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A short year after Snowden released the NSA’s secret tactics for intelligence gathering, Internet giants have started to implement their new security increases. Many of the internet’s big names, including; Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, and Facebook have recently revealed the increased security tactics that have been months in the making. The whistleblower Edward Snowden was honored on the anniversary of his actions by an event many companies dubbed; Reset the Net, which inspired companies to reveal their increased privacy measures.
The ex-NSA analyst revealed the existing laws’ grey areas which the NSA had happily exploited to gather more information on various persons of interest. Sometimes persons tipped over into the people category, as in; the agency started gather huge amounts metadata on regular everyday citizens. So much information that it became necessary to invent new words to properly classify the amount stored. Exabytes is the minimal amount that the Utah Data Center is said to hold, if not the higher orders: zetta or yottabytes. After these revelations all the big data companies that once quietly aided the NSA’s wishes to exploit the grey areas are now openly against it.
Google is leading the charge; partially because Google already had suspicions that their data could be breached so they were working on improving their defense systems before Snowden surfaced. The most impressive addition to Google’s repertoire is that they are painstakingly installing fiber optic cables under the earth’s oceans to make accessing them that much harder, not to mention aiding their overseas business by cutting costs. Microsoft has also taken extensive defensive measures; all of their products are now fully encrypted, and to ensure that the business lost by the so called back doors exploited by the NSA, the company took one step further and added transparency centers so foreign security experts can see the systems for themselves, and then decide whether the updated security is up to par; the first such system is opening in Brussels. Microsoft is also in the process of adding a 2048-bit encryption to both Hotmail and Outlook, while Google; inspired by one of the slides Edward Snowden released that detailed how the NSA got in; showing the exact spot where analysts at the NSA gained access to Google’s systems, the sentence said that Google added and removed SSL coding in one place which could easily be penetrated and ended in a smiley face; therefore Google added the exact sentence including the smiley face in their increased privacy coding.
Another ramification of Snowden’s release of classified documents was that other countries refused to do business with foreign data companies, choosing instead domestic companies. Germany had banned Windows 8 products when it was released by Germany agencies that Windows 8 products were susceptible to intrusion. Now US companies are racing to rebuild credibility; including the aforementioned transparency center; however Cisco systems is still unable to reach the levels of business it once enjoyed, because they are unable to prove that their communications are secure. On the other hand other governments emboldened by the NSA’s actions have asked for similar treatment from data companies. Vodafone released an 88-page report exposing (though not by name) 29 countries begging for access showing the extent of the surveillance requests.
All of these actions were started by one man compelled to tell the whole truth; some have vilified him while others have praised him as a hero. It is irrelevant what individual people think of his actions, because what is important is that citizens deserve their right to free expression without fear of persecution as the Bill of Rights clearly states. His expression may be considered an extenuating circumstance, but what is unquestionable is being unable to speak freely without fearing a private conversation may be misconstrued for illegal activities. For this reason Edward Snowden must be given some credit, for he inspired increased privacy for US citizens; which is at least partially commendable; had he not spoken up the idea of Big Brother might be all too real.
By Eddie Mejia