Whining on the Internet Will Not Stop the NSA From Reading Your Email, But These Four Steps Will

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There’s no easy way to say this, so let me be blunt: The NSA does not care that netizens are upset about privacy invasion.

They likely also don’t care that the weather is a greater threat than terrorism, or that just about every international relations scholar thinks that the War on Terror is a waste of time and resources. They don’t care that their domestic surveillance work is largely meaningless in combatting terrorism.

A monitored citizenry is easier to supervise. Do not think for a second that what they are doing is anything less than domestic control.

The NSA is so crass in their ambivalence to public opinion that they have started to put final touches on its biggest data farm yet. NPR reports:

The Utah Data Center is a data farm that will begin harvesting emails, phone records, text messages and other electronic data in September … The estimated power of those computing resources in Utah is so massive it requires use of a little-known unit of storage space: the zettabyte. Cisco quantifies a zettabyte as the amount of data that would fill 250 billion DVDs. The NSA’s Utah Data Center will be able to handle and process five zettabytes of data.

(Emphasis mine.)

After Snowden’s story released, it was hard not to know about the NSA scandal. Memes are everywhere and stories are on almost every major news site. Facebook pages have been started, Twitter fires have arose. There’s even a petition with over 50,000 signatures to pardon Snowden on the White House website. The Internet community is mad as hell about the NSA’s actions. Why isn’t anyone in Washington listening?

Welcome to slacktivism. In essence, social media has deluded the public into the belief that they can be activists behind a computer screen.

We have to stop thinking that Reddit comments, Facebook likes, online petitions, and 140 character tweets are going to change anything. We also have to stop thinking that there isn’t anything that we can do.

Across the country, businesses and activists are taking legal action against the NSA. If you’re serious about fighting privacy invasion, here are four steps you can take:

1. Join or Donate to EFF

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is fighting for liberty in Jewel vs NSA as representatives of those subjected to NSA investigations. They describe the lawsuit as “seeking to stop the warrantless wiretapping and hold the government and government officials behind the program accountable.” You can donate or become a member here.

2. Support the ACLU’s Lawsuit

No matter what your opinion is of the ACLU in general, it’s right on this issue. It’s fighting for Internet freedom in a recent lawsuit aiming to hold Director of National Intelligence James Clapper—and a whole slew of other people—accountable for the US surveillance complex. In ACLU v Clapper, the ACLU is using the first amendment to fight the laws protecting the NSA. Want to help them? Start here and then donate.

3. Be a Part of Rand Paul’s Class Action Suit

Rand Paul is seeking people to file a class action lawsuit against the NSA, and is willing to take it all the way up to the Supreme Court. He also introduced new legislation last Friday called the “Fourth Amendment Restoration Act,” which would require the federal government to obtain a warrant before searching phone records.

While it’s not immediately apparent how to join the suit, you can always start by donating and…

4. Call Your Congressperson

As much as we joke about Congress’ incompetence, this time it really matters. You’re not alone; Mozilla is coordinating over 100 different groups and individuals, including American Library Association, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Greenpeace, the Internet Archive, MoveOn.org, and the National Coalition Against Censorship, to work with Congress to stop NSA surveillance. Your voice will be heard. Go to StopWatching.Us to join Mozilla’s fight and donate. Then, find your representative and give them a call.

The NSA scandal will not be the last time we have to fight against the government for our privacy. Luckily, there are avenues—real avenues—to fighting for our privacy. Take real action. Don’t forget: the NSA doesn’t give two dimes that you’re upset. Make them care.

  • http://www.clichegames.com Anthony

    This is all fantastic advice, especially the first 2

  • Noah

    Great article. Thanks for focusing on actions people can take beyond expressions of contempt.

    “Do not think for a second that what they are doing is anything less than domestic control.contempt.”

    Can you explain this a bit more? You suggested in the next paragraph that the NSA expressed ambivalence toward public outrage. That explains perhaps the psychological mechanism behind the NSA’s actions, giving insight into opportunity, but not motive.

    Without evidence, it doesn’t really seem fair/reasonable to claim that the motive for this was to create a social control mechanism, especially when there is evidence–if not a logical imperative–of a much simpler explanation–prevention of terrorist attacks (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2013/06/2013612201112886516.html).

    Telling the reader what not question without evidence or argument seems much more directly controlling/coercive of readers’ minds by fear and suspicion than what the NSA did, so can you explain and cite how this was a domestic control attempt, as opposed to a legitimate anti-terrorism action?

    Understanding is the enemy of fear. As a writer, if you want to take the next step beyond your capacity as a private citizen to call your congressperson and donate to EFF, use your skills to support your explanations to help others understand the world. This is how one combats the rampant, almost hysterical fear on the Internet that you derided. You have done well–keep it up.

  • Matt

    Lobbying is just an advanced form of whining; if you want real privacy, learn to use the right tools: https://tails.boum.org/

    • http://www.clichegames.com Anthony

      It’s more then an advanced form of whining, its how policies and laws get made in America. Tails and tor are options that are going to be beyond the average person.