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Earlier this week, computer technician Edward Snowden revealed the existence of PRISM, a surveillance program run by the National Security Agency and permitted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.National Security Agency

The program has access to email and phone records and may also have access to video and voice chat, online videos, file transfers, login notifications and social networking.

News Editor Christopher Fox GrahamTo some, PRISM is a flagrant violation of our expectation of privacy online and on the phone tantamount to having government goons sitting in an unmarked van listening to our every move and sifting through our garbage in the middle of the night.

To other Americans, PRISM elicits a shrug and the response, “Of course the government is monitoring phone records and email.”

Liberal and conservative voices are mixed: some condemn the NSA while others said the intrusion is necessary to defend Americans from potential terrorist attacks.

The PRISM program is reportedly not permitted to knowingly spy on American citizens or anyone in the United States. If and how often the provision was accidentally broken or intentionally violated is hard to tell — spies are notoriously quiet about their own secrets.

A majority of Americans seem to think the NSA program isn’t that much of a threat to personal privacy. According to a Washington Post/Pew Research Center Poll conducted earlier this week, 56 percent of respondents said access to telephone call records is an acceptable way for the U.S. government to investigate terrorism. When asked if the U.S. government should intrude on personal privacy to investigate possible terrorist threats, 65 percent of the respondents agreed.

In the wrong hands, the program has the potential for abuse, suppressing dissent and targeting political enemies of the state, but the majority of Americans trust the NSA to protect us and not snoop without cause, according to various news polls.

A Reuters poll on Wednesday, June 12, reveals something interesting about Americans’ views on Snowden: 23 percent of respondents view him as a traitor giving up state secrets while 31 percent see him as a patriot defending American values. A large percentage, 46 percent, haven’t decided whether to view him as the next hero like Daniel Ellsberg or traitor like Aldrich Ames.

It’s hard to view the invasion of privacy as unexpected. Facebook users reveal their relationship status, post personal photographs and “favorite” what web stories they read. Linkedin shows off one’s employment history to virtually anyone, and 2 a.m. Twitter tweets reveal far more than our parents want to know about our personal lives.

I’ve always assumed someone was watching my online activity — I just assumed it was Google for the sake of its advertising analytics.

Knowing that Google also shares that information with Big Brother makes me more apprehensive with what I say online. Only oversight by elected leaders and occasional leaks by whistle-blowers keep our government in line.











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