For the unacquainted, PRISM is the government’s surveillance program, recently exposed by Edward Snowden. The program collected gigantic amounts of metadata on calls made in the United States until June 6, 2013, when The Guardian released documents and information that Snowden had shared with it. It’s now apparent that while threats to American security are real, the threats to American privacy are just as severe and this program, and others like it, give restrictive regimes, like Iran, dangerous support for holding back internet expansion. In the simplest terms, America desires to lead the world in liberty and freedom and, as such, it sets the standard.
Recently, Iran’s President-elect Hasan Rowhani, who is being looked to as progressive on internet expansion and delivery issues, said, “Gone are the days when a wall could be built around the country…. Today there are no more walls.”
Whether Rowhani will deliver on the emerging hope that surrounds him remains to be seen. Iran is known for severely censoring the internet, blocking sites and denying access to many. The country even has an internet police force that pursues individuals that try to find ways around the governments blocks.
Analysts are concerned that while America is certainly far from behind when it comes to providing internet access, it may be providing other countries with ammunition against those that would fight for increased access.
The American public seems to have come to grips with the government’s spying efforts. There is talk now that President Obama may be considering ending domestic spying efforts. Glenn Greenwald, the reporter that released Snowden’s leaks, is threatening to release documents that detail how the NSA works. But none of these are breaking above the din, signaling that the public is moving on.
Internet expansion has been fraught with peril since its infancy with incumbent corporate interests seeking to protect their bottom line instead of providing the best service to as many people as possible. The PRISM program is one more tool the enemies of internet expansion have to point to now and say, “Compared to that, we’re not so bad.”
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.