The latest revelation about the security services brings a new word to our growing vocabulary: Dishfire. A recent exposé revealed that the NSA collected information contained in hundreds of millions of text messages every day. While messages from U.S. phone numbers are removed from the database, GCHQ used it to used to search the metadata of “untargeted and unwarranted” communications belonging to British citizens.
We are not so much free citizens, innocent until proven guilty, but rather, as one of the Dishfire slides says: a “rich data set awaiting exploitation”. Is indiscriminate surveillance the best way to protect democracy? Already, Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are trying to salvage their reputations by fighting against their own governments to protect customer data. Vodafone has asked the governments of the 25 countries in which it operates for the right to publish the number of demands it receives for interceptions and customer data.
In the US, the public often learn about the FBI’s use of covert surveillance in court. Their methods and practices are examined as evidence brought to trial.
In the UK, Ripa forbids the contents of interceptions from being used in court. That is problematic not only for justice but also for public accountability.
In George Orwell’s 1984, Newspeak meant the dictionaries became smaller not bigger. Fewer fewer words meant fewer thoughts. What we have no language for we cannot discuss.
For too long we’ve had no language to discuss the intelligence services. Now a dictionary is being written. It will be interesting to see what new words are added. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2014