Was reading an article in today’s “The Hindu” – “Through the PRISM, Big Brother is watching”. This article talks about how USA’s National Security Agency, in the name of surveillance and backed by some US law through a programme called “PRISM”, have direct access to servers of all big companies – Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, AOL etc, as reported by “The Guardian” also. As per the article, it all started from Microsoft, who says – “Your privacy is Our priority”, in April, 2007 to Apple as latest company to join the programme in October, 2012. Now, Dropbox can also be included in the programme. Google, Yahoo, Facebook etc. are also included in the programme. With direct access to servers, NSA can access any kind of stored data as well as real-time data – be it email contents, voice and video chat, photos, documents, search history or file transfers involving any person outside USA. Article reports that almost 2000 reports are issued every month by NSA. Now, on seeing and reading this, some questions arise in the mind:
1. Does USA have moral and legal right to access the data not pertaining to a US citizen?
2. Why these top companies who project themselves as protectors of free speech, make huge claims of protecting user’s privacy first, are involved in secret programme like this?
3. Are these companies under pressure of government in the name of law and security? If yes and they are compromising a user’s privacy, then why such huge claims about protection of user’s privacy and data?
4. Of course, senators are concerned and companies are also issuing the statement. See here. But the most important question need to be asked is – Does our (users’) privacy really matters (for these companies)?
In past also, continuous concerns have been raised over the approach of these companies towards the protection of privacy and user data – be it Google, Facebook or any other company. Sometimes, our data is sold to advertisers to increase revenue, sometimes our privacy is breached in name of better the user experience etc.
In India also, concerns are raised about the government’s intent on spying the users’ online activities and data. And, some acts of government and authorities in recent past have also fuelled the perception that they want to curb freedom of speech. We all know that how our privacy is breached by telecom companies in India despite the efforts of regulatory bodies. We are constant victims of pesky calls and smses.
What I think is that all these big and top companies whether Internet or telecom are least interested in protecting our privacy and data. For them, we only exist as commodities that can be sold and bought. It is only us who can protect our privacy and data. It is very much necessary and required to think twice before sharing any kind of personal and important information or document on Internet or social networking sites.