Data Privacy – A Good Thing ?

One of the many startling facts revealed by the whole Edward Snowden episode (the former CIA ‘spook’ turned whistleblower, you can read about the whole thing at ), was that about 80% of European web traffic was being illegally intercepted by either GCHQ or the NSA. This traffic included emails, live chats and search histories.

Whilst President Obama went to great lengths to calm the masses telling them that state surveillance struck “the right balance”, there was a widespread public outcry across Europe and in America. People didn’t like the thought of what they thought were their private conversations and emails being intercepted and even read by state intelligence agencies.

The state argument was one of “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear”, but this rhetoric did little to win over the public to the government’s belief that digital surveillance is a necessary part of modern day life.

IT giants were quick to jump on the bandwagon of public sentiment, with both Apple and Google (whose record in respecting personal data privacy is erm… laughable, – see this link from April 2015 that reports how they illegally collected the browsing habits of users of the Safari browser by deliberately bypassing their privacy settings:, with Apple introducing encryption as standard on it’s iPhones and Google publicly favouring web sites that use the encrypted https:// protocol rather than the standard and non-encrypted http://. Also the Tor Browser practically guarantees user anonymity by not only encrypting data, but also by relaying it across many ‘hidden’ host servers on the dark web before it finally ends up at it’s destination. Tor is therefore used by many people to access the dark web safely and anonymously. (If you want to know what the Dark Web is click here

These recent developments in data privacy have made our data far more secure from prying eyes but, is this actually a good thing ? Would better state monitoring of web traffic have prevented the death of Lee Rigby (, or prevented Andreas Lubitz from deliberately crashing a passenger plane into a hillside and killing everyone onboard? ( Maybe, maybe not. State surveillance of our personal data has allegedly prevented many terrorist attacks on UK soil (see this Daily Telegraph link about an IS plot in London, October 2014).

In this post I’ve attempted to suggest to you that perhaps state data surveillance is a necessary part of living in the digital age, but where does the balance between national security and personal data privacy lie?