Upstream Collection

That feeling of someone looking over your shoulder may not be just in your head; the NSA has been has been keeping surveillance on much of the internet for years. Anything from a phone call or a text to using Wikipedia could have been monitored by the government. Upstream Collection — the acquisition of any internet communication — and the NSA have been sued on numerous occasions for violation of rights each resulting in dismissal by the judge (Savage). As the world population becomes more aware of NSA’s surveillance, the internet’s use will shift.

Across the world, anonymity on the internet protects countless individuals allowing them to share their personal experience about sensitive or personal topics without the fear of becoming known. In their article, Jimmy Wales and Lila Tretikov discus the example of the 2011 Aarab revolts where both Egyptian citizens anonymously updated Wikipedia pages to keep the world educated on the situation. They continue to explain that at the time Egyptian government held contact with the CIA which could result in Egyptian Wikipedia contributors to halt their additions (Wales Tretikov). Anonymity is often viewed as a fundamental constitutional right through the fourth amendment’s claim to privacy. But Upstream Collection violates more than just the fourth amendment. In Wikipedia’s lawsuit against the NSA, they also claim that the public’s rights from the first amendment have been breached. The right of freedom of speech, as granted by the first amendment, can have a broad context when associated with the internet.

The internet has been viewed as a median for freely communicating to people and places previously impossible to reach so quickly, often times the communicators seek the animosity of the internet for safety or comfort. The fourth amendment grants the right to this privacy and in association with the first amendment, the right to private, anonymous speech and expression. The NSA believes they are acquiring their information in a legal way by having partners, such as AT&T, doing the work for them “using the selectors (and in some cases the equipment) the government supplied, and forwarding only those messages the NSA has legal authority to collect” (Savage). As Charlie Savage continues to explain, this doesn’t excuse the NSA because the linked partners are acting on the orders of the NSA and “then they are effectively N.S.A. agents at that moments and the Fourth Amendment still applies” (Savage).

Upstream Collection is unconstitutional but also threatens international civilian relationships because of the implications of spies intercepting international communications in order to “protect.” The possible future effects if the collection continues can lead to millions of internet users halting their use, specifically Wikipedia users discontinuing their contributions.

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