Can it be true that it was only fifteen days ago on June 6, 2013 that the world learned about the NSA PRISM program, followed by the revelation of the the identity of the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden? I had to go back and double check because it feels like many weeks since Snowden first outed himself. Thousands of articles, just counting those written for the English-language reading audience, have overtaken web-based news sites and print media, to say nothing of the constant exchange within social media.
Within days after Snowden exposed how the NSA was tracking and collecting email, phone, and other digital information from millions of Americans, a public senate hearing lasting more than 2 hours was held, where the head of the NSA himself was made to testify and explain the extent of its surveillance on law abiding innocent Americans.
Pundits and talking heads have overtaken the airways mostly declaring Snowden a traitor at worse, and at best a deluded narcissist. But the most striking eruption of damage control has come from big tech itself, lead by Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo, and AOL.
Truth is that until the 29-year-old Edward Snowden came forward, Google and all the rest have been complying with the FISA court orders for years -- handing over every matter of information about Americans. But now, suddenly, these same giant tech companies are tripping over each other, making a mad dash to the nearest courtrooms to file motions demanding the right to disclose to the public how many requests they have received from the U.S. government intelligence agencies and other law enforcement bodies.
Interesting, isn't it? For years these companies did not feel compelled to file the very same motions that today they cannot execute fast enough. So what changed? Clearly, an informed public is sending tremors throughout those tech industries that rely on some core trust from their users. For companies like Google, perhaps they are concerned that the Snowden disclosures exposes the value of their stock prices. For Google, at least, it has nothing to worry about; its value is rising, not declining.
More likely than not, the new strategy by big tech companies will be to go on the record, however belatedly, that they tried to be transparent as they comply with government surveillance requests -- confident that at the end of the day the general public will shrug their shoulders and accept the new world order where everything you do or say can and will be stored by the U.S. government.
Thus far it seems that as long as the American public is happily entertained with the latest video sharing app, free text messaging tools, and cool games, this generation of U.S. citizenry will submit to the new way -- surveillance government working in secret, where citizens take little notice and proceed with their lives with smiles on their faces. No where in sight anything approaching a citizen revolt against big brother government snooping everywhere.
Could it be that we Americans are more evolved than people living in other countries like Turkey and Brazil where they take to the streets to protest against government overreach? We Americans don't do that anymore. We turn on our devices and play.
Of course, not all Americans are indifferent. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has backed Snowden, admitting that he feels "a little bit guilty" that new technologies have created new ways for governments to monitor people.
Posted by Evelyn Castillo-Bach
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