The Negative Consequences of Internet Surveillance

Posted: April 30, 2013 by Nikolas Sartin-Tarm in The Cons

Internet surveillance is detrimental to even the most basic fundamentals of the web.    The internet started out as an electronic portal in which free information could be spread over a large network, as the technology of packet switching become sophisticated enough to become the number one way that people obtain information.  The Internet has become commercialized, personalized, and decentralized; yet in such an open sphere, the easiest way to diminish such a useful tool is to monitor it.

The most obvious downside to Internet Surveillance is privacy.  In George Orwell’s famous dystopian novel, 1984, he envisioned a world in which people were constantly watched and forced to live their lives in a certain way, completely stripped of their liberties and living fearful, reclusive lives.  In a way, this idea is becoming a reality, as both governments and corporations can track information that is viewed on the web.

Certainly, this is a scary phenomenon.  Imagine that every time you read a book, there is a man standing behind you, monitoring everything that is read.  With the Government’s Surveillance technologies, they can monitor both websites and are encrypted and unencrypted, and can even gather private information.   It is not difficult to obtain IP addresses of content that is posted, which means that one’s physical location can be tracked down.  Unbeknownst to many, this practice is becoming more common, as our national security has been threatened on many recent occasions.  Also, methods such as this are not only used by the government.

This technology is also used by corporations to gather information from people in order to target certain demographics.  Recently, social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have come under fire for selling information to third party companies to assist with marketing.  This practice, due to federal loopholes and a lack of a bastion for privacy, is legal and listed in the social networks’ terms of use.  Aggregated information collected is extremely valuable to corporations, and reemphasize the emerging idea that the users are actually the product, not the customers, of social networking.

A video explaining how we, as users of social networks, can protect our private information and limit data that could be used for corporate interests.

Internet Surveillance ruins the structure of the internet and makes it compact, as internet users could begin feeling restricted, which would change their internet habits and ultimately lead to self-censorship.  Web surveillance itself is along the same lines as censorship, in which the government makes the Internet more restrictive.  Obviously, this would lead to the Internet becoming privatized and beaurocratized, in a way, as some members of society may have less Internet restriction.

With this restriction on Internet, the Internet would cease to continue growing.  Such an essential innovation that has brought other innovations into the world would become sabotaged, which would create a huge damper on the US economy.  In fact, since almost all US businesses rely on the Internet to make sales, Internet surveillance could inadvertently hamper the economy.  However, for better or for worse, many users do not feel this impending pressure of surveillance, which is why usership habits have not changed much.

The government often uses Internet Surveillance to track down criminals.  Many terrorists have been located because of Internet surveillance, sparing the country the risk of violence.  In recent news, GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina demanded that the FBI use more surveillance in light of the Boston Bombings, in order to track and investigate the Tsarnaev brothers, who were the perpetrators of the crime.

However, as this technology becomes available to the government, it is also easy to get into the wrong hands.  Sources have reported that Al Qaeda was, at one point, trying to adapt this technology.  In addition, hackers have been able to obtain this technology to track down personal information from people and corporations, as cybercrime continues to skyrocket.  Ironically, what governments have tried using to stop criminals has actually helped them.

To put it bluntly, Online Surveillance ruins the integrity of the internet.  The government has largely supported Internet Surveillance and done little to protect online freedom.  The recent provisions passed in Congress have violated the Fourth Amendment and will continue to impede the advancement of the internet.

This video shows how easy it is to track down someone’s IP address.


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