The E-Government Surveillance in the United States: Public Opinion on Government Wiretapping Powers. In Ethical Issues and Citizen Rights in the Era of Digital Government Surveillance

The E-Government Surveillance in the United State

Why would an English media source care about a US-based report?

Answer avobe question based on bellow post

The VOIP security podcast is titled “Internet phone calls and terrorism, Georgia Tech report on Emerging Cyber Security Threats, phone jamming, 802.1X-REV, 802.1AE, VoIP security news and more.” According to a report by the Times of London, internet phone calls are crippling the fight against terrorism. Internet-based phone calls are difficult to track because internet call companies do not keep consumer data unlike mobile phone companies.  The podcast talks about other articles which keep expressing their concerns over internet calls and VOIP security. The question however is, where is the line between people’s privacy or use of digital tools and government’s legitimate right to have access to the same information for purposes of law enforcement.

While implementing such legislation maybe possible in the United Kingdom, it becomes challenging to use wiretapped evidence in the United States, and getting such power would become extremely challenging. More importantly, who would be important for aggregating the wiretapped evidence? With the modern global IP world, wiretapping remains a thorny challenge. The debate therefore revolves around how much of freedom is given to law enforcement and how much of the same freedom is left for individual rights.

Another challenge is the voice calls over the internet are likely to be attached by malware and botnets going forward. As the number of cell phones being used and people download different software from unknown vendors, the security of VOIP is in jeopardy. Phone jamming is another issue discussed in the podcast with the 2002 election incidences of the same. The most interesting feature of phone jamming is that it is likely to be automated to be used in political campaigns. Lastly, the podcast talks about 802.1X-REV and 802.1AE for securing the Ethernet layers and authentication key management.

Personal thoughts on the podcast

There are important lessons or themes that can be drawn from the podcast. Firstly, internet calls have obviously tilted the scale to benefit criminals because collecting such evidence-or data has become a massive challenge.  The government should be granted access to different sources of information and data that would go a long way in preventing crime or related activities. The question however is, where should the line be drawn? Should the government be given access to any type of information they want to deter crime? Invading privacy should not be granted to the government.

However, I believe there should be a framework on which the government can be allowed to collect some evidence over internet and phone activities that would be important in deterring crime or even stopping intentions inclined towards this direction. As mentioned in the podcast, it is true that law enforcement agencies face massive challenges in collecting phone data because the internet service providers do not store and provide the data on their users. Unlike telecom providers, online services can be challenging to collect information and data that could be used to deter crime or even terrorism and that is why I strongly support the sentiments in the podcast. I believe that the introduction of 802.1X-REV and 802.1AE will be important for improving the economy.

Government’s wiretapping activities

Wiretapping is one of the surveillance methods used by the government to intercept and gather information about phone calls and other activities over the internet. From a personal perspective, wiretapping can be good if used in the correct manner. There have been instances where wiretapped conversations or calls have been used to track criminals and stop terrorist attacks that have become common across the globe (McNeal, Schmeida & Holmes, 2016). Wiretapping has also had massive success in the war against drugs by stopping drug dealers and cutting links between the drug lords before their deals go through.

In 2012 and 2013 for instance, about 50 terrorist attacks were stopped and aborted because of government surveillance programs including wiretapping. It is important to also understand that situations which require wiretapping and other similar surveillance programs are highly dangerous for law enforcement officials to go sometimes (McNeal, Schmeida & Holmes, 2016). Additionally, because of the nature of the American judicial system, getting warrants in some instances take ages and therefore criminals may get away with heinous crimes like murder or even felony. Wiretapping is also essential in promoting sanity in the political class because politicians who lie to the public can easily be exposed.

Thirdly, wiretapping is a tool for making evidence water-tight and ensuring that criminals do not run away from justice (McNeal, Schmeida & Holmes, 2016). There can be instances where the only evidence which can tie a suspect to the crime scene or a criminal activity is the wiretapped evidence. However, it is important that wiretapped conversations and data collected from these activities is safety stored for the safety of the citizenry. Any leaks to such information or evidence may jeopardize personal and professional lives of people because criminal can use it for selfish gains.

For instance, a conversation between a bank executive and an investor being in the hands of criminals can lead to bank robberies or other economic crimes. The government must also ensure that private information is kept confidential and not used for malicious purposes. Wiretapping for evidence gathering should only be used in cases where other means of collecting evidence are not possible (McNeal, Schmeida & Holmes, 2016). In so doing, the government will not have illegal wiretaps being set in place without proper warrants or reason for having them in place.

Should government require data collection and retention?

Collection and retention of data is another topic that requires adequate ventilation. Typically, mandatory retention of data involves legislations that force Internet Service Providers and telecom companies to continuously collect and store communication records which document the online activities of online users (Mundie, 2014). In such like cases, the government will demand access to data or records the internet and phone providers keep about online activities and calls. Such data has been called metadata. Mass government data collection and retention applies to people’s phone and Wi-Fi networks, land-line and cable telecommunications.

The question is, should the government collect and retain such data? My personal opinion on this is that no, the government should not collect and retain data. There are five reasons to oppose such a position (Mundie, 2014). Firstly, collecting and retaining data compromises the idea of online anonymity which is often used by journalists, investigators and whistle-blowers to reveal crime or ills that are taking place in the society (Schneier, 2015). Secondly, such collection and retention of data invades personal privacy, is costly and impeded on the right to expression and privacy.

With the knowledge that government will collect and retain metadata on different activities, people’s freedom of speech is highly curtailed and people are unable to make bold statements on issues that affect their daily lives (Schneier, 2015). Thirdly, because there are privacy risks involved in such collection and retention, the data and databases are made vulnerable to accidental disclosure or even thefts. In some cases, like political witch-hunt, sensitive and private information can be deliberately spilled to the general public to soil a candidate’s name.

In politics, metadata can either be a blessing or a curse. And in most cases, it often proves to be a curse more than being a blessing. Four, such data makes the internet and phone providers absorb the exorbitant costs storing and maintain the data, in most cases, these costs are passed to the consumers (Schneier, 2015). Lastly, as mentioned before collected and retained data has a huge potential to be abused either by custodians for their personal gain or by criminals.

 

References

McNeal, R. S., Schmeida, M., & Holmes, J. (2016). The E-Government Surveillance in the United States: Public Opinion on Government Wiretapping Powers. In Ethical Issues and Citizen Rights in the Era of Digital Government Surveillance (pp. 208-230). IGI Global.

Mundie, C. (2014). Privacy Pragmatism; Focus on Data Use, Not Data Collection. Foreign Aff., 93, 28.

Schneier, B. (2015). Data and Goliath: The hidden battles to collect your data and control your world. WW Norton & Company.

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