In 2013 Edward Snowden copied and leaked thousands of classified documents revealing information about National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance of Americans and people all over the world. The Guardian and The Washington Post then published stories based on the classified information.
Similar to the Pentagon Papers, the Snowden revelations resulted in an espionage case against being brought against him as the whistleblower, a clash between national security values and the First Amendment and a heated debate about the ethics of publishing classified information. The Snowden revelations, however, did not result in a mass movement against government surveillance.
Why doesn’t the public have a stronger reaction when it comes to government surveillance?
On the one hand, many people feel there is a trade off between national security and individual privacy. It is also possible that the public accepts the idea that their actions online are surveilled. For the generations of people who grew up having access to the internet, the idea that their online actions are not private is somewhat expected. There are mixed views on data surveillance.
Most people I know don’t seem to care about government surveillance of phone calls or emails, because they assume they will never be put in a position where the content of their communication puts them in danger. They also feel helpless to change anything about it. NSA surveillance has even become a comedic topic on social media. Others value their privacy in emails, phone calls and texts and see government surveillance as a significant violation and a slippery slope to other government oversteps.
While the public is split on this issue, there are a several issues where government surveillance needs to be considered.
Journalism After Snowden discusses the questions facing journalists today regarding secure communications between confidential sources. Journalists have to be able to safely communicate with sources without fear of criminal hacking or being surveilled by the government.
Journalists cannot do their job of checking the government and exposing misconduct and corruption without the help of whistleblowers and protected sources.