The Clash of State Security and Individual Privacy

free essayIndividual privacy has always been viewed as one of the biggest benefits of free democratic societies because it guarantees the constitutional rights of citizens. In the age of digital technologies, the aspects of privacy can be achieved by the means of data encryption and digital systems access control, which protect individual data of users. Such protection is important because more individual data shifts to digital environment, which may result in the fact that people keep different information, ranging from photographs to passwords and financial data in local and global networks. As a rule, the information is kept private and an access to it is restricted, but state security agencies may violate bypass rule on the basis of the interests of national security. As a result, there appears a problem that is opposing the interests of national security to individual data privacy, which has specific ethical and legal repercussions. Consequently, the society has different views regarding this issue with ones supporting individual privacy violations by the state and others strongly opposing the attempts of individual data compromise. The conflict has aggravated even more because of modern terroristic threats, which involve the need to crack the software and hardware of terrorists for granting national security interests.

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State Security Issues

State security is one of the important issues for the nation because it grants the defense of citizens from the threats of different origin. Moreover, it protects the constitutional rights of people for having the state and living in a peaceful community, which tries to obey all the laws. Scholars claim that it is important for the citizens and the government to realize the reasons why specific pools of data should be protected. Without this understanding, “it becomes extremely difficult for governments, the military, industry, and ultimately the people to view privacy as both a protector of freedom and also a force in the protection of national security and power projection” (“Privacy, National Security, and Mass Surveillance”). At the same time, it is impossible for the state bodies, accountable for national security, to establish the global control of the resources of society in both real and digital worlds. One of the reasons for this is the emergence of the phenomenon called “big data”, which characterizes the massive daily creation of various digital data growing at speeds, which are faster than its processing capabilities. In general, this issue is associated with cloud storage and computing services, which allow people to store information on remote servers and use remote digital resources. Thus, it is predicted that there will be a 4300% increase in annual data generation by 2020 that would lead to the need for processing 35 zetabytes (or 35, 000,000,000 terabytes) of information (“The Rapid Growth of Global Data”). As a consequence, there is a need to create revolutionary data analysis and management software tools, as well as digital processing hardware capable of controlling the specific pools of data by the state.

Another aspect, which attracts the attention of the state security agencies, is social networking and various means of communication, ranging from cell phone conversations to videoconferencing sessions. Despite the fact that details of this issue are concealed from wide public access, various leaks indicate that such services as FBI and NSA have all the means for listening to citizen’s conversations. At the same time, the officials claim that these possibilities are used strictly within the interest to protect the national security aspects. For example, Greenwald reports that anonymous government officials claim to be analyzing the records of telephone conversations of the terrorists responsible for initiating the Boston Marathon attack (Greenwald). Without any doubt, the analysis of such conversations may expose more details about the possible future plans of terrorists, as well as expose their supporters being free and endangering the community. Moreover, the reasons for national security lead to the fact that cell phone and digital communication companies cooperate with state security agencies, creating the tools for data compromise. For example, a former AT&T engineer claims that the company created a specific network, granting the NSA “full and unfettered access to data about the telephone calls and the content of email communications for all of their customers” (Greenwald). At the same time, some of the reporters’ claims indicate that the agencies of state security have enough resources to record and store 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other means of communication (Priest & Arkin). It is suggested that these resources are accessed with the permission of courts and are used strictly for serving the interests of the state’s security. For example, in case there is a need to analyze the records of a specific person, engaged in terroristic activity, the officials of such agency submit a written application to judges. Such application must be supported with convincing evidence and validated by convincing arguments, which is the reason why a judge may grant permission with “interception detection” (Swart). However, the rates at which these state security agencies expand and control private data raise numerous doubts about the legality of procedures, as well as the adherence to Constitutional principles of individual privacy.

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Individual Privacy

The supporters of the need for the defense of individual privacy are warned by the evidence that the growth of control of individual data by state security agencies is rapid and hidden. Thus, from time to time, some insiders inform the society about the facts of espionage of private information at large scales. As a consequence, the defenders of the constitutional rights of citizens fear that such rates of hidden growth of governmental agencies’ control systems may endanger the principles of democracy. For example, Priest and Arkin claim that the network of secret governmental organizations has become so large that the citizens are not aware of their total costs, number of employees and functioning agencies. Some journalists have managed to partially expose this data though, which resulted in burning social discussions, aiming at imposing social control of the controllers. Thus, The Washington Post’s two-year investigation revealed that about 1,271 governmental and 1,931 private agencies related to domestic security, counterterrorism and intelligence in about 10,000 locations of the US (Priest & Arkin). At the same time, one more claim of the critiques is that such huge quantity of similar organizations results in the deterioration of their overall efficiency. Moreover, these organizations take governmental money and are not obliged to report about the actual efficacy of their programs. Similarly, the quantity of data generated in such reports is also extremely high, which leads to the lack of capability for its analysis. One of the examples of this issue is that one of the senior officials at the Department of Defense stated, “I’m not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything” (Priest & Arkin). This claim indicates that there is evidence that the system of state security has possibly gone out of control and is far from being efficient in performing its core duties.

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Moreover, the control of state security agencies has invisibly spread over the Internet, which results in the fact that any information mentioned in individual correspondence in social networks may be exposed. The gravest aspect of this issue is that these agencies do not cooperate with Facebook or similar sites but develop their own tools for cracking software and hardware. For instance, one of the recent reports published in the Guardian mentions about the special software, the information about which leaked because of a former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The mentioned program is called XKeyscore, and reporters claim that it is capable of tracking Internet users’ emails, browser and chat histories, offline or in real time” (Kloc). In this respect, Snowden argued that “I, sitting at my desk, [could] wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email” (Kloc). As a result, it is evident that such tools give the possibility to NSA and similar agencies not only to bypass individual privacy laws, but also raise various ethical issues. The reason for this is that there is no actual control over the controllers, which gives them a possibility for using individual data with their own purposes. Therefore, the perspective of the exposal of private data outrages the public because the majority of modern private information is stored online and, thereby, can be compromised by anyone who has the hacking tools. Consequently, despite the agencies report that they have captured over 300 terrorists using intelligence exposed by XKeyscore (Kloc), the citizens are warned by the fact that their private information is far from being private. One of the similar issues supporting this claim is the recent San Bernardino iPhone case, which attracted the incredible attention of the press. It involves FBI’s appeals to courts with the aim of obliging Apple, Inc. to create backdoor in its smartphone operating system (Heisler). However, what is more interesting is the fact that NSA refused from supporting the official position of FBI. The reason for this is that it has got its hacking tools, which are capable of cracking the most recent data security systems created by Apple, Inc. (Smith). NSA states that these possibilities would be used strictly for state security reasons, but the interest of the public is to obtain at least some means for assuring individual security. At the same time, one presumes that there is a possibility for reaching the balance between the need for state security and individual privacy.

Is it Possible to Balance between State Security and Individual Privacy?

Legal and ethical issues caused by the clash of the two critical needs, exposed above, can be mitigated by the means of advanced control over the controllers. In this respect, one can refer to the words of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, who indicates that the policy of the company is to oppose the attempts of individual data compromise. Thus, he indicated that “When governments ask Facebook for data, we review each request carefully to make sure they always follow the correct processes and all applicable laws, and then only provide the information if it is required by law” (Zuckerberg). The suggested example demonstrates that in case the procedures of individual data exposure exist within a specific legal framework, they are legally and ethically correct. Similar position is supported by Apple, Inc., which strongly supports individual privacy, viewing it as a benefit of civil citizenship (Furchtgott-Roth). However, the outcomes of the San Bernardino iPhone case demonstrate that the state security agencies’ capabilities for hacking the devices of the users should be legally limited. Similarly to phone record analyses, they should require a request to federal courts or the Supreme Court for granting the requested level of access. Moreover, the policy of Facebook against terrorism demonstrates that the social network meets the demands for the national security. Thus, it deleted the accounts of terrorists and prevented the spread of terroristic ideology with the assistance of its resources (Bickert). Therefore, websites and social networks can reach agreements with state security agencies by obtaining the requested level of granting individual security with the possibility for granting a legally controlled access over the user’s data. Therefore, it is possible to reach a balanced agreement and save state security and individual privacy, which would be a benefit for the democratic society of the future.

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Summarizing the above presented information, the paper concludes that modern multimedia, networking companies and state security agencies have enough resources to assure both individual privacy and state security. Thus, it is evident that state security agencies pursue the aim of controlling large pools of individual data of the users, preventing the possible terroristic attacks and other similar issues. However, the difficulties of big data tracking and the quantity of the agencies indicate that these procedures may be inefficient. Moreover, the presented evidence of unauthorized hardware and software cracking by NSA and similar agencies indicate that there is a legal and ethical problem of individual security. The reason for this is the possibility of unlimited and unrestricted access to anyone’s digital data, even without the awareness of the compromised subject. As a result, the society requires a legal framework, which would control the activities of state security agencies by preserving the citizens from violating their rights for individual privacy. Similarly, various digital and communication companies may assist in mitigating this problem by reaching the agreements with state security agencies by obtaining control over their cracking methods. Consequently, it is possible to create a legal and technical framework, which would assure the effective work of state security agencies without the unlimited possibilities for individual data compromise.

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