Edward Snowden: Exposing The Unknown

Imagine if everything you did on your phone or computer was being watched and monitored. This kind of activity in the government is what Edward Snowden exposed. The government had a data mining tool that they used to collect metadata, as well as worked with internet providers to collect things like email and Facebook messages. Edward Snowden was a system administrator who showed civil disobedience through exposing the government's use of technology, to listen in on phone calls and other activities, to the general public by leaking this knowledge to journalists.

Edward Snowden worked with the NSA, and his act of civil disobedience is justified by the fact that he divulged the government’s acts of, to a certain degree, espionage to the fairly clueless public. One of the ways the government would monitor people’s “digital footprint” was by collecting overseas metadata. In an NBC article called Who Is Edward Snowden, the Man Who Spilled the NSA’s Secrets? it's disclosed that Edward Snowden exposes “...the NSA’s bulk collection of phone and internet metadata from U.S. users, spying on the personal communications of foreign leaders, including U.S. allies, and the NSA’s ability to tap undersea fiber optic cables and siphon off data”. Not only was the NSA collecting data like phone calls and others on U.S. citizens, it was essentially virtually stalking foreigners, against anybody’s knowledge.

While working in the NSA, Snowden was made aware of a software used during Bush’s presidency, he was exposed to a government program which could tap into phone calls and collect internet data.This was another way the government would monitor people and breach their security. In an interview, Snowden states that “The warrantless wire-tapping of everyone in the United States, including their internet data – which is a violation of the constitution and law in the United States – did cause a scandal…” and “they knew they didn’t have any statutory authorisation for these programs. But instead the government assumed upon itself, in secret, new executive powers without any public awareness…”. Even as far back as the Bush presidency, the people’s online interactions were being monitored and recorded. Edward Snowden wanted to expose that the government had been not just doing this, but possibly doing this since 2001.

Edward Snowden also exposed several documents of the NSA’s data collection tool called ‘‘Boundless Informant’’ that collected metadata on internet usage across the entire world, and maps out the countries’ data on a heatmap. In an article written by The Guardian, authors Greenwall and MacAskill state that Boundless Informant “details and … maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks” and also that the country with the most recorded data in March of 2013 was Iran with 14 billion entries. The authors also state that in March of 2013, 97 billion entries were recorded world wide. Snowden blew the whistle because this tool was not only invading the American people’s privacy, but even the privacy of non-Americans. He exposed documents that detailed how the tool was used and also things like screenshots of the tool.

Edward Snowden played an important role in informing the nation, and even the world, of how the government monitors and tracks personal and public internet and phone data. He exposed the way the government would collect data of Americans and overseas individuals. Snowden also exposed a program which tapped into phone calls and text messages, as well as things like facebook messages and emails, and a program that collected metadata on internet usage around the world. In summary, Snowden showed civil disobedience through standing up against the government and telling the people about their shady practices.  

16 December 2021
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