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The Five Eyes are watching you!

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Kawela Mule's picture

Every time I use the internet, I sit there paranoid thinking...they could be watching me; the five eyes are watching me! Scary thoughts ran through my mind after attending a seminar at my university (Rhodes University) about Cyber Security and Digital Surveillance by guest lecturer Mindy McAdams. I kept questioning how ‘safe’ I am on the internet. Apparently those of us who care are a minority.

June 2013 encouraged people to reconsider their privacy on the net after Edward Snowden disclosed top secret National Security Agency (NSA) documents that, in a nutshell, exposed how America employs mass surveillance.
 
Mass Surveillance

Mass surveillance is a strategy used generally by governments to inspect substantial amounts of their populations private information. It is implemented for national security reasons; to track terrorism, child pornography and prevent social unrest. However, it appears that mass surveillance is being abused by governments, jeopardising the right to privacy that online users have.

The Five Eyes or FVEY is an alliance of intelligence operations that have the ability to intercept communication traffic over various parts of the world. The countries that fall under this banner are the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Previously, this was a partnership formed to intercept communication during World War II but is now used for spying on average citizens in the digital age. According to an image provided by Sniffmap, 60% of the communication traffic is intercepted by countries of the Five Eyes. When looking at such figures one tends to question their right to privacy because this idea is constantly being transformed.

 
sniffmap.telcomap.org
 
McAdams mentioned the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which was introduced in the U.S last year. This acts states that the government does not have to notify the user if a company is to hand over their private information to them. This act does not hold the company liable for passing on private information if done in “good faith”. A user can be unaware that their private information has been handed over to the government because they do not have to tell them.
This suggests that there are no secrets between citizens and the government. Your medical and financial records, calls, text messages and emails can be accessed by the government. Considering a country like South Africa, there is plenty potential for full mass surveillance when you scrutinise the communication act that they have in place.
 
Surveillance in South Africa
 
The Regulation of Communications and Provision of Communication Related-Information Act (RICA), encourages everyone residing in the country to put an identity to their mobile SIM card and register it. Providing information such as your identification documents and residential address makes one vulnerable to the government. The General Intelligence Laws Amendment Act, signed in 2013, allows the S.A government to spy on you if need be it so.
 
What about your privacy?
When considering all this preceding information, it is clear that an individual’s privacy is in jeopardy in this digital age. The information shadow you leave behind, such as your phone number on communication platforms like Skype, Whatsapp or even Gmail, can easily be accessed by governments who want your private information. Making areas you thought safe, wide one open for investigation. In all this, I managed to find a slight glimmer of hope in this ‘Rest the Net’ day movement.
 

Reset the Net was formed by a coalition of civil liberties groups and tech companies against mass surveillance and NSA spying. They encourage freedom of speech and the right to privacy by encouraging netizens to pledge their freedom against government mass surveillance and take pack their privacy, according to their site. They promote the use of end-to-end encryption and the use of better layers of security. Those involved will implement safer and more secure/private ways to use the internet to protect their information. This day is scheduled to happen on June 5, 2014 marking a year since NSA files disclosure.