Government Surveillance

Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden is interviewed

(2) Yes we scan

From the second point of West’s essay (2013), we know that there is a program called PRISM. And the government can collect massive amount of data with the help of internet companies. Richards (2013) points out that “surveillance society” exists in modern America in the first part of his article and explore the problem and danger of surveillance, which illustrates West’s second point.

Both West and Richards understand that large-scale surveillance is no longer a patent for autocratic countries, like China, but is the current and real situation in America. While American government still criticize other countries’ human right and cyberattacks, the leak from Snowden made America embarrassed. But the existing surveillance unveil the dilemma for attacking terrorism and protecting citizens. If the surveillance system does not exist, then how to prevent damage from terrorism? If exerting surveillance, then who can control the power and how to protect privacy? I think one mistake that American government make is that the PRISM program is secretly operated without agreement from the people. And the scope is so large that makes us feel scary when thinking how much information the government has controlled.

Except from the government, Richards also mentions how internet can have access to much information easily and the problem of big data. Insurance companies and big companies like Disney all work with the government and make interests from it. This means that in some ways, surveillance can also be used for commercial purposes. Then it will put citizens’ privacy into higher risk if terrorist attack or coerce these companies and steal information from them. Also, gathering information for the companies’ interests is not appropriate.


8) NSA targets China’s largest research hub and major telecommunications provider

From the leak of Snowden, China has also been a major surveillance target. A report from The Washington Post reveals how Chinese government and people react to Snowden’s leak.

Chinese government responded at first with indignation. And then it started to build up plans for cyber defense. The Snowden scandal also stimulated the internet industry in China. Because Chinese government decided to spend more money to support its homeland firms and to get rid of American surveillance.

In China, the surveillance is a public secrete. Everyone knows their information may be used and scanned by the government. But the case is always after crime, the police use the information to track criminals. Most people, as far as I have heard of, will not be bothered by what they search or store on Internet.

After Snowden scandal, Chinese government is more cautious about their classified information and it is also a good time for homeland companies to develop. At the same time, people in China also started to discuss the surveillance problem, which is good for them to know its danger and reflect on government’s behavior.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. oalbishri says:

    Hi Yi,
    I agree with in your statement that Snowden made America embarrassed, not only in front of its citizens but also in front of its allies and enemies as well. Now, if you remember when I presented my topic, I played a video that was produced by Al-Jazeera, and it was highlighting the issue of US surveillance programs. One of the commenters said that even though these programs was created to protect the national security, none of the programs has yet proven to prevent the state from any terrorist attacks. From my perspective, securing the state is just an excuse for the government to have authority over the flow of information which bring many political and economic benefits to the government.


  2. I have similar thoughts to Osama in regards to the government hiding behind the statement “We’re doing this for you”. In the end, the government has an ulterior motive and they try to tell us that they do what they do for us, but they do what they do for them. I can agree to some extent that some citizens of the U.S. were embarrassed by the leak because it made us look bad but I also think many felt enlightened. The leak gave us a chance to spy on our government and critique them. Without that leak, we may have never found proof of such actions.


  3. I think this topic was especially really interesting to see how American students versus Chinese students thought about surveillance differently. You raised good questions like “If the surveillance system does not exist, then how to prevent damage from terrorism? If exerting surveillance, then who can control the power and how to protect privacy?” I don’t think most Americans would ask this, because we value our privacy too much and are more concerned about who is watching us, not who is watching terrorists. I think that’s why when you day that you think “one mistake that American government make is that the PRISM program is secretly operated without agreement from the people,” it is because the government knows Americans would never concede to such programs.


  4. Lin'ao Li says:

    As you referred in your article, “from the leak of Snowden, China has also been a major surveillance target”, while at the same time, the US government believe that Chinese government is also regard US as at least one of the biggest surveillance targets. I had a trip to FBI museum in Washington DC this summer, and there was a part of cyberattacks, it said that there were only to kinds of big corporations in America, those who have been monitored by the Chinese and those who don’t know they have been monitored by Chinese. Therefore, in my own perspective, Chinese government always know US government surveillance because it was an open secret for governments (of course, maybe it was the first time for most Chinese people heard about that). The Snowden case gave the Chinese government a chance that could put this thing on the desk and built up some plans openly.


  5. zuowangblog says:

    I agree with the idea that in China, the government surveillance is probably a public secret (or I would say a shared awareness). To be honest, I am kind of dislike that, because I think the surveillance is a bit over, at least I am not free at all to express political opinions on social media like Weibo. Though it is true that we are actually need that kind of surveillance in many cases to guarantee the social safety, but the lack of freedom of speech was just enforced too much, and without even a clear law or policy. Words and statements would somehow be moved out in many cases. I think it would be better the Chinese government conduct a clear announcement or policy to set up rules of surveillance. In the case of NSA targeting China, it is a surveillance across the world. And I would agree that the Snowden leak would therefore help build the awareness of privacy among Chinese.


  6. Good post. It’s true that the secrecy of PRISM is a large part of what offended Americans when they learned about it. As you said, in China, people always knew the government is watching. In the U.S., until Snowden, most people didn’t know.


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