Federal law enforcement and national security officials want Congress to implement new “wiretap” regulations that would be able to intervene and reveal concealed messages. This order would apply to communication services such as e-mail channels like Blackberry, software that allows “peer to peer” messaging like Skype and social networks such as Facebook.
According to Monday’s report by The New York Times, the government’s reasoning is that “their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is ‘going dark’ as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.” The Obama administration has endorsed this and is planning to send in the bill to lawmakers next year.
Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook refused to discuss this major privacy change.
“Only Facebook would comment, if only generally, saying in a statement: ‘We will examine any proposal when and if it materializes but we can’t comment on something we haven’t seen. Generally, it’s our policy to only comply with valid, legal requests for data,’” the Times reported.
Trying to make Internet traffic function similarly to the telephone, the government wants to guarantee access to our use of the Internet when the need arises. Although its intention to prevent another terrorist attack is favorable, this regulation violates both our privacy and free speech. This is surely not the Internet we envisioned.
It seems that when the government grows, an individual’s privacy becomes less of a concern. How much is too much power for the government? Does the government have our best interest and can they be trusted with access to our e-mail, conversations and data?
We understand the government needs its tools to carry out its duties. But this does not mean that our privacy should be sacrificed to make law enforcement’s and national security agencies job easier.
Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.