State Surveillance Cannot Override Limits of Privacy - The New Indian Express

State Surveillance Cannot Override Limits of Privacy

Published: 14th December 2013 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 14th December 2013 01:24 AM

The jury may still be out on the extent to which state surveillance ought to be permitted in the name of national security, a debate that has kicked up following former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations about America’s rampant global snooping operations earlier this year. But the sense of excesses on the part of the Obama administration, given the mounting worldwide outrage, has found an echo within the US. On Monday, eight rival technology giants joined forces to call on Obama and the Congress to reform surveillance laws.

True, the companies are arguably impelled as much by commercial interests—facing fears of losing users’ trust over the potential collapse of data privacy—as questions of civil liberties. The group hopes to limit the US government’s authority to access user information, protect privacy of individuals and impose greater legislative oversight and accountability of outfits like the NSA. Paradoxically, it is with and through the communications majors that governments carry out surveillance. Hence, the group’s call for the US government to act in order to restore the confidence of citizens around the world is but a belated admission of the challenges to users’ trust on the companies posed by Snowden’s revelations.

The Internet, with its virtual connect, has brought people together like never before. The discomfiture over US state surveillance extending to all corners of the globe puts the future of the online world at stake. The proposals of the companies seeking that the US regulate online spying and lead a global effort to curb it are welcome. Unsurprisingly, over 500 leading writers from 81 countries have denounced surveillance levels, warning that spy agencies are hurting democracy and demanding an international charter to exercise control and ensure that surveillance doesn’t violate the bounds of democracy.

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