Spread the word
Pleasant Good Day to All,
It was unfortunate that during the recently concluded debate on the Strategic Services Agency (Amendment) Bill 2016, there was not more consideration of these measures being implemented in a post-Snowden era.
I am sure many persons would be aware of the contribution that Edward Snowden made to the world of international surveillance, whether they agree with his actions or not, and while there was extensive debate on the terms and conditions regarding the usage of the information being collected by the SSA, the discussions overlooked the methods used in the acquisition process, that is steadily becoming more difficult for similar agencies around the globe.
When it was first discovered that the USA National Security Agency had secretly been collecting confidential customer information from private enterprises, including telecom, social media and software developers, steps were immediately implemented by the affected companies in an effort to increase their security to regain the trust of their clients.
At the forefront of that has been Apple Inc, who only recently denied the request of the USA Federal Bureau of Investigation to unlock the confiscated iPhone of a person who was alleged to be part of a team of terrorists who shot and killed fourteen persons in California.
Despite the fact that the FBI had obtained a court order that instructed Apple to write new software for the phone that would allow the FBI to access information stored within it, Apple chose to oppose the writ, citing that any workaround for their advanced security system would enable the FBI to crack their phones in the future, and thereby compromise their customer’s privacy.
While this matter was eventually abandoned after the FBI discovered a third-party alternative to open the phone, another trial in the state of New York brought against Apple by the USA Department of Justice was occurring almost concurrently, and judgement of this case was eventually handed down in Apple’s favor. In delivering his ruling Magistrate James Ornstein stated that “It would be absurd to posit that the authority the government sought was anything other than obnoxious to the law“.
The matter has been appealed by the USA Department of Justice, however, it was revealed that this was one of nine other similar matters brought against Apple, who have yet to witness a judgement ruled against them.
Further to this, the popular instant messaging application, WhatsApp, also recently increased the security features on their platform to enable end-to-end encryption, which essentially means that it is near impossible for anyone other than those who are communicating to capture and decrypt their messages.
We all remember the two years that it took for the police to investigate the bogus emailgate allegations that were brought against the former People’s Partnership administration, and the court order that was necessary to instruct Google to release the information regarding the accounts of those who were eventually found to be wrongfully accused.
Had that same scenario occurred today however, and rather than an “email” printout we had the screenshot of a WhatsApp conversation, such measures would have been rendered pointless as not even the employees of WhatsApp Inc are able to access the conversation records of their clients.
This is all to say, the conversation of whether we needed the SSA or not is now irrelevant since the debate has ended in its favor, but where we go from here is still uncharted. While the government has their plan to use technology in the surveillance of criminals, the backlash of the Edward Snowden incident has created a scenario where corporations are now providing their customers with security that not only protects their privacy and rights in everyday use, but also in criminal investigations and lawsuits. So whereas the debate in Parliament dealt with whether the government should have the ability to gather this information, the question should have been whether or not the government will be able to, since technology is making the SSA unnecessary and ineffectual before they even begin.