Privacy SOS

Snowden: Dragnet spying is about power, not security

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Former Booz Allen employee and NSA contractor Edward Snowden has written a public letter to the people of Brazil. The whole thing is worth reading, but this part stuck out to me as particularly noteworthy:

At the NSA, I witnessed with growing alarm the surveillance of whole populations without any suspicion of wrongdoing, and it threatens to become the greatest human rights challenge of our time.
 
The NSA and other spying agencies tell us that for our own "safety" –for Dilma's "safety," for Petrobras' "safety"– they have revoked our right to privacy and broken into our lives. And they did it without asking the public in any country, even their own.
 
Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo, the NSA can and does keep track of your location: they do this 5 billion times a day to people around the world.
 
When someone in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record of when it happened and what you did there. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him luck on his university exam, NSA can keep that call log for five years or more.
 
They even keep track of who is having an affair or looking at pornography, in case they need to damage their target's reputation.
 
American Senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this is not "surveillance," it's "data collection." They say it is done to keep you safe. They're wrong.
 
There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement –where individuals are targeted based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion – and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever.
 
These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power.

Amen. Mass surveillance is not about security. It's about control.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.