For Your Eyes Only?


Alyssa Wright

A student texts in the senior area. Could his text be read by the government?

Teenagers and adults rarely hesitate sending their secrets and opinions to their acquaintances through text, email, or phone calls. The lack of hesitation is due to the unquestioned belief that the person on the receiving end of the message is the only person listening in and that the information will not be shared with others. Perhaps the message will not be shared, but can it still be seen by others?

Recently the government has made it clear that it is now legal to collect U.S. citizens’ texts and their phone call data. However, spying on citizens and politicians is not a new idea to Americans. During World War II, the government’s spying escalated in hopes of finding all possible enemies within the United States.

It was not until the 1970’s that laws were passed to help protect the citizens from having their rights violated. Since then, the government has had programs created due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. This tragedy urged then President Bush to start the National Security Agency Program, which was used to illegally receive information on calls, emails, and texts overseas without warrants in hopes of further protecting our country from terrorism.

There are currently programs, such as the Prism Program, that monitor the citizens’ communication via Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Skype, and YouTube. Although still needing a warrant to utilize the acquired information, it does pose a question about an invasion of privacy.

It appears, however, that President Obama has taken these flaws into account as well. He has stated that there will be a change in how the information is obtained and held in the near future. In hopes of making this program appear more helpful in protecting citizens and their rights, the records will no longer be accumulated in one big database. The government will also be revealing more of their plans and actions involving their utilization of personal calls and text data as they proceed to change it. Each year these laws and practices are to be reviewed and changed if necessary.

With these changes underway, can citizens really begin to feel privacy in their communications? Most would agree that it is better to be aware of the policies and understand what the government can and cannot see and hear. However, it is likely that most would also agree that it would be best if the government could find a way to uncover dangerous information without crossing a line.

No one enjoys when a stranger digs through his or her possessions or listens in on a private conversation, whether there is something to hide or not. This does not exclude the government. It is not about hiding information from the government, but rather the desire to maintain given rights of privacy and freedom of speech. In this sense, some will never agree that this is an appropriate means of obtaining information.

As the government continues to challenge its limits without restricting certain freedoms, such as speech and privacy, the controversy will continue to strive as well.