"National Secutity" Efforts Now Having a Measurable Impact on Public Discourse as Sites Like Gorklaw Close

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The fight for internet freedom, privacy and net neutrality has been a rough one. Over the past couple of years we have watched as a parade of laws have trotted past us. SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, and more have all shown us one certain thing; the powers that be have little to no regard for individual freedoms, free speech or the impact of restrictive laws on innovation, technology and the economy as a whole. However there was an underlying trend to these laws that disturbed us and many other privacy and right groups out there. The trend was a general trammeling of the right to free speech when it comes to any online sources; some would even say any source that had an opposing view point. Even the right to have protected sources was slowly being removed if you were an independent blogger (citizen journalist) and this effort is now being expanded.


Going back to the formation of WikiLeaks there has been a disturbing trend to prevent the release of information that could be damaging to the US Government. The days of being able to blow the whistle on actions and behaviors that are not in the best interest of the US Citizens was being rapidly killed off. If you leaked information about something that you thought was wrong you were going to be found and the outlet you used to publish this information removed. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has the power to seize a domain name without any form of judicial review, rebuttal and from the looks of things, any evidence of wrong doing. Typically they hide behind copyright infringement in the same way that SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA try to hide behind national security. The results of these bills are all the same though as they all legalize what is already happening; the wholesale collection of your information by the NSA and other agencies.

Now, if we take it on faith that these new collection capabilities do what they claim (protect jobs, prevent terrorism, and protect national security) then there is no problem with their use. The rub is that these efforts do not appear to actually do what they claim and in some cases do not even appear to be able to do what they are intended to do. In the case of CISPA (the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) it simply would have made it legal for the same businesses already sharing data with the NSA to share information with each other. These companies were already protected from litigation over their cooperation with the NSA through other laws. There was no reason to have that additional law except to allow them to trade user information like commodities.

For SOPA and PIPA those two packages were simply a (publicly) legal way to force ISPs and other network providers to include methods for data collection and snooping. The items that would be put into place were not much different than what is already there, but once again it made it legal. Again, if (and this is now a stretch) we proceed with the belief that these would really be used to protect jobs and stop online piracy… well no that one we cannot run with. Let’s face it the recent exposure of programs like PRISM being run by the US Government and that are being mimicked or piggybacked by other governments are simply wrong. There is no justification for them, even the claim that they will help prevent terrorism, lost jobs, and protect national security simply fall flat in the face of any real logic. PRISM did not stop the Boston Bombing and has missed out on many other incidents. Looking at what has been reported about PRISM shows that it has been altered since its creation to include more and more information on US Citizens.

The after effect of this and the rigorous pursuit of Edward Snowden has had a serious impact on communication and the sharing of information online. Two encrypted email services have shut down already; one from direct pressure from the US Government (in the form of a National Security Letter demanding user information) and another out of fear that they would be next. It is not just encrypted, privacy protecting email services that are closing out of fear of being forced to give up information on their users. Legal site Grokloaw is shutting down out of the same fears. Site creator Pamela Jones, said that with recent events she no longer wishes to be on the internet any more than she is required to be. She no longer trusts any form of communication after Lavabit and other have closed down. Jones and others are beginning to come to the realization that you can no longer have any expectation of privacy (despite rulings otherwise) on the internet. The following quote says it all: “If you have to stay on the Internet, my research indicates that the short term safety from surveillance, to the degree that is even possible, is to use a service like Kolab for email, which is located in Switzerland, and hence is under different laws than the U.S., laws which attempt to afford more privacy to citizens,”. Of course considering the reach of the US copyright industry in Switzerland I am not so sure I would trust that either.

US companies are making their own thoughts on this very clear now that the curtain has been lifted. Google recently made things very clear saying that there was no reasonable expectation of privacy when using their services. They feel they have the right to go through your information (Mail, files etc.) all under the guise of providing you with more relevant ads. The claims of protecting your privacy or taking your privacy seriously are disappearing and in their place are the legal teams claiming that users have already signed their rights away. Free Speech is being impacted out of fear of being monitored and the chance of repercussions for disclosing corruption at high levels in the government. In the meantime the powers that be are trying very hard to justify their actions, but this time the same old fears are not enough to sway the tide of public opinion. Even people that used to state “if you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about” are becoming increasingly concerned at the level of surveillance going on and the intrusion into our lives, lives that until very recently we thought were our own and private…

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