Ng: Government snooping

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Thursday, January 30, 2014


THIRTY years ago the Apple Macintosh was introduced as the alternative to the IBM PC. One of the most memorable ads in history was aired to launch the Apple. This ad was known by its name 1984 and it came from the book of George Orwell which says that Big Brother (the government) is using computers to watch and see everything that you do.

Fast forward today and it looks like this specter of science fiction by Orwell is becoming true. This is partly due to the testimonials of Edward Snowden, an American contractor doing jobs for the National Security Administration. In his testimonies, he told reporters how the United States was reading emails, accessing records or listening to phone conversations of millions of people, including non-Americans, and other government leaders.

This has been hitting the ICT industry very heavily and made a big dent on the computer cloud industry. In the cloud, companies and individuals were supposed to be sold on the idea that they can store their data, like personal files, emails, photos on the ‘cloud’ so that they can access it anywhere. But apparently, this arrangement is problematic because it makes it possible for NSA to snoop. This has resulted in various countries now prohibiting for instance, their banks and government agencies to keep their records inside the country. Of course, now, it is almost a given that government officials are asked not to use public emails providers stored in the US like Google or Hotmail too.

But still that does not solve the problem. Even if you are not storing it in the United States, they still have great technologies to hack and get that, although obviously, your chances would be less than if you put these data on public repositories like Yahoo or Facebook or Amazon. After all, if you have even your own email system, you still need to connect it through the internet, and there are a lot of ways to penetrate internet connections.

For what he has done, Snowden is now a fugitive seeking temporary refuge in Russia.

His actions obviously raised a lot of doubts and probably punctured a few international relationships but the irony now is that two members of Norway’s parliament actually nominated him for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. He was cited for making a “critical” contribution “to restoring the balance between a country’s legitimate need for reliable intelligence to preserve its own security” and the preservation of people’s individual freedom.

This is ironic since for the US government, he presented a grave threat to peace, but nevertheless, it will be sometime before it can be said whether the guy is really a hero or a traitor. The Nobel Peace prize was won by American president Barrack Obama last 2009 and it would be irony if the enemy of Obama would be the winner of the peace prize.

Meanwhile, Lenovo , a Chinese company is flexing its muscle. Within a week, it announced that it bought IBM ‘s X server division, and also Motorola Mobility smartphone business from Google. The Chinese company, now the world’s biggest computer maker, is now making its bets on both servers and mobile phones.

(www.twitter.com/wilsonng)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 31, 2014.

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