If you haven’t heard about the NSA PRISM scandal by now, you’ve probably not been online or outside since the beginning of June. To touch with the basics, read our article on PRISM here. In this article, we won’t touch on those; just on some thoughts and the progress of PRISM to now.
More slides have been released on the PRISM project, focusing on how they interacted with and gathered intel from the companies mentioned in their report. The slides also discussed how the NSA tried to identify and collect information from people who were considered possible terrorist threats, including their methods for decreasing error and (hopefully) excluding US citizens from the search results. This is not, of course, foolproof, and there’s no further data on how many US citizens’ information has been gathered through the program.
Edward Snowden, the whistleblower on the PRISM project and the catalyst for the recent furor, has been branded a traitor and is currently seeking political asylum in Russia. Meanwhile, a sociology professor in Sweden has nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize for his actions, saying that they were done in the interest of freedom and without regard for his personal safety. The paperwork may be too late for him to be considered, though. Meanwhile, this man who is currently respected by many and reviled by others for his actions is sitting in an airport transit zone in Moscow until various governments can decide what to do with him. A lot of uproar for someone who really didn’t want to be in the spotlight.
Something that’s interesting about all of this is – what laws have been broken? Privacy laws in the United States mostly fall under four general topics:
- Invasion of Space – intruding on someone’s private quarters either physically or electronically
- Private Facts Made Public – general broadcasting of truthful information about someone’s life that a reasonable person may object to
- False Light – general broadcasting of false information or information that puts someone in a false light
- Appropriation – using someone else’s private information for profit.
The use of PRISM most closely interferes with the first topic, if someone’s online use could be considered their private space. It could also be considered a violation of the 4th Amendment’s right to protection from unlawful search or seizure.
The question, then, is whether it’s right for a government to take such steps to protect citizens. It becomes a matter of freedom vs security, which is a matter debated about in no small measure in many different arenas. The public outcry, though, seems not as much a cry for freedom as a statement of distrust towards the government for the most part, which in itself brings up interesting political and philosophical questions.
The most interesting thing in all of this will be to see what happens in the coming years. With these musings, we’ll leave the topic of PRISM for the present.