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This paper explores the government surveillance and other control measures aimed at ensuring acceptable use of the internet. The paper assesses how different countries of the world can fix a balance between right to privacy and the importance of National Security. There are many reasons why governments should gear towards surveillance and control of ICT. However, the extent of, kind of control and the measures employed in control of ICT are a big raging debate.
Government Policing and Law Enforcement
Surveillance of ICT technologies shapes the way government exercises its roles of law administration, security and protection. Surveillance of these technologies enhances accountability between the government and its citizens. Information technology equipment, such as digital cameras and PDAs, complements surveillance ability of government agencies and reinforces security measures. This can strengthen government initiatives to minimize intrusion hence binding its citizen to the rule of law.
Frissen, contends that measures to control the cyberspace provide a new paradigm for “stakeholders” on issues of law enforcement and security. This paradigm may alter devolution of government roles.
For instance, social websites, which find greater application in the cyberspace, provide a unique opportunity for people to engage in public affairs of the government, and thus influence decision-making. Every government strives to keep under tight lid sensitive information especially regarding security to its people and property within its jurisdiction.
Governments Changing Privacy Pattern
The innovation can also be used in virtual space or real-time, modeled on amassed data. Hence, through these measures, the government can control and check its citizens more efficiently. However, this will mutilate the privacy privileges of an individual. Lack of effective measures by governments in controlling and monitoring the cyberspace may cause uprisings from its citizens through rapid exchange of rumors. A good example is what has been witnessed in Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Syria and other Arab countries (Foreign Policy).
New Countervailing Controls
Various ICT technologies provide an opportunity to open up conventional systems of democratic participation in governance, and in creating new patterns of engaging citizens, advocacy groups and the society in general. Hence, these technologies can further government control by facilitating or providing more avenues through which the government checks, establishes and consolidates its power in the society. If left unchecked, social Medias and networks can potentially lead to revolutions.
This is because they are rather cheap, simple to use and provide rapid means to both formal and informal groups to organize themselves, design collective plans, achieve actions, and instill pressure on the government to look into their demands.
This is evidenced by the on-going revolutions in the Arab world (Foreign Policy). This influence is further surged by the use of mobile technologies, which grant the organization and advocacy groups’ activities in less time. As Graham and Wood (233) explain, the effects of government control of the cyberspace is that it may bind its citizens together, hence making it easier to govern.
Intelligent and Responsive Government
Government control of ICT contributes to responsiveness. This enhances stewardship, user centered oddity and framework sentience. Thus, government involvement in collection, process, storage and application of this information for security needs is important towards fulfilling its obligations of providing security for its citizens (Graham and Wood 236).
On the other hand, increasing government surveillance and control may create unnecessary tension and conflict in the society. Every person in the society is entitled to the right of privacy.
Therefore, surveillance by the governments on what an individual does on cyberspace may empower the society to amalgamate their forces in terms of protecting their privacy interests. Similarly, if the government does not live up to their promises and are not accountable for their actions such as; failed administration, corruption among other issues, surveillance and control of ICT will prove futile.
Balancing Rights of Privacy and National Security
According to Ball and Webster (97), ICT innovations such as social networks and knowledge management systems have stimulated shifts in privacy balance between governments and its citizens. This is in the sense that, ICT innovations simplify the effort to combine forces and safeguard privacy interests. Governments should differentiate the rights of privacy and national security issues (Ball 574).
For personal security purposes, governments have to institute regulation, which guide the extent to which an individual’s data or information is acquired and used. Lack of consent from an individual amounts to an act of privacy infringement. However, balancing privacy and national security issues can be complex. Some governments find it necessary to trade privacy and national security by enhancing more surveillance and control (Ball 577). The need for National Security in most countries is superior to that of private privacy.
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Some governments have come up with surveillance strategies whereby, in order to access private communications of individuals and stored information for security purposes, the governments have ensured that “access points” are incorporated in telecommunication devices and software’s.
Whereas this tends to serve the government interests, this has increased risks in ICT systems embraced by the public (Ball and Webster 121). Additionally, this completely compromises individual privacy because the government tends to abuse the service and increases the likelihood of third party access to individual’s personal information.
Ball, Kirstie and Webster, Frank. The Intensification of Surveillance: Crime, Terrorism and Warfare in the Information Age. London: Pluto Press, 2003
Ball, Kirstie. Elements of surveillance: a new framework and future directions. 2002. Information, Communication and Society, (5), 4, pp. 573-590
Foreign Policy. Revolution in the Arab World. 2011. Web.
Frissen, Valerie. The Future of eGoverment; An Exploration of ICT-Driven Models of eGoverment for the EU in 2020. Web.
Graham, Stephen and Wood, David. Digitizing surveillance: Categorization, Space, Inequality. 2003. Critical Social Policy, (23), 2, pp 227-248.