In 2013, Edward Snowden former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) member reveals that Mass Surveillance, particularly of US and UK, are affecting the privacy rights of netizens. Right after the disclosure mass surveillance was questioned by other countries. The documents revealed to media initiated a debate on the rights of privacy of internet users as concern.
The Mass surveillance was introduced as an important element to fight against terrorism. It prevents social unrest, protect national security and stops child pornography. On contrary, mass surveillance has often been criticized on damaging the privacy and internet freedom of people.
What Is Mass Surveillance Program?
When the entire population of a country is placed on monitoring that comes under the practice of mass surveillance. Through this government agencies have complete rights to track all the activities of people. It is a systematic interference that collects data about the individual without limiting the data set to well-defined targeted individuals.
Mass surveillance around the world has let the governments look virtually into all aspects of people’s lives. It collects and processes the data of large number of people disregarding whether they are legally suspected of doing anything wrong. The modern mass surveillance increases the power of government to spy on its citizens limiting an individual’s freedom and privacy.
Citizens Privacy At Risk Due To Mass Surveillance
Mass surveillance looks more as a dangerous habit than an exceptional measure. Governments worldwide have asserted that mass surveillance does not damage anyone’s privacy. However, sneaking private information of individuals violating the human rights such as association and freedom of expression.
Governments have failed to point out that such collection of data is interference when it invades the privacy of people. The mass surveillance programs have one significant aim i.e. collect everything. In this surveillance program, everyone is suspect which leads to the establishment of erroneous correlations and unfair suppositions.
Every citizen’s privacy is at risk due to surveillance. Now authorities are legally accessing all citizens data including phone calls, messages, emails, banking details, etc. Moreover, you should know that even if mass surveillance is conducted within strong legal frameworks still there is a room for data misuse, for structural biases and discriminatory attitudes.
Such invasion of privacy is a threat and causing changes in human behavior which is termed as the chilling effect of surveillance. It’s not only the violation of privacy rights but also results in the failure to freedom of expression in order to agree or disagree with the dominant political ideologies.
Is Mere Collection of Data A Threat?
Now you know that mass surveillance collects data which according to governments is a mere collection of data which isn’t a threat to people’s privacy. The US and UK intelligence officials say that there is no harm to privacy if the data is just collected and not analyzed and used. Yet, you know that the mere collection of information is capable of interfering with privacy, does not matter whether it is being viewed or not.
It cannot be overlooked that metadata can reveal highly sensitive information because it enjoys fewer protections as compared to the content of communications under the laws of numerous countries including the US and UK, much stronger protections and defenses are required.
Use of Technologies in Mass Surveillance
The surveillance through CCTV is still present and in use, it is the most recent kind of surveillance used for the monitoring of communication. It includes all the activities of phones and computers.
Government authorities are spying phones to get the access of data by using a specific geographic area around a cell tower which is held by the mobile phone companies. The newer surveillance tools used by the authorities are capable of monitoring entire communications and identify the devices that are present in the localized area.
The mass surveillance techniques are no longer restricted to public-facing activities, the laws passed by the governments permitted the Internet Service Providers (ISP) to collect and retain the data of subscribers so that it is accessible to the government whenever needed. However, such kind of surveillance has been recognized as an invasion of the right to privacy of the netizens.
The use of technologies in the mass surveillance is becoming widespread and increasing the ability of spies agencies. Using of technology helps the surveillance agencies to monitor the entire country communication and retained it. Also, the information can directly be accessible by the cable, telephone, and Internet Service companies.
The endless power comes with this unchecked surveillance and practically there is no limit for the government. It will get stronger with the development of tools allows the governments to collect and analyze the citizen’s data.
Since 2001 the US government has been collecting the communication data of millions of Americans with the support from major telecommunications carriers such as AT&T.
The secret documents of government revealed by NSA published in 2013 have full copies of everything that is carried along major domestic fiber optic cable networks. In June 2013, media started making public the series of articles along with complete government documents which confirmed whatever was reported in 2005 and 2006.
The news reports revealed in 2005 that National Security Agency (NSA) has been monitoring Americans phone calls and Internet communications. After the revelations, the government admitted that are collecting the metadata of millions of US citizens. The reports also confirmed that the government is just not collecting but examining the content of communications such as the communications of foreigners talking to people inside the US along with much more, all this is done without any warrant.
Mass Surveillance Program in Different Countries
|Countries||Mass Surveillance Program||Implementation|
|Australia||Mass surveillance in Australia takes place by telephone, the internet, financial systems, transit networks and other communication networks. Also when traveling internationally, by asking citizens to report other citizens via government social schemes.||Active|
|Bahrain||Mass surveillance is very active. Surveillance of news providers is quite intrusive, internet filtering and surveillance is very high. Online activities of dissidents are keenly monitored.||Active|
|Canada||The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) collects data of the travelers via free airport Wi-Fi.||Active|
|China||Mass surveillance is active, news providers are under intrusive surveillance and all internet access is controlled by the government. Phones and emails are monitored all the time.||Active|
|East Germany||Stasi, the secret police of the former East Germany carried out high surveillance before the digital revolution. After the collapse of the state, the civilian network was created who monitored every activity of the political dissident. Travelers, high-ranking politicians, and individuals in public eye were also under surveillance.|
|European Union||The European Union has a developed area for the right of privacy. The Data Protection Directive gives the protection of personal data and respect for private life.||Inactive|
|France||France adopted the International Electronic Communications Law. The law allows the French Directorate General for External Security to gather and track communications that are sent and received abroad.||Active|
|Germany||Germany adopted the Communications Intelligence Gathering Act on Oct 21. Under this act, the Federal Intelligence Service can collect and process communications of the foreign nationals abroad.||Active|
|India||In 2008, the Indian parliament passed the Information Technology Act. This act allows the government to track all communications, decrypt information transferred and received or stored in any computer for defense of the country.||Active|
|Iran||The government has the control and runs all the institutions of the country for regulating, managing or legislating on telecommunications.||Active|
|Netherlands||The mass surveillance is carried out through wire-taps and intercepts than any country, per capita, in the world. The foreign satellite links are intercepted by a satellite ground station operated by the Dutch military intelligence service.||Active|
|North Korea||Mass surveillance in North Korea occurs through a vast network of informants who constantly monitor and report any suspicious activity of the citizens. The people in North Korea are under constant surveillance.||Active|
|Russia||The SORM laws allow full monitoring of communication, traditional or electronic, by eight state agencies, without any warrant. However, these laws are in conflict with the Article 23 of the Constitution of Russia.||Active|
|Sweden||The communications service providers are lawfully required, under confidentiality, to transmit communications of the cable crossing Swedish borders at specific “interaction points”, where information can be accessed by courts order.||Active|
|Syria||Active and intrusive surveillance of news providers takes place. It has also advanced its web censorship and cyber monitoring.||Active|
|United Kingdom||The United Kingdom has laws such as Human Rights Act 1998 and Data Protection Act 1998 which protect the citizens partially from the intrusion that is unwarranted. These laws require an official warrant before personal data is collected by the government.||Inactive|
|United States||NSA gathers the financial records, online activities and also monitors e-mails.|
Telephone records are being kept in a large database known as the NSA call database. US governments had been collecting data via the surveillance of domestic telephone calls without any warrants.
|Vietnam||There is active and intrusive mass surveillance of news providers which is against the freedom of information and human rights. Country’s 16 service providers are directly or indirectly in the control of the Vietnamese Communist Party.||Active|
Mass surveillance is the monitoring of people and it is usually done by governments organizations. However, the legitimacy and permission for surveillance vary nation to nation according to their laws and judicial systems. There is no doubt that surveillance is collecting the data but the concern is that it is violating the privacy rights.