The pervasive global spying that the NSA was found to be doing goes beyond what Americans and people around the world thought reasonable. Edward Snowden, the whistle blower who revealed the details of how this spying operation works should be praised for raising awareness and hopefully pardoned. If you have time to spend on this matter I recommend watching this video by privacy platform Tor co-founder Jake Applebaum who, theatrics aside, explains what Snowden exposed in great detail.

But now that we know a lot about exactly how the NSA spies, we also know that if we use OpenPGP and tools like Tails we can not be spied upon. So far I see a lot of people complaining about the NSA but few adopting OpenPGP. It is easy to install in your Mac or PC for example. And there are Chrome and Firefox extensions for it that allow you to use encryption on Web mail. Whatever people may say about encryption, encryption works and not even the NSA can crack it. Encryption does for your communications what Bitcoin does for your money.  It makes sure it stays your own. So if we want privacy, we can have it.

nsaFaced with this reality today at work I decided to ask that we use OpenPGP as an option at the company that I manage Fon.  Fon is the largest WiFi network in the world and as such a key component of world connectivity.   I did this because we work with telco partners around the world, many of which are very concerned about the NSA and US spying in general. Spying has been around forever but what Snowden revealed is how easy it is for the US to tap into the core of the global Internet, and to keep records of all global communications by forcing US companies to collaborate. OpenPGP is something we are implementing so telco partners can, if they want to, have encrypted safe communications with us at Fon.

The image of the USA as a trusted ally was at an all time high with Clinton, but was greatly hurt by the post 911 overreaction of Bush invading Iraq in search of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Afterwards his policies vis a vis torture, kidnapping of suspects to Guantanamo, use of drones, targeted killings of suspects, air bombing of villages of suspected terrorists, made the rest of the world see a side of the USA they did not like. And this deteriorating image was followed by Obama’s expansion of pervasive spying and the revelations of exactly how this was being done. Also by an even greater use of targeted assassinations and drones. The real backlash inside and outside the USA started when Bradley Manning (now Chelsea) made people aware of abuses in the way the State Department and the US military worked. Especially as these irregularities were published via Wikileaks by top media in the USA, mainly by the New York Times, and around the globe in print and  videos like this one.  And then with Ed Snowden’s revelations we became aware of how exactly we were being spied upon every time we went online.

What happened to the USA can be compared to what happened in a smaller scale with Google and its sky high “do no evil” standard. When you set yourself as being especially good and trustworthy, in the case of the USA as the global champion of human rights, you are held to a higher standard. And just like Google first left China because of spying but then was found collaborating with global spying via the NSA, the US government by its military tactics, torture, drone assassinations and pervasive spying also fell rapidly from grace. And while it is clear to me that most people at Google would prefer a different status quo, it is the US government that needs to change its practices in order for Google and other internet companies to “do no evil”. Fon also must comply with policies we many times don’t like in order to offer WiFi around the world.  Yes, safety is important but so are civil liberties and a right to privacy.

If we had learned that China and Russia had an NSA equivalent which did similar spying, we would have not been taken by surprise. But when in the land of the free every citizen is spied upon, the disappointment is huge. Indeed I believe that history books will look at the post 911 era we live in as they now see McCarthysm. Something to be ashamed of.  As things stand, what I see around in many parts of the USA and the world is a simple request. Can you please give us back the America we use to love?

(Photo source: NYPost)

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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