THE BLOG

National Security Agency Revelations Reinforce Demise of Private Communications

11/06/2013 12:00 BST | Updated 10/08/2013 10:12 BST

The evolving controversy raging around the USA's National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance programme tracking online communications has sparked a myriad of emotions including outrage and disbelief.

You will recall that the story broke after a former CIA technical worker revealed that the NSA's 'Prism' surveillance program allegedly allows it to monitor emails, internet 'chatter' on Skype, AOL, YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter and collect data directly from these servers and other technology companies.

The incredulity that America has the ability to monitor what goes on in Cyberspace reveals a basic misunderstanding that online activity can ever be private.

What is Privacy?

The definition of 'Privacy' is "the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people." Yet what the public neglect to consider is that the moment they put finger to keyboard, they become a publisher - relinquishing control over what happens next.

Despite most people believing that what they are saying is private, communication between two (or more) individuals, is stored somewhere and therefore can easily be observed by a wider group.

The fear factor

If you 'fear' the established Government (for whatever reason) then you are likely to be shocked and alarmed at this news. If you are involved in any political groups with a political agenda then you could be concerned about what the Government is monitoring - and how they might use it in the future (against you personally or the group you are involved in).

Obviously if you are involved in any criminal activity then you will clearly be worried about this news. However, if all you ever do is use FaceBook or Twitter to post funny pictures of 'Cats' then you're less likely to care that they are monitoring your activity.

The subject of privacy and the rights to privacy will always be a debatable topic in a democracy but sites such as FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr and the countless others sites have made people complacent about their private information, without regard for who might be able to see what they're posting and ignorant on how to set up their security permissions.

What should you do?

Monitoring the internet and those who you use it is here to stay but whether you use a computer for personal or professional reasons there are still things you can and should be doing to protect yourself online.

When signing up to a new service or installing new software how many times have you been asked if you have 'read and accept' the terms and conditions? Have you answered 'accept' without reading the terms of use? You may have been told that your communications will be made public, that you will be monitored, and all because you 'accepted' the terms and conditions without checking.

Be Pro-active

Privacy maybe a thing of the past but you can be safe and secure on the internet if you remain pro-active and realistic about what is possible.

Some of the large companies who hold our data and the Governments who ultimately have control over them demonstrate that privacy has gone and security is here to stay. We need to lament the former and work towards the latter.