Over the years, many of us have laughed and poured scorn on the rise of the surveillance societies. We have made fun of those countries like North Korea, Iran and Thailand who go to great lengths to monitor and intercept communications made over the internet. How we giggled at the stupid Chinese internet police who appear on posters in internet cafes reminding people that they’re being watched and telling citizens how to report suspicious or subversive behaviour online.
EU nations regularly criticize countries like Turkey about their levels of content filtering and human rights issues like accessing the internet.
Yet lately the revelations from Edward Snowden are starting to reveal a much broader scope of surveillance particular in North America and Europe. The Western democracies of course have strict privacy and data protection laws to protect their citizens from intrusive monitoring, however intelligence agencies like the NSA and GCHQ have discovered a route around this – they simply ignore legislation and ‘Carry on Spying’.
The latest revelation is that in the NSA spying table, Germany actually come in pretty highly. The figures come in at an amazing half a billion German telephone calls, emails, web and text messages recorded every month by the American Intelligence services.
This level of surveillance means that the US monitors German citizens on a similar level to China, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. A huge invasion of privacy on a country which is not only and ally but has some of the most strict data protection and privacy laws in the world. This legislation however seems to count for pretty much nothing if you’re a secret service wanting to keep tabs on electronic communication.
Just as the revelations have revealed that the UK intelligence service have set up a surveillance section based in the middle east, the level of snooping that is being conducted by projects like Prism and Tempora is literally breathtaking.
Of course all this surveillance is justified using terms like national security and terrorism. The huge loss of privacy is therefore deemed a ‘price worth paying’, although the results and effectiveness of this mass surveillance is never identified.
Many advocate international laws being put in place to try and protect people’s privacy, yet it looks unlikely that even these would ever be respected by the NSA, GCHQ and the other security services across the globe. Their attitude would seem to match something the Stasi would have come up with to deal with electronic communications. It seems wrong on many levels that the NSA feels it has the wholesale right to spy on the German citizens simply to protect itself.