Editorial: Government’s Control OF Technology


Onovu Otitigbe-Dangerfield, Co-Editor-in-Chief

*The views and opinions expressed in the following piece are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Nest or Albany High School.*

Beware! Of what though?

In years past that statement could have alluded to a rabid dog or a dangerous perpetrator. Unfortunately, another culprit has made the list. Our very own government. In 21st century America, we deal with a modernized social justice issue, that of government manipulation of our technology. From social media platforms to artificial intelligence aids to drones, individuals have begun to realize the detrimental effects on civilian rights breached by those in power. 

Technology has the ability to serve as a tool to combat cybercrime and surveillance of possible threats to our society, as well as facilitate information to the general public. In spite of the possible positive uses of this powerful tool, the government’s manipulation of it prevails as a social justice issue due to its misuse of government oriented, internet and communication technology as well as its constant distribution of propaganda utilizing media outlets.

The government’s manipulation of technology that is oriented for purposes pertaining to the military and government-affiliated organizations, without reprimand proves to be a social justice issue within itself. According to the NSA, “The government has retained images of identifiable people using drones.”(NSA Organization) This information accounts for the increased security enabled with government based technology that go unnoticed by a majority of the population. Granted, in the process of solving heinous crimes that involved large crowds or the need to have knowledge of something as trivial as the last show a dangerous criminal watched, it is argued that such use is warranted. However, when we speak about our own front yard, the United States, surely there must be laws put in place that limits the authorities from utilizing these tools for specific unlawful purposes. Well, to societies surprise ACLU provides clarity on the current stance over such violations. According to the laws set by our legislative body, “Patriot Act violations allow the government to gain access to medical records, tax records and more without probable cause”(aclu.gov) This is mind-boggling, as it demonstrates the laws protection of not the people but the institution of the government enabling such actions to be carried out without any reprimand. Furthermore, according to Jake Laperruque and David Janovsky,“Aerial surveillance and the broad use of drones threaten to undermine the progress made in recent years to prevent unreasonable location tracking and government stockpiling of sensitive, personal information” (Laperruque and Janovsky, 3). With the increased surveillance using equipment intended for the monitor of threats, accompanied by the protection of the government under the law, an unending spiral of privacy encroachment continues to occur with the lack of accountability.

The government has also been cited on multiple occasions manipulating internet and communication technology, a majority of the time without the consent or knowledge of innocent civilians. The NSA domestic spying program was implemented post 9/11, in good reason, but since then has leaked a massive amount of information pertaining to the personal data of civilians.   

As previously mentioned these actions go highly unnoticed. Amnesty USA provided statistical evidence corroborating this stating that “More than 70 % of respondents worldwide are strongly opposed to the US government monitoring their internet use” (amnestyusa.org). There have even been suspicions that artificial intelligence sources such as Siri and Alexa have listening devices installed that are connected to organizations such as the NSA or the CIA.

Although such technology can combat cyber-crime issues and aid in the process of investigating suspects, private data also has the ability to target journalists, persecute activists and suppress what is supposed to be our natural right to freedom of speech.

Furthermore, the government has taken advantage of media outlets including our daily encounters on social media to the six o’clock news,in a shameful way distributing constant propaganda. The EFE has confirmed that the “Government has contributed to its seventh consecutive year of decline in internet freedom, playing an important role in the elections of 18 countries” (EFE). This is alarming, especially because in a place where media freedoms are granted they are being used to sway the opinion of the general public. 

The further unfortunate aspect of this technology is the fact that it is being used to promote anti-democratic agendas as well as the fact that this CRIME is incredibly difficult to detect and combat due to the sheer abundance of individuals and bots deployed to carry out these actions.

Many may say that these claims while supported with extensive research are an issue that sees no end in sight. This interpretation is easily developed by how integral technology is in our daily lives. Others could also argue that the government’s positive uses of these sources of technology outweigh any infringements on our natural right to privacy and honesty from what we deem our defense and advocate for our voices. The mission statement of the NSA express that their “primary mission is foreign intelligence and protecting US government systems against intrusion.” (NSA Organization)

 This allows the government to protect the general public from possible terrorist attacks. All of these reasons make the pros column when it comes to the government’s manipulation of our technology, but the line should be drawn when it stops being for the greater good and as a means to unnecessarily invade our natural rights, obtain privatized information, and advance individuals from a political standpoint.

Ultimately, it is clear that the government has been successful in manipulating military, internet, and communication technology and media outlets at their leisure having no obligation to the law. So, why should you care? It might seem as though while this is a good cause it is an irrelevant topic to discuss seeing how minimal your impact could be on such a charged issue. However, that mentality is incorrect. It is possible for us to play minor roles, taking the world one step closer to attacking this crucial issue by first off, increasing awareness. You have the ability to protect yourself online as there are a wide array of sources such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Access, who provide useful tips we can adopt to avoid surveillance issues. But what about military aids and propaganda, that seems pretty inescapable. The EFF is making efforts to fight such illegal activities in court. The revisions of laws such as the Patriot Act will redraw the line between what is protective and plainly illegal. It is our job as the future of tomorrow to work in these legal systems, protest, and advocate for accountability to be taken and for changes to be made. The choice is yours.