What the NSA Scandal Means for Mobile Privacy
This week, several news organizations broke a big story about the National Security Agency's (NSA) top-secret Prism program. The leaked information alleged that major internet and technology companies, including Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, gave the NSA direct access to their servers. In other words, the NSA is able to tap into American's email communications, live chats and other online activity. This has unsurprisingly caused an uproar among privacy advocates, and a recent development is only going to fan the flames. According to the Wall Street Journal, the NSA is also monitoring phone records from AT&T, Sprint Nextel and Verizon.
On Thursday, the Obama administration came forward to directly address the collection of millions of Americans' telephone records, according to Reuters. White House spokesman Josh Earnest defended the program, saying, "The intelligence community is conducting court-authorized intelligence activities pursuant to public statute with the knowledge and oversight of Congress."
That statement hasn't swayed many politicians who find the data collection to be abhorrent. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told the news source, "The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans. That is not what democracy is about. That is not what freedom is about."
What This Means for You
While the Obama administration has said that the primary reason for the Prism program is to identify and prevent terrorism, the news should be a wake up call for everyday cell phone users who are concerned about mobile security. Though the NSA may not be interested in everyone's phone records, the simple fact that companies like Verizon or Google are storing user information should remind individuals that they must take measures to maintain their own privacy.
It's best to avoid sharing sensitive information online or through your mobile phone if possible. Remember that every single piece of data you submit on your device becomes part of your mobile identity, and that identity may be stored on massive servers that may or may not be totally secure.
If you're concerned about your mobile security, it may be wise to get in touch with your service provider to inquire about their privacy and data-sharing policies, especially if you subscribe to one of the phone companies involved in this scandal. Take your privacy into your own hands!