Opening Other People’s Mail

The Guardian has reported that America’s National Security Agency has a secret program which enables it to trawl through computers holding our emails, on line chats and browsing histories without getting our permission or without getting a search warrant. This was one of the matters revealed by Edward Snowden.

I feel perturbed by this. It is no different from opening the mail of another. I do not think that anyone would put a letter into the post knowing that it would be opened and copied in the course of the mail, and I do not see why the mail services should be any different from the internet services.

It is easy to get used to being spied on. In a benign nation we are less concerned about this than we are in dictatorships, but benign nations have a nasty habit of turning into dictatorships and even elected servants become overblown with thoughts of their own righteousness, which is their justification for such spying.

Instead of collecting these private exchanges the NSA would do better to concentrate on what is written in public; there are many things that policy makers could learn if only they took the trouble to read what others, including those opposed to their governments are writing. At the moment such matters are read in order to create rebuttal arguments, not in order to learn and understand the opposing views.

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