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Is big brother reading your Gmail?

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spyingThose of you who watch TV Shows and spy movies have seen it, government spooks and law enforcement agents hacking into private email accounts and computers with disturbing ease. This is usually justified by the fact that the good guys are chasing evil people who either have harmed or intend to harm innocent people. Recent reports however show that there is no such distinction between the innocent and those suspected of committing crimes. The real life spying program dubbed PRISM seems to work like a drag net-you get spied on whether you are a suspect or not.

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The American government is not even denying that it spies on people and shares the information with its allies. Apparently this is okay so long as you are a “foreigner” (not an American citizen) or if you are an American citizen who communicates with “foreigners.”  Zimbabweans are obviously foreigners and so we are not spared by this drag net. Initial reports had said that America’s top firms like Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Twitter et al are complicit in the spying and had given the American government direct access to their servers. The tech giants have vehemently denied this, some even claiming to have never heard of PRISM even though there is a Wiki page for it.

It does not bode well for us that most of the popular services we use are offered by American companies!

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Most of us subscribe to the fiction that our online activity is private or anonymous but nothing can be further from the truth. Services like Google Ads use your online activity to determine which ads to bombard you with. Search for a Virtual Private Server for any number of times and you will see Virtual Private Server ads popping up everywhere you go. Most tech giants store a lot of private information about us and PRISM or no PRISM these tech giants have been handing over this private information as part of “legal cooperation” with alarming regularity. This alone tears apart the fiction that you are conversing with just your friends – you should add Big Brother to the list.

The idea of sacrificing people’s right to privacy in the name of national security and law enforcement is not new at all. Despots and tyrants have routinely spied on their own people since time immemorial. What is surprising however is that America, a country which has positioned itself as a champion of democracy should be, by its own admission, be found on the other side of its standards. Recently Chinese tech firms including Huawei where brought to task by the US Congress and where with little evidence accused of spying for China. This sort of duplicity is disturbing.

There is little evidence to suggest that online spying on people leads to reduced crime or acts of terrorism.  To paraphrase one of America’s own founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin: those who give up privacy for temporary security will get neither. What galls me is that someone can; without any reason, censor or justification; read my email or documents in the cloud based on some preposterous idea that I might be intending to harm America’s interests. It galls me that America sees it fit to do so at the expense of my rights when they have publicly denied any other government from using this method. When the same measure were proposed here in Zimbabwe the Supreme Court rightly stopped it as unconstitutional.

The whole concept of spying is flawed and it is hard to justify such an act. In our Supreme Court’s words spying on the public is “unjustifiable in a democratic society.”

If you are of the mind that online spying is wrong please sign a petition to put an end on Avaaz.org here.


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16 thoughts on “Is big brother reading your Gmail?

    1. U never know where it’s gonna end up. Do you really want to take the risk that the information will fall into the wrong hands. Political winds are always changing one day you may be traded for political expedience- far fetched perhaps but stranger things have happened.

    2. Judging from Wikileaks, surely you should now be aware that its not just about interest in your life. But in changing and influencing direction at national(or even business) scale. One way or another, it would affect us. We cant be myopic.

  1. I think the more important question is do you care? Google is an American company serving American interests, I don’t think they really care about our data. More so, I don’t really care what they do with my data except of course if they sell it to the Zimbabwean government.

  2. We all choose to sign up for the services. If you have something to hide, or if you dont want anyone else to see or hear your comms, then use some other channels of comms.

    > Its like going into a shopping mall, where they have cameras. You dont know where the footage will end up youtube? cia? cio? marlbrough police maybe?

    1. Very true, By using technology you are virtually giving up your privacy. Be it Google, Facebook, the web, banking, cellphones, etc. I see no way around this except kuenda kunogara musango where there is no civilisation. Otherwise every time you use a service, owned by a company, governed by it’s country’s laws, they will always give up your data when push comes to shove(or when the money’s good)

  3. Let them look, its not like we are a threat to Americans, but if you say that Zimbabwe has its own PRISM…yikes!!!!(email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, VOIP conversations, file transfers, login notifications and social networking details).

  4. Whether we like it or not, for any good or bad reason anyone who wants to spy on anything can do so.

    I dont see America stopping due to the petitions that we will sign.

    They might actual agree and still go ahead and spy on anyone they want.

    How will you prove it?

  5. Set up your own email server if you have something to hide and use a VPN channel and military strength encryption.Besides you have as many email accounts as you want use and dump .But what I know is that the NSA has set up a program to monitor “terrorist” related stuff.Ever wondered why Facebook was launched ?

  6. Honestly, am not really surprised, and I dont think people should be shocked. Its not even stuff of movies. Does anyone remember Echelon? There were other such projects before that, but none to that scale. That was the beginning. What people should worry about though is that outside the US boundaries, they are likely to behave without restraint. No US law and 4th ammendment invocations to inhibit them. No fears of internal rebuke and action.

    All you have to do is say, Nhamoyenkika Yekwavo is suspected of terrorist activities, we hereby present a subpoena governed by secrecy and the patriotic act that Facebook, Google, MSN and Skype give us access to this person’s account.

    NSA/US Gvt backdoors have been spoken about many times before. They would obviously be veiled by secrecy if the US government dictated that companies provide backdoors, so we would never know. Americans may be well protected, but who says what they do for the foreign people.

  7. That why we should invest in ourselves, build our own search engines, create our own content, build our own data centres etc why should we tell them what to do its their stuff. China although opressive has done that, they have an equivalent of every groundbreaking app that we know off. Lets get to work period. #AfricaMustBeLiberated

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