Week 15 News Digest

Facebook Launches Simplified Terms and Conditions

December 4th, 2014


There have been a lot of issues with users agreeing to terms and conditions on social media websites without fully understanding, or reading, what they are agreeing to. To try and fix this, and bring down the level of complaints, Facebook has decided to “simplify” it’s terms and conditions for its users. The website now breaks down terms of use for all users and shows them how to change their privacy settings right off the bat. This has been needed for a long time, the long terms of use filled with information that a lot of people just don’t understand has caused a lot of problems on all social media websites, not just Facebook. Facebook taking this step forward will hopefully set an example to other social media websites in transparency, telling its users exactly what they are signing up for. The new agreement has been shortened, informing users of advertisements and what they refer to as “Privacy Basics”.


Baltimore Police Use of Invasive Surveillance Technology

November 29th, 2014


In a pending case in Baltimore, police had been found to be obtaining information illegally.  It has been recorded that they had used a “stringray” which is a type of phone tracker, to track down the perp’s phone and later their home without a warrant allowing them to do so. They did have a court order, however the order did not allow them to obtain the information the way they did. The American Civil Liberties Union has called out this police department, saying they are using invasive surveillance technology that violates our forth amendment. Citizens within Baltimore have expressed that they don’t have a problem with what they are using this information to do, but it is how they get this information that is concerning, especially since some went far enough to say that there were bad cops in this department that they wouldn’t feel comfortable with having them use their information.


Surveillance Systems Are Getting Smarter 

November 30th, 2014


A lot of people are not okay with the use of surveillance in today’s society along with the loss of privacy that has come with it, but some would say that we should accept it in stride and use this for the greater good. Jenq-Neng Hwang and his team of electrical engineers have made a new study, making security cameras a lot more effective and useful than they are now. They have created surveillance systems that can pick out individuals and follow them in the public, switching from camera to camera to track that person’s path. This is obviously beneficial to our society. Now, instead of people having to stare at screens, trying to find that certain individual on multiple screens to navigate the path of the criminal, the cameras do it for us. Not only does that save our police department’s time but man power, too.


Obama Requests Funding for Body Cameras on Police Officers

December 1st, 2014


In light of the events of Ferguson that has been happening within the past months, Obama has taken a step towards solving the “He Said/She Said” ways of cases against officers, asking for $250 million dollars in funding towards body cameras for police officers along with training. This can be seen as a step in the right direction according to some people. This program that Obama is asking for would pay for more than 50,000 devices for police officers across the nation. But, the question is will this actually solve the problem?


Sony Gets Hacked, Films Released Along With Other Private Information

December 4th, 2014


On Wednesday, Sony was hit by hackers that had leaked several finished films along with confidential documents and private information from thousands of their employees from multiple places throughout the nation. The company is trying to figure out who exactly the hackers are and where they are, but have only received the information given by the hackers themselves. When employees had tried to log into their computers, they received a picture of a skeleton along with the message “Hacked by #GOP”. The hackers call themselves the Guardians of Peace. They only other lead they have found is that the language found in the malware the hackers had used had been Korean, but that data could be fake.

Snowden: Hero or Criminal?

Edward Snowden had been working for the government, both NSA (National Security Agency) and CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), for just a short amount of time before he decided to make a decision that would change his life forever. Starting off as a security guard at the NSA, he somehow graduated to working an information-technology job at the CIA. While working at an NSA office in Oahu, Snowden then began to notice programs within the government that involved spying on citizens’ phone calls and emails. This seemed to have rubbed him the wrong way.

It wasn’t long after that that he began copying and storing confidential government documents to gather the data for the case he was building. He was preparing to reveal all the secrets of the government that took him in and offered him a way to support himself. It wasn’t until a month later, after he had collected as many confidential files as possible, that Snowden had begun leaking that information to the many reporters surrounding the NSA. He began to discuss his opinions publicly with these same reporters and this is what may have lead to his asylum in Russia. “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”. While Snowden shares his reasoning openly, stating that he did it for the sake of the American citizens, it is hard to tell just how heroic his actions really were. While some will say that Snowden was a hero that informed American citizens that the government had been spying on them, personally, some would have to argue that because of the way he had informed citizens and the harsh outcomes that have happened before can categorize him as a criminal.


Even though he believed that was he was doing was for the well being of the people of America, he caused more damage than he could have imagined. By revealing the fact that the NSA was invading the privacy of the citizens, he ended up ruining most of the security that was already in place. “First, there is the undeniable operational effect of informing adversaries of American intelligence’s tactics, techniques and procedures. Snowden’s disclosures go beyond the ‘”what” of a particular secret or source. He is busily revealing the ‘”how” of American collection.” By bringing this heightened awareness to the situation at hand, Snowden made it easier for the real criminals out there to commit their crimes of choice. He ultimately presented them with a warning, as well as the exact way they are being watched. This gave the real terrorists a way around the NSA so they could easily adapt and find new ways to hack into our governments system. In doing this, Snowden announced to other countries how  the security systems in the United States are running, which put us at a disadvantage. In the same way the criminals were made aware of how we are securing our citizens privacy, these other countries could find a way to evade the tactics we were practicing and find another way to invade our government.


Snowden was affected in a way most other NSA employees were not. Due to his own personal morals, he believed that he was righting a wrong in our government and security system. Although a lot of the citizens benefited from this announcement, Snowden was aiming to please himself and satisfy his own moral code. By saying this, it is not stating that what he did was not moral, but that Snowden could have thought of ways to get this information out and handling this information besides the way he had. Some could say that Snowden releasing this information benefitted them greatly to be more aware with what our government is doing involving us personally, but it was immoral in the fact that perhaps the nation did not need to know every detail of this situation. Snowden could have found a way to share this information without making it so public as to be also sharing this information with outsiders to our country. While it seems as though it is for the better good of the nation, it did more harm than good.

“The American government, and its democracy, are flawed institutions. But our system offers legal options to disgruntled government employees and contractors. They can take advantage of federal whistle-blower laws; they can bring their complaints to Congress; they can try to protest within the institutions where they work. But Snowden did none of this. Instead, in an act that speaks more to his ego than his conscience, he threw the secrets he knew up in the air—and trusted, somehow, that good would come of it.”

Edward Snowden made what appeared to be an easy solution to a very complicated problem. By deciding to break the law and out the government, he made a rash decision. There were other ways he could have gone about this as mentioned in the quote earlier. He signed a contract with the NSA, stating that he would not share what he saw or did to the public, and he broke that contract. Snowden knew what he was signing up for. He knew what the NSA did and the fact that the first thing that bothered him, he decided to breach his contract and break the law, sharing the information he gathered with the first people to give him a chance.

“We’re not prepared to endorse that campaign, and we’re not even sure that Snowden qualifies as a whistle-blower in the strict sense of someone who discloses government information in order to expose illegal activity. The two surveillance programs he was apparently responsible for revealing — an electronic dragnet of Americans’ phone records and the monitoring of the contents of foreigners’ electronic communications — are legal, authorized by Congress and overseen (however indulgently) by federal judges.”

By releasing all of the information he had obtained to do what he thought of as the right thing to do, Snowden ended up causing more harm than he may have intended. Even though he came off as having the right intentions, he isn’t the hero he is made out to be. In the end he broke the law and caused the nation trouble, even if the citizens don’t realize it. There’s a fine line between security and spying. Our government is here to keep us safe and although it might have seemed like the right thing for Snowden to do, there is much more to it than invading the privacy of the citizens of the United States.