Opinion: Hero against the ‘big brother’ state

NBC News

Emiliano Martin, Staff Writer

Edward Snowden has been framed as many things in the media in the last year since releasing classified government documents, but public opinion has begun to shift as the media begins to fully realize the extent of the government’s unwarranted surveillance.

He has been labeled a traitor and a coward by his opposition and a whistleblower and a hero by supporters, but he has yet to be accurately portrayed.

Snowden has been charged with breaking multiple laws by the United States for revealing the extent to which the government had been spying on the communication and data of innocent U.S. citizens, as well as allies and global leaders.

After revealing these privacy violations to the world, he fled the country.

He did what was morally right but what our government has claimed illegal..

Snowden took a necessary risk to uphold the moral standards he believed in, and, according to an in-depth feature in Wired, Snowden weighed the decision to reveal these secrets to the public for three years while gaining a full picture of the extent that everyone’s privacy was being violated.

Had he not exposed these privacy violations, we would still be blind to their existence and he wouldn’t have inspired those who followed his example and continue to leak additional information regarding further abuse of government power, according to Wired.

In a time where everyone is constantly connected to the internet, a connectivity that’s with us from the moment we wake up and persists even after we go to sleep, our online footprint is an extension of ourselves containing our most personal details.

So it’s disturbing, to say the least, that the government can pull information from companies that we constantly rely on, such as Google and Microsoft, at a moment’s notice and still frame Snowden as the villain.

Journalist Chuck Klosterman, in his book “I Wear the Black Hat,” has a theory that says people are remembered for the sum of their accomplishments, but are defined by their singular failure.

It’s a fitting theory for the current state of the U.S. government. As U.S. citizens we are better off than most countries, for instance, acts of terror aren’t a daily part of our lives, but our government fails over and over again to act in the best interest of Americans as individuals.

Yet, they continue to pursue Snowden in search of petty revenge instead of correcting actions that have upset the public.

Only recently has Congress voted to stop this surveillance as a result of Snowden’s revelations. It’s progress that will show the importance of Snowden’s sacrifice.

In time, the government may even take a step back and see the irony in an organization that works in secrecy to view the details of others having their secrets exposed.

Until then, it is important that as U.S. citizens we take measures to protect our own privacy.

Protecting individual privacy begins with something as simple as being conscious of what information you share over the internet, but options for protecting privacy are diverse.

For instance, there are paid alternatives to free, ad supported email that are privately owned which can lessen the chance of your information being monitored. The fee is worth it if invasion of privacy is a concern.

Realistically, there isn’t much that can be done to evade this level of government surveillance, but every step to lessen unwarranted observation helps.

It’s an issue that will become more prevalent as our lives continue to intertwine with the internet.

Snowden’s actions have given individuals the opportunity to take a step back and see the reality of their digital footprint. Now it’s up to the individual to respond appropriately.