Spying Agencies:AN economic,political and legal analysis.

by JRajotte on May 15, 2015 - 12:26pm

Behind the computer hides an information war. Governments and economic interests are constantly being tested by individuals or international government. In the effort to gather information, every action an individual commits can now be monitored with modern technology. Actions as trivial as taking public transit to using a credit card can all be recorded and stored by various information gathering firms. Some firms even store internet history to understand client’s consumption patterns and tailor advertisements accordingly to browsing habits. Both economic and political interest influence the way this information is being used. The influence of economic and political and the law behind intelligence and corporate information gathering agencies will be explored. The question of the possibility of oversight in governmental agencies will also be discussed.

The current oversight situation in the United States is rather disorganised and non-accountable. In total over 108 agencies are in charge of the oversight of the homeland security department in the United States[1]. In the United States the authority over such agencies is complicated due to the nature of the political system. This system favours disorder or division of authority over the agencies. For example the President and the Congress have claims to intelligence agencies and its bureaucrats[2]. This could relate back to numerous issues where citizen are said to be spied upon by their own government. In the United States this division could explain the low degree of citizen oversight since there are no central agency charged with the matter. The fact that surveillance agency are to a certain degree unaccountable to elected official raises the question of legitimacy. If an agency acts without the oversight of an elected body or citizens it is illegitimate to have it gather information on its own citizens. Although numerous bodies to exist in the United States to monitor agencies, the situation in Canada is rather grim. One agency exist to monitor a certain section of CSIS, while the CSE is only monitored by 11 individuals who have little access to resources and cannot fully monitor the activity of the growing agency.

Industrial espionage is also a great issue when it comes to privacy. Some Industry are heavily reliant on information gathered from consumers. There are companies that gather, analyse and sell information concerning internet browsing habits and other personal information such as geographic location of simply demographic information such as gender and age. This information is then sold to advertisement companies that tailor specific advertisement meant for a certain demographic group. This leads to the view of individuals as a commodity or a source of income for corporations.[3] What becomes threaten is when a piece of information is gathered such as a postal code and is later combined with a name. With only 2 piece of information about an individual companies can find information such as residential address, Facebook profiles and other sensible information about individuals[4]. This information could then be sold to other companies which could use information ranging from sleeping pattern, geographical location to political views. All these factors contribute to the creation of a corporate illusion where individual are exposed to material that can shape ideology or purchasing patterns[5]. This economic approach relates back to the theme of government surveillance since the government has used such technology or has purchased information in order to monitor protest groups in order to control potential trouble related to such group. This was done so in order to avoid potential economic disturbance that such protest could cause if they became widespread. These measure effectively trades freedom of expression of monetary gain.

All these aforementioned measures taken by companies wither for political gain or monetary gain infringes on the freedom of expression, the freedom of press, the freedom of peaceful assembly along with the right to privacy. Such laws that enforced the authority of spying agency was the Patriot Act of 2001 in the United States. This act permits to capture information from emails, such as headers but not the content of the email itself[6]. However, after capturing the data from a few emails the interest of individual and other private information can be deducted from this information. Due to the legislation (laws) being not adapted to recent technology important gaps in privacy exist. For example according to the patriotic act any information such as title or subject, to who and from  who an email is sent is not considered to be protected by the law, this leaves individual vulnerable. In some cases emails sent over the internet are expected to also be considered as being reasonably private, making the actual content available to authority without legal repercussion[7]. This can create issues in understanding the law. Another issue concerning privacy and legality is the one of URL. URLs are the website names, these website name that individuals consult can be stored by intelligence agencies. However the content of the website cannot be accessed legal[8]. None the less an URL could be used to determine sensible information, for example if an individual would go to a website seeking medical advice, the government could deduct that this individual has a health issue. The aforementioned issue was also explored in some of the newsactivist work. This issue relates to the activities conducted by the Canadian spy agencies. They essentially have the same approach to information gathering as their American counter part and exchange some of the information that it would otherwise be unable to be obtained as it is protected by law. By exchanging information both countries are using a loop hole in the law to gather information on its own citizens.

The use of investigative technology may be to some degrees intimidating, however they do serve their purpose of protecting individual and states interests. Without such agencies our communications could be vulnerable to thousands of individuals and foreign governments which share a less democratic approach to governance. Cyber predators and other criminal activity such as fraud would remain unpunished. I could be concluded that although essential government agencies need to have a democratic and legitimate way of assuring oversight. In today’s world one cannot be enough vigilant with what is posted online. With all the information moving around, one could say that this is an epoch of misinformation.

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Clinton, Joshua D., David E. Lewis, and Jennifer L. Selin, 2014. “Influencing the Bureaucracy: The Irony of Congressional Oversight.” American Journal Of Political Science 58, no. 2: 387-401. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost.

 

 

Finn, Rachel,L. and Kush Wadhwa. "The Ethics of "Smart" Advertising and Regulatory Initiatives in the Consumer Intelligence Industry." Info : The Journal of Policy, Regulation and Strategy for Telecommunications, Information and Media 16, no. 3 (2014): 22.

 

Kerr, Orin S. "Internet Surveillance Law After the USA Patriot Act: The Big Brother that Isn't." Northwestern University Law Review 97.2 (2003): 607-73. ProQuest. Web. 2 May 2015.

 

 

 



[1] Clinton, Joshua D., David E. Lewis, and Jennifer L. Selin, 2014. “Influencing the Bureaucracy: The Irony of Congressional Oversight.” American Journal Of Political Science 58, no. 2: 387-401. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost

[2] Ibid.

[3] Finn, Rachel,L. and Kush Wadhwa. "The Ethics of "Smart" Advertising and Regulatory Initiatives in the Consumer Intelligence Industry." Info : The Journal of Policy, Regulation and Strategy for Telecommunications, Information and Media 16, no. 3 (2014): 22.

[4] Ibid.

[5] ibid

[6] Kerr, Orin S. "Internet Surveillance Law After the USA Patriot Act: The Big Brother that Isn't." Northwestern University Law Review 97.2 (2003): 607-73. ProQuest. Web. 2 May 2015.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

 

Comments

A very interesting topic and one that is very controversial at times but very present in today's society. There is a very fine line that exists between the government wanting to keep its citizen's safe and it crossing a privacy line. People are entitled to be able to live their life without always wondering who is watching them or how someone is watching them. However, it is true that the government's responsibility is to keep the entire population safe and sometimes in order to do so they need to keep an eye on certain people. I agree with you that the use of technology when it comes to investigating can sometimes be intimidating for people but its purpose is quite clear: looking out for a state's interest. Overall, a well developed topic and very nice piece of writing.