Many people believe that the US Constitution guarantees a right to privacy. While there is no inherent right in this document, many believe the Bill of Rights contains amendments that protect specific aspects of privacy, such as unreasonable searches. Legal scholars, attorneys and judges have argued and will continue to argue if people inherently have a right to privacy as codified in law.
The continuing story on the NSA’s Prism program is raising a lot of questions about what we can expect to keep private. The program itself was designed to enable the US government to gather information on terrorism and other threats to the United States. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Patriot Act, metadata can be gathered at any time, for any reason, without subpoena, and without suspicion of any crime. If an investigative body finds information that they deem interesting, and can claim it might be related to international terrorism or spying, they can then get a court order without showing any additional probable cause. That doesn’t mean reading your documents, but the Prism program may have overstepped this boundary.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales speaking to the Guardian in an interview, said he thought most people would find the Prism revelations “pretty astonishing”. “I would forecast in the long run is that more and more and more services online are going to go to encryption. Not just to make sure the government is not snooping on people, but just for basic security.”
Rather than waiting for your online service to get around to encrypting your data and files, you should do it yourself. Using a file-based security program, you can make sure only authorized people can see the contents of your files. I would rather encrypt and retain control of my own information than trusting my service provider to do it.
Whether you believe that governments are maliciously spying on its citizens or not, it’s better to protect your privacy by encrypting your own files. This keeps you in control. You decide when and with whom you share your information, not a nameless person or agency.
Photo credit ElizaC3