While companies like Lavabit have fearless leaders that are willing to shutdown their long term businesses to protect their customers, governments seem less and less willing to do the right thing for their people. According to a few New Zealand journalists, the Dotcom spying case involved not only the country’s own spy agency, but NSA agents, PRISM internet surveillance and what is described as “Hollywood copyright extremists.” Prime Minister John Key not only allowed this to take place, but when it was discovered, he simply changed the law to make it legal.
Speaking with The Guardian, Nicky Hager revealed that when the NZ spy agency, GCSB, illegally surveyed Dotcom’s email and other digital communications, it sent a request through to the NSA which monitored him for them. This suggests that the US government’s snooping extends into New Zealand and potentially other countries as well.
Another NZ journalist, Martyn Bradbury, describes what America is doing as akin to colonial expansion, where the government is trying to stake a claim on the entire world’s digital home.
“The US government’s attack against Megaupload bears all the hallmarks of a political prosecution in favour of Hollywood copyright extremists,” he said. “The US used its influence with New Zealand to unleash a military style raid on Dotcom’s family, to spy on him, and to remove his data from New Zealand without authorisation – all of which has been found to be illegal.
“Megaupload and Kim Dotcom are today’s targets, but the US crosshairs can just as easily be trained on anybody globally who dares challenge or inconvenience a special interest that holds sway in Washington, and the US – with its notoriously insatiable appetite for demonstrating political and global power – seems all too willing to cooperate.”
Whenever PRISM and government spying come up however, there’s always a few people saying: “I’m not doing anything illegal, so why should I care?” The answer? Two very big reasons.
1: It’s not very effective. The head of the NSA recently revealed that his organisation had fudged the numbers on how many terror plots had been prevented by PRISM spying. Instead of the 40 + instances originally discussed, it was more like one or two. Considering the sacrifices made by the people of the world for this sort of scheme to take place, it’s not worth the trade off.
2: The government can decide what’s illegal. You might not be doing anything wrong now, but what if Hollywood decides to lobby governments to shut down your business like they did to Dotcom? What if something you currently do that’s legal, something that’s important to you, is made illegal? Surveillance like this also makes civil disobedience impossible, because law breaking is theoretically (not in practice, did you see point 1?) impossible. How will unjust laws be protested if they can’t even be talked about through email without a heavily armed special police unit raiding your house?
KitGuru: Whether you look at it from an efficiency angle, a civil rights angle or as a protester, these sorts of government surveillance schemes are not worth the trade off. I know the concept of terrorism is scary, but we’re all much more likely to die from a lightning strike, or while you’re doing DIY than from some extremist idiot blowing themselves up. The world is never going to be a perfectly safe place but that’s ok. We just have to do our best and try and improve the world as we go. Going all 1984 isn’t going to solve anything but increase paranoia, reduce people’s ability to think and discuss things freely and cost billions of [money] that nobody ever has.
[Thanks The Guardian]