Beyond the Politics
Snowden's Information Raises Ethical Dilemmas on Human Rights and Country-Relations
Published: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 18:09
“Traitor or whistleblower?” asked the McFarland Center of Religion, Ethics, and Culture director and “Who is Edward Snowden?” fishbowl discussion moderator, Thomas Landy, on Thursday, September 22 in Rehm Library.
In addition to Landy as moderator, the fishbowl participants included Bruce Bunke, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science; Marios Dardas, ’16; Daniel Klinghard, Associate Professor of Political Science; Constance Royden, Associate Professor of Computer Science; and David Shettler, Information Security Officer.
Although the participants addressed the impact of releasing top-secret information on national security and the United States’ foreign affairs relationships, Landy set the discussion’s emphasis on the morality of technology use. Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) has access to the Meta data of cell phones, complex algorisms, a project prism, among other information, which revealed the detailed scope of intimate information that the government has access to. Therefore, the discussion’s essential question of “traitor or whistleblower” draws on the citizens’ inevitable ethical crossroads of feeling angry toward Snowden for breaking federal violations, and then relief that someone had the audacity to bring the public’s attention to its rightful knowledge.
All but one participant labeled Snowden as a “whistleblower,” suggesting that Snowden respectfully called the public’s attention to the NSA’s wrongdoing.
Shettler noted how Meta data cell phone knowledge is significantly revealing since the data goes from one source to another clear destination, while e-mail can enter up to thirty different servers, making it slightly more challenging to pinpoint locations. However, Royden emphasized that this does not make the Internet user by any means anonymous.
“Companies keep logs of which websites you have been to, while Google searches can be revealing,” said Royden. “They can give a good picture of who you are.”
Royden raised the added moral responsibility today’s Internet and social media users have to maintain their individual privacy. Dardas, too, cautioned about new ethical responsibilities, but he instead raised the responsibility between various, politically distinct governments.
“Our bodies are like that, too,” added Dardas, highlighting the interconnectedness aspect of this emerging, ethical dilemma. “We are made up of several tubes and connecting pieces. All countries are connected by the Internet. Therefore, should we have separate or universal regulations for internet usage?”
While all participants agreed that an answer could not be directly decided, Klinghard provided additional insight on the broader effects. “Internet forces American values on other countries since they rely on our Internet,” said Klinghard. “So, when other countries rely on it and find out that it’s not trustworthy, will they continue to use our companies? It’s something Americans need to be aware of.”
Because the NSA responsibilities have been moved to domestic soil, the United States needs to respond with oversight. The McFarland Center’s fishbowl discussion ultimately called attention to the United States’ pressing necessity to act upon the recently released information, despite whether or not Snowden had the ethical right to publicize it.
Chris Gillis, '14 commented that the discussion was informative lacked the exchange of ideas and challenging questions of other fishbowls he has attended.
"It definitely was educational, he said. "But I've come to love the discord in the fishbowls at Holy Cross and there wasn't much in this."