Yes, a Snail’s Pace… but a Pace

By Jeffrey Sterling, Public Square Amplified

The advent of the digital age has been a renaissance regarding our access to information and communication. Having a digital presence is an essential element of this newfound connectivity, but that need for a digital presence also exposes us to mass surveillance. Thanks to laws like Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the government is empowered to conduct mass surveillance with minimal safeguards to protect our privacy and rights.

surveillance patriot act

Because of this power, digital mass surveillance is trampling our very democracy.

As noted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Although the law allows surveillance of foreigners abroad for ‘foreign intelligence’ purposes, the FBI routinely exploits this rich source of our information by searching those databases to find and examine the communications of individual Americans for use in domestic investigations.”

Statistics from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s annual transparency reports indicate a sharp rise in FISA Section 702 targets, which are meant to be only non-US persons acting outside the United States. However, Section 702 provides that US persons’ digital communications with non-US persons are subject to collection under probable query. Whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and others have revealed that Section 702, alongside other surveillance regulations, is frequently misused. (Sources: 2023_ASTR_for_CY2022.pdf (, 2020_ASTR_for_CY2019_FINAL.pdf (, Graphic: Mandy Coriston for Public Square Amplified)

The implementation of mass surveillance and the laws and fear used to justify it have no place in a democracy. The potential for the digital age to strengthen democracy is open for debate, but the evidence that governmental institutions are leveraging the digital sphere for anti-democratic mass surveillance purposes is irrefutable.

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