The role of companies in global surveillance programs
The surveillance programs that many of the world's most powerful governments use extend much further than some people may think, which has led to fierce criticism from some of the internet's most influential activists.
The ways in which an individual can use the Internet is quite varied. There are a number of different forms of media and information available to users, from encyclopedia articles, to news to music and video. This plethora of content is one of the most important parts of the Internet because it can provide some people with access to content that they simply would not otherwise have.
On top of this, connections between people across cyberspace are supremely important. These communication networks can allow two friends to keep in touch from around the globe or even share important information about specific events such as the revolution in Egypt and the subsequent events that continue to shape the fate of the country.
The danger of surveillance
However, in order for these two hugely vital elements of the Internet to function, one needs to use a variety of major platforms. This includes some of the Internet and wider tech community's giants, including Google, Yahoo and Apple.
This is why the various documents that Edward Snowden leaked are so alarming. Along with the various tapping and data collection programs that the National Security Agency uses, the government body is allowed to request and collect data from these major internet companies.
According to the Guardian, these operations are "legally compelled" to comply with these requests. Further, the NSA has communication links through which data from Google and Yahoo users travels through, meaning that this information can be collected with relative ease.
These leaks are certainly complicated, especially because of the role that many of these companies play in the cyberspace economy. On the one hand, they are compromising the privacy of their users, while on the other, they are required to do so under law.
Apple discloses requests
According to The Telegraph, Apple has released information about how many account requests have been made by foreign governments.
Unfortunately, but probably not surprisingly, the United States was at the top of this list with 1,000-2,000 in the six months than ended on June 30. The news source explained that this affected between 2,000-3,000 accounts.
Apple said the reasons for these requests involve crime investigations, finding missing people or possibly preventing suicide. The United Kingdom was second on this list with only 127 requests, following by Spain, Germany and Australia.
Though many online organizations have been compliant with these requests, others have been quite vocal about their disapproval. IT Pro Portal spoke with Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales about his thoughts on these growing revelations.
He said that he was particularly concerned not only about the state of these surveillance programs, but also how governments have reacted to the leaking of this information. This makes is particularly difficult for Wales, a vocal freedom of speech advocate, to convince other countries that are perhaps more controlling to change their ways.
"If the West loses moral leadership for openness, freedom of speech and the protection of dissidents, the world's in big trouble," he told the source.
With information growing more prevalent about these kinds of programs there is a major discussion that needs to be had. The Guardian noted that a spokesperson from Google said there should be more transparency – this would certainly be a start. While preserving national security is certainly a necessity, it is becoming increasingly clear that these programs may be doing more than just that. This begs the question – what is the real purpose of these programs?