The newspaper revelations by the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal in relation to the NSA’s positioning of itself as a global “Big Brother” seems to have surprised many but most people who have been observing the growing “intelligence-industrial complex” (to rephrase Eisenhower’s warning) will have been aware of the outline of these programs already. It’s not so much a case of telling us something new but rather confirming what we already know.
In Ireland of course we have been the subject of electronic surveillance by the British for nigh on four decades (and longer). Most people are aware that regular communications in and out of Ireland are monitored by GCHQ though the growth of the internet has made that significantly harder in recent years (at least until they became junior partners in the United States’ attempt to turn the world wide web into a world wide watch). By the late 1990s the north-east of Ireland, under the British Occupation, had become a police state the likes of which only the KGB and Stasi could have dreamed of. Much of that paraphernalia of Intelligence gathering and observation remains in place or has been superseded by other even more insidious forms of mass surveillance of the local population.
Helpfully Winston Ross in a post for the Daily Beast offers a few (very basic) tips on how to maintain at least a shred of one’s privacy in these open-door times. Think you have no presence on the internet that anyone anywhere could ever possibly be interested in?
“Skip on over to MyShadow if you believe that nonsense. There, you can find out exactly what kind of a shadow your computer and mobile-phone usage casts. It’s pretty scary and fascinating.”
Of course a few will complain that if one is an innocent citizen with no criminal intent then one has nothing to worry about. On that principle maybe we should all walk around at night with all our house-blinds up, curtains open and lights on? No matter if people are standing outside with binoculars trained on your home. If you’ve nothing to hide?
UPDATE: In a timely article The Guardian’s Ask Jack’ provides some advice on computer encryption. It’s not half as scary as it sounds and in most cases even the most technophobic can make use of the numerous premium and free programs out there. Definitely worth reading.