Edward Snowden risked his life and freedom to bring to the world’s attention that the American government illegal (and unethically) spies on innocent people everywhere on the planet. Many Americans called Snowden a traitor and a liar. Now, the courts in his home country agree with Snowden: the wiretapping by the National Security Agency (NSA) was indeed illegal. Hopefully the American government will stop spying on innocent people, and with his vindication hopefully others will be inspired to speak truth to power like Snowden did.
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said that the program, under which the NSA collected and analyzed bulk data provided by telecommunications companies, was in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and could have been unconstitutional.
“Seven years ago, as the news declared I was being charged as a criminal for speaking the truth, I never imagined that I would live to see our courts condemn the NSA’s activities as unlawful and in the same ruling credit me for exposing them,” said Snowden, who fled to Russia after exposing the program, on Twitter. “And yet that day has arrived.”
One year ago today Edward Snowden revealed to the world evidence that many long suspected – that the American government is actively performing mass surveillance. Innocent people have been targeted and information the likes of which we’ll never fully know has been collected on nearly anyone who’s used the internet.
It’s not just the American NSA that is spying on the public – it’s global. In Canada, CSEC has been collecting mass data on the Canadian populace no matter who it is. In this sort of police state surveillance we need to operate as if everything we do online is being watched. This is NOT ok.
Today, June 5th, organizations like Mojang, Amnesty International, and even Google are calling for this intrusive spying to stop. The campaign Reset the Net is calling on websites, apps, and everything in-between to use technical solutions to make the mass surveillance run by governments more difficult. Governments shouldn’t be able to read your communications without due process.
In the year since we first learned the lurid details of the NSA’s dragnet spying operation, a massive wave of opposition has echoed across the world. Millions have taken action online and in the streets with one clear message: mass surveillance by any government is illegitimate. It violates our right to be ourselves, and undermines freedom of speech and democracy.
Despite the massive public outcry, a whole year after the revelations governments have failed to address our concerns. The NSA and other spy agencies are still tapping our phones and computers, while politicians endlessly debate our rights away.
The NSA is the world’s largest employer of mathematicians and now there is a movement from some mathematicians calling for a protest against the spying agency. We don’t know what they work on at the NSA but we do know that mathematicians contributed extensively to the Orwellian mass surveillance of people around the world. The revelations from Edward Snowden as shown that the NSA’s surveillance efforts have increased security risks for anybody who uses the internet.
If you’re a mathematician please don’t go work for agencies like the NSA, GCHQ, or CSEC because their unethical and immoral behaviour as institutions is certainly not a good thing. Stopping mass surveillance is.
At a bare minimum, we mathematicians should talk about this. Maybe we should go further. Eminent mathematician Alexander Beilinson of the University of Chicago has proposed that the American Mathematical Society sever all ties with the NSA, and that working for it or its partners should become “socially unacceptable” in the same way that working for the KGB became unacceptable to many in the Soviet Union.
Not everyone will agree, but it reminds us that we have both individual choices and collective power. Individuals can withdraw their labour. Heads of university departments can refuse staff leave to work for the NSA or GCHQ. National mathematical societies can stop publishing the agencies’ job adverts, refuse their money, or even expel members who work for agencies of mass surveillance.
At the very least, we should acknowledge that these choices are ours to make. We are human beings first and mathematicians second, and if we do not like what the secret services are doing, we should not cooperate.
Thanks to Edward Snowden we have learned about America’s and other countries illegitimate and immoral mass surveillance operations. More revelations about the extent of the surveillance programs are sure to come. Just in the past couple of days it was revealed that the NSA operates a kill list based on SIM cards in cell phones regardless of who actually uses the phone.
The argument that we shouldn’t care about the surveillance because they only look at metadata is bunk. SIM cards are an example of the metadata the NSA (et. al) care about and it has led to too many civilian deaths from drone strikes.
People like myself find this type of surveillance to be rather problematic and insanely dangerous. If you’re in Canada be sure to tell your local MP that you are opposed to the spying done by Canada’s NSA: CSEC.
More than 5,300 web-based companies and other organizations, including Reddit, Imgur, Tumblr, Mozilla the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, have joined forces to protest National Security Agency surveillance on Feb. 11.
The band YACHT has gone back to the glory days of Dylan and the like by writing a protest song. The song is about the NSA illegal spying the USA, which should bother pretty much anyone who cares about privacy. Until now, there was no good news to mention about the questionable actions revealed by Edward Snowden so hat tip to YACHT for singing what we all think.
“We claim full citizenship in the nation of Internet,” Evans told me over email, by way of explanation. “We wouldn’t be where we are if it weren’t for the existence of an open, free, and direct line to our fans–and to the world.” The idea that an intelligence agency could be listening-in struck Evans and Bechtolt as, well, creepy. “The analogy we’ve been using is that nobody wants to dance when there’s cops in the club,” says Evans.
The song came first, but soon after came the idea of putting it to work. The song became a pay-what-you-wish fundraising website for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the best-known advocacy groups pushing to keep the Internet free. Evans says the donations have rolled in “steadily” since the site launched, with the largest single donation coming in at $30.