“Government surveillance” is defined by dictionary.com as a noun that states “close observation or supervision maintained over a person, group, etc, especially one in custody or under suspicion” the word was also taken from the French word “surveiller” that means to watch over and was adopted and changed as the English word surveillance.
“Digital age” also called information age, is defined as a noun that states “the time period starting in the 1970s with the introduction of the personal computer with subsequent technology introduced providing the ability to transfer information freely and quickly.”
Digital age, our age. If we look back over the last few years, we can see that technology has occupies a considerable place in our society. Now we can see a lot of examples of digital technologies that continue to appear more and more in our daily lives. Phone calls and Internet communications are today the standard expression environment. But there, are also very developed methods that can be used to monitor communication through these environments.
In our society we see almost everywhere surveillance technologies. Surveillance cameras are installed almost everywhere: on streets, in shops, restaurants, schools, etc. Most of us are not disturbed by the use of video surveillance that have different purposes like detecting offenders and preventing criminal offenses. Although surveillance cameras are used to reduce crime, but their excessive use is worrying. Of course, exist differences between surveillance cameras and internet surveillance. The main difference is that video surveillance systems are installed only in public places and people know about their existence. But this can’t be said about Internet surveillance.
Surveillance on the Internet is slowly becoming a global issue. Every day, it is becoming increasly clear that internet regulations and censorship become the norm. Governments are permanently passing laws that support online surveillance and state “cyber-policing”. But very often all this concerns about online regulations can discourage citizens from exercising their freedom or engaging in legal activities online. Also citizens become more aware and worried of the issues of confidentiality of information. This is happened because “the public wants increased privacy and the government usually wants increased access.”
Why Government Use Surveillance in Digital Age?
The main reason governments use surveillance is collecting information. This information is used to prevent crime, protect a process, person, group or object, or investigate offenses. But this information can also be used by criminal organizations to plan and commit crimes such as robbery and kidnapping by businesses to collect information, and by private investigators.
Surveillance is considered a threat to the privacy. Democracy has certain laws that do not allow internal administration and the private use of surveillance. Private surveillance can only be considered welcome when public security is in danger. However, the government is authoritative and violates restriction. International espionage exist in all types of countries.
The surveillance area is increasingly becoming a subject of academic study, and this topic appears in academic books and journals. Clapper said “In the future, intelligence services might use the internet of things for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials”.
Following survey were received 16,463 individual responses across the 27 member states of the European Union.
Respondents expressed highest levels of concern about:
- internet facilitated crime, namely using the internet to share and publish child pornography (68.2%);
o individual data protection and security threats – i.e., personal information not being handled in a legitimate way (62%);
- computer viruses (61.4%);
- and finally the theft of financial data or identity (61.4%).
Such levels of concern affect trust in the Internet:
- 27.7% of respondents trusted websites for information exchange and a similar figure;
- 30.7% reported they trust websites for business transactions.
Given this context, following our analysis of preferences, on average, respondents were more likely to choose an ISP that would not store any internet activity, would retain any data for up to 1 month and would not share data with anyone else. Interestingly, respondents did recognise the potential benefit for continuous state-surveillance (by the police), but only under an appropriate accountable legal basis. Also, respondents were in favour of an array of privacy-enhancing technologies that would enhance their privacy when using the Internet. Finally, the analysis shows that in some cases, significant differences in preferences across countries and socio-economic characteristics suggest that individual privacy-preferences do vary across cultural settings, age, gender and education level.”
How Does the Government Monitor?
In order to have access to private information governments use important technology companies. Even if companies do not disclose information about their clients, they can be compelled. Agencies such as the NSA can force them to meet their requirements. These consist of building backs that can be exploded by the NSA in their software. So, technology companies like Google, Facebook or Yahoo which collect data about clients like: name, phone number, email address, accounts, interests, search habits etc, can be forced to work with the government, these companies are already working with advertisers.
Here are some of the most well-known surveillance agencies worldwide:
- Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB);
- The UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ);
- Canada’s Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC);
- The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD);
- New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).
Here are the most known ways of government surveillance:
- Surveillance cameras in public places. The cameras are usually installed in crowded areas and with a history of criminal activities. In addition to criminal activities, cameras record the daily activity of the citizens, they usually ignore the fact that they are being watched.
- Geolocation tracking on cellphones. GPS on a smartphone is one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century. Everyone has a phone in their hand that makes it easy to get directions from one point to another, also you can send your location to others and of course you can easily find someone else.
- Biometric identification uses a scan of a part of the body, this may be a fingerprint, eye iris, voice waves, hand geometry, earlobe geometry, retina, DNA, and signatures. For to enter in a building you don’t need a card or password to get access, you can use the body.
- License-plate cameras at intersections. Surveillance cameras were installed at intersections to comply with traffic rules. The camera captures the image of the one who breaks the rules, and based on the information recorded on the license plate, the photo and a circulation ticket are sent to the owner of the car.
Most computers are supervised. Computer surveillance includes monitoring of data and traffic over the Internet. An example might be the United States, where is a law that all phone calls and broadband internet traffic, emails, messaging, web traffic, etc., should be accessible to real-time monitoring agencies.
Internet service providers can track all sites that are connected by a user. This means that suppliers know everything about user preferences. They also have access and can see everything that is sent over the Internet by users, of course, only then can not be encrypted. Similarly, vendors can easily collect all the data you send and receive online, using the IP address. Using an incognito mode does not help. With the IP address, any device connected to the internet is easily identified and located. All this information along with the navigation history can be transmitted to surveillance agencies. This happens when they are legally bound.
How Government Surveillance Invade Privacy?
“In the past, if the government wanted to intrude upon your privacy, it would either have to follow you around or ask people about you. Now, its capabilities have grown so dramatically that a government can spy on an entire nation at a moment in time. It can use algorithms to discern whether people are in a certain mood in order to identify all angry people and focus on their communications and activities. It can compromise a device, meaning it can turn on the microphone or camera in your laptop or your phone and monitor anything that’s going on around those devices. “
We are becoming increasingly addicted by internet and cell phone, we use the services of various Internet and wireless service providers, e-mail and social networks, etc. We use them for all aspects of our lives. We live in the Internet age, and it is almost inevitable that corporations and government agencies have access to private information about people’s lives. Personal information is distributed by us to companies for the use of their products. We could say that the abusive power of the government was delegated voluntarily on our own.
Privacy faces serious threats. Numerous government agencies intervene in private citizens’ communications gathering vast databases of who we are called and when the catalog of “suspicious activities” based on the slightest standards. Gathering this sensitive information by the government is an invasion of privacy.
The democratic system and laws in the constitution oblige everyone, including the government, to respect and be responsible to the people. However, history reminds us that powerful and secret surveillance tools was and will still be misused for political purposes.
The Pros and Cons of Government Surveillance
The pros are:
- Government surveillance means a country safer. When the audience is supervised twenty-four hours a day, they are more protected and protected than when they are not. Surveillance offers somewhat quietness among citizens. Surveillance provides security.
- It does not affect anyone, yet makes the country safer. If to think, supervision does not hurt anyone. A car tracker installed in a vehicle, a surveillance camera on the street, in a school or in a shop does not affect anything. This methods can act in favor of the government and lead to the discovery of criminal activity, this discovery can save one’s life or more.
- Government surveillance discourages criminals and terrorists. When a person or group of people is under government supervision, they tend not to violate the law. Surveillance discourages crime.
The cons are:
- Invade the privacy of the citizen. Every citizen has the right to privacy. This right is often violated. Since the activity of a person or a group of people is pursued non-stop.
- Government uses information gathered for its own benefit. Some citizens believe or suspect that by supervising citizens, the government gathers information that is used for political purposes. By collecting this information, they predict models of voting, that can be easily used to their advantage.
In conclusion, there are different points of view and thoughts about this issue, which we can say is a global issue. Many have been said and will be discussed about the issue of government surveillance in society. More and more people feel that their privacy is invaded, this being threatened by the government. These people consider their privacy to be invaded on behalf of the National Security, this fact increase dissatisfaction among citizens.
But not all agree. Some people do not mind the amount of surveillance. They believe that, along with the increasing threat of terrorism, theft, etc., it is much safer and better for the government to further monitor the lives of citizens. These people think that “it is better to live under surveillance than to live in fear.”
We can’t be totally certain that government oversight helps fight crime. Many people argue that there is no evidence to show that the non-stop surveillance of citizens really works. Crime continues to happen, and after them people lose their lives or remain traumatized. The debate on government surveillance continue and probably will not end soon. It is clear that the nation and the world is divided almost in the middle. However personal opinion does not control what the government will undertake.