Leave it to the National Security Agency and the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court to put the “spook” back in “spooky.” In recent weeks, the general public has learned what many of us specialists have long known, which is that vast swaths of the communications of ordinary citizens have been swept into intrusive dragnets, and, the legal framework for all this snooping is itself the product of a secret body of law generated by a secret special court. Yet these revelations of how much the US government has been spying on its population shouldn’t be so shocking given that the underlying law – the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – has been in place since 1978.
If the digital era has empowered ordinary citizens to do and say more online, it’s also made us more vulnerable to privacy intrusions of all kinds – and digital technologies empower governments at least as much as they empower the rest of us. But that is precisely the silver lining to the NSA story. It has alerted the public that the law and policy shaping the Internet have significance for all of us, not just for lawmakers.
By Mike Godwin is Senior Policy Advisor for the Global Internet Policy Project of Internews, an international non-profit media development organization whose mission is to empower local media worldwide to give people the news and information they need, the ability to connect and the means to make their voices heard. Adapted from forbes.com