In class last week we learned about the whistleblower Edward Snowden and his effort when it came to making the public aware of the surveillance carried out by, amongst others, the NSA.
A whistleblower is a person who exposes misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal activity occurring in an organization. (Wikipedia) Edward Snowden exposed an extensive surveillance, making him one of the most famous whistleblowers of our time. In fact, he stands behind the biggest leak of top-secret surveillance documents of all time. The files he leaked showed, for instance, that each day, the NSA gathers approximately 2 billion data connected to personal information from mobile- companies, social medias, mail and other websites. (News-article 31.01.2014, Aftenposten) These files, leaked to newspapers like the Guardian, have resulted in an extensive debate about personal security and the definition of spying.
The NSA has a different definition of spying than what most people would have. According to them, they are not spying when they are gathering information about people. It can only be seen as spying if they are intentionally looking for something. Furthermore, there is a co-operation between several countries, like England, making it possible to share already gathered information. This agreement leads to a further distribution of sensitive information. However, it is not classified as spying, they have managed to find loopholes in the laws.
Because the surveillance is so extensive, I think Snowden did the right thing when leaking the documents. Even though leaking classified information is illegal, I believe that the surveillance done by the NSA is worse. As he only leaked the documents to newspapers, making them in charge of deciding what people should know, he did not do it to benefit himself, and that is important.Furthermore, the leakage of these documents has made it possible to openly discuss the surveillance. Having the knowledge about actions carried out by the governments is central in making a change. I believe that people have the right to know, if not all, a bit of what is happening around us. Edward Snowden made that possible. He gave people the opportunity to protect themselves and voice their opinion on the matter.
On the other hand, I understand that it is important for a government to have some knowledge about their population. In order to have control and prevent dangerous situations it is central to have information available. However, there is a line between having the knowledge and having total control over the population. Gathering sensitive information brakes with the right of privacy, and there is no way to object to it if we do not know what happens.
To conclude, I think Snowden’s decision to leak documents containing information about surveillance was right. Even though it is important for the government to have knowledge about their inhabitants, there is a line that definitely has been crossed. Edward Snowden has given us the opportunity to change the way the surveillance works and regain parts of our privacy by speaking up. The public should have a say in this.
What do you think about this?