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China Daily Website

How can we assure our rights and privacy?

Updated: 2013-06-28 11:14
By Wan Bin ( chinadaily.com.cn)

A few days ago when I was in Jakarta for a visit, a friend asked me, "Hi, Wang, do you know Snowden?""What?" I was totally at a loss because I had been busy preparing for various meetings and had no time to surf the Internet and talk with my best friends on Wechat. "An NSA contractor. He disclosed the Prism program for overbroad collection of information. China is a major target." "Really?" President Xi met with Obama only a few days ago and the two countries committed to building a new pattern of major power relations, didn't they? How could this happen? I tried to conceal my frustration and anger, but my face flushed in spite of me.

I went to the Internet immediately and read the news about Snowden and the Prism. Oh my god! I have always been enjoying the convenience brought by the mobile phone and Internet while Microsoft, Yahoo and Google are virtually essential elements of my life and I am even an Apple fan. I like to surf the Internet, email my papers and share my happiness and sadness with my friends on Tescent QQ and Wechat. Now, the omnipotent Internet,my favorite products and the communication means I like most are all the media for the American government to conduct the information surveillance. My daily calls, emails, instant messages, on line videos and chatting are the target for the NSA to tap, analyze and report to the authority?! How about my privacy? A nameless anger, mingled with a sense of helplessness, ran about wildly in my mind. I don't know what to do and how to relieve my rage.

Well, Americans claim to value civil liberties and human rights most and the American government will give us a fair explanation for such blatant violation, or make an apology at least. I tried to calm myself down. Unfortunately, what I got to know in the next few days made me even more furious. President Obama defended the surveillance programs as necessary to combat terrorism, arguing that some privacy must be sacrificed in a balanced approach. If so, the Americans may well sacrifice their privacy to some extent for the national security. Then, how and why should I, a foreigner, sacrifice my privacy for American security, especially when I am unaware of it and not informed?

Now, I am very concerned about Edward Snowden. He was the one who stood out and told the truth. He could have kept silent, as he had lived "a very comfortable life", with a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. But he "can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building." He did it because he didn't want to live in a world where there's no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity. However, Snowden was now accused by American officials as a traitor and even a Chinese spy. What he will face in the near future may be the extradition and trial in the US like other whistleblowers. Maybe he will disappear from the earth one day with no one knowing where he has gone. The United States, with the strongest military, the most advanced technology and the most influential IT giants in the world, can tap and deal with anybody as it likes. How can we assure our rights and privacy? The United States should practice what it preaches.