Internet! Following the great human inventions – steam engine, electricity and telephone – the internet has carved out a big plot for itself. It can be argued to be the invention that so rapidly tranformed the basic working architecture of the society, in a relatively small time interval. The state of today’s society is that, without internet you are virtually non-existent. You need internet, soemway or the other. From PCOs to seamless video conferencing, from greeting “Good Morning” to our parents after waking up to checking our WhatsApp chats after waking up, choosing where to eat, who would deliver that food to us, choosing where to travel and how-to travel and choosing our life partners, the journey has been an amazing one. We’re spending more time now with our smartphones than with our beloved ones.
It cannot be denied that the internet has become “simpler” to access and use. Despite all these benefits to our lives, we don’t give much thought to the other side of the coin. Every inventions has its disadvantages, the internet has more than its fair share. Everytime a major invention or discovery is made, a mammoth job loss takes place. Every invention inches us closer towards the next big invention. In the last two centuries, several new branches of study have emerged and since evolved. They have infact created more jobs than they have sacked. However, now the answer is not so simple. With Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Automation, Augmented and Virtual Reality growing at a faster-than-expected rate, it is high time that we be aware of the implications it has for the future. We hope that this web series will bring about the awareness required to netizens.
Most scientific invention or technology cannot be described as purely good or purely bad. It is always a mix of these traits in a varied proportion. When the proportion of good is greater, the invention will largely be beneficial. The proportion hugely depends on who controls it or who has control over it. It is worth noting that, though the internet is a worldwide sensation, the major organisations playing a part in the working, control and “betterment” of the internet are usually America-based. In fact, USA paved the way for the creation of the internet. The internet came into existence with the creation of ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) orginally funded by the U.S. Department of Defence. In addition to this, the GPS (Global Positioning System) is an intiative of the Government of the United States. These were all invented for Defence purposes for the U.S. armed forces. As years passed, these were made available to the public. This serves as a major reason as to why the internet giants are America-based. We cannot see much instances of an Army Invention made accessible to the public let alone a defence project. It is made available to the public because it serves their purpose. It is a means of social engineering the public.
In recent times, the internet has been used as a spy tool. Major countries have been spying with “Big Brother” watching us all. The twist is that even Orwell didn’t think that we would voluantarily opt for these methods of spying. Two key people have played an important role in bringing this foul play into limelight.
- Julian Assange
- Edward Snowden
Here are some of the facts exposed by WikiLeaks (Founded by Julian Assange) with data gathered from various whistle blowers around the globe.
- The massive death of civilians during the Iraq war in 2010 was attributed to the US Army. Whenever America is at war with a country ie. 24*7*365, the media acts as the foriegn relations office. Whatever the army wants to be told is set as the agenda, even if it means killing people by the thousands. WikiLeaks revealed several classified information to the public.
- Documents claiming how the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) hacks Samsung Smart TVs around the world and uses them as microphones to mine data.
- The source codes CIA used to hack into literally almost every device connected to the internet including smartphones, smart TVs, computers, servers.
- Documents suggesting that the ISIS/ISIL were creations of the CIA.
- The human rights violations by the USA in Iraq and Afghanistan and several other revelations regarding how the goverment controls people.
- More than 4 million documents have been released. These include many classified documents.
- An important addition is the Clinton email hack which was a list of emails sent and recieved by Hillary Clinton throughout the runup to the 2017 American presidential elections. Hillary Clinton and her supporters say that this was a hack by Russia. Russia, however, denies this. Several critical thinkers have said that the email hack was done by Seth Rich, who was a part of the Clinton campaign. They also had that Hillary knew it was Seth Rich and she had made arrangements to silence him. Interestingly, when Seth Rich died, the policemen who went to the spot did not have any cameras attached to them. It was ruled an accident.
It can be asked if it would be easy to ask “WikiLeaks” about who leaked the emails. As a matter of policy, WikiLeaks does not share the information about its sources.
Assange is now in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, UK. He has been there over 5 years. At the time of writing, US has pressured Ecuador to an extent that Ecuador has hinted that it’s asylum for Assange would not continue for much longer. Several reports suggest that Assange will be extradited to the US.
Assange groups say that he will testify in the United States if he is given the immunity from prosecution. Julian is an Australian citizen by birth. The US has tried to indict him several cases including sexual assault. The Australian public have slowly started supporting Assange despite the media showing him in foul light.
In the lines of whistleblowers, ex-CIA contractor Edward Snowden has made a hue contribution to the society. Realising that the CIA and NSA accumulate several confidential files of people without them knowing it, Snowden leaked several confidential files showing ongoing surveillance programmes sponsored by the state. It was a foul use of the citizens’ money to gather information about them.
It included contracts made between several network carriers, like Verizon, and Intelligence agencies where the carrier would give all the phone calls spoken by and spoken to the user. PRISM is a surveillance program by which the internet tech companies provide the data about their users to Intelligence agencies. The intelligence agencies then use the data accumulated from several such companies and convert them into valuable information, which is then used to spy on citizens.
The PRISM program has given NSA the rights to access every byte of information sent and recieved, not only inside the United States but also any data sent using the services of companies based inside the US. This gives them the right to access personal information about non-US users using the services of companies based in the US. World-wide users of WhatsApp, Facebook, Amazon, Google are a good example. Some companies fight against these programs and do not provide their data to the intelligencen agencies. One such company is the search engine DuckDuckGo which denied to grant NSA the access to their servers. The NSA in return, hacked the servers of the company. It is evident that companies themselves cannot deny the access to their data. Not even the courts dare to ask the intelligence agencies about this. Even if they do, there is not a big upside.
Snowden’s shocking revelations:
- Similar to the U.S.’ PRISM, the United Kingdom has it’s spy program called ‘Tempora’ developed and used by the GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters). It is used by the British Government to spy on the British public. Snowden leaked documents that proved that Tempora was under commission for over 18 months and the data gathered by the program was sent to America’s NSA. Under ‘Tempora’, 200 fiber optic cable networks tranferring 60 crore tele communications everyday were hacked.
- He also leaked documents suggesting that the NSA and GCHQ partnered to spy Italy’s internet usage and tele communications, presumably without their permission. Italian newspapers authored articles confirming the same.
- 60,000 hacking incidents including hacking the world’s top universities, heads of states and countries, companies all round the world have all taken place with the help of NSA’s engineers.
- In addition, Snowden also stated that the agency recorded 20 crore SMSs transferred around the world everyday.
Snowden currently in Russia’s asylum. In the period of many government records, secret agreement and confidential documents being hacked and revealed in the public, an individual’s private information including the conversations that we make with our loved ones, what we speak, hear, see, the things we eat, the things we purchase, the places we go, etc. When some remote intelligence agencies and tech corporations are collecting and spying on all the activities that we do, what kind of world that we live in? What is the nature of the internet which paved the way for this kind of world?
Smartphones, social networks – Twitter, Facebook, payment services – Paytm, Freecharge, Google Pay (Tez), etc. collect our private data without directly telling it to the users. The “Terms and Conditions” section does address these issues but they are written in legalese. It can be confidently said that even lawyers would have a tough job deciding it.
Stay Tuned. We will explore the many ways in which the internet is used as a tool of significant destruction and the ways in which we could be better equipped to safeguard ourselves and limit the effects of it. Till then, Hakuna Matata!
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