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Hillary Clinton Discusses the NSA and Data Security

There was always a suspicion that our online activity wasn’t for our eyes only, but the Edward Snowden whistleblowing confirmed it. It was a story that shook the world, and continues to do so, that governments have been spying on global online activity and have been putting pressure on corporations to hand over customer data.

This August former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at Nexenta’s OpenSDx Summit, discussing privacy and security following the NSA revelations.

Clinton believes that the American government may have gone too far in a number of areas and that there was a need to rethink the practices, many of which were implemented following the September 11 attacks, they carry out.

However, Clinton stated that she doesn’t think that the government crossed any legal lines, but instead that they “came right up and sat on them”. Whether or not the practices are within legal boundaries is perhaps not the proper question; what really needs to be considered is whether this should be allowable at all, legal or otherwise.

“It could perhaps mean their data was being collected in metadata configurations, and that was somehow threatening. We have to be constantly asking ourselves what legal authorities we gave to the NSA and others and make sure people know what the trade-offs are,” said Clinton.

While acknowledging the role that the American government played, Clinton was keen to emphasise that the country wasn’t the only one involved. She believed that the most frustrating part of the debate is trying to convey that the United States isn’t alone in trying to balance the conflicts. She cited a story of diplomatic visits to China and Russia where no personal devices could be taken off the plane in case they were hacked.

Clinton went on to say that the government doesn’t use personal data for commercial purposes, while others do. She stated that their technology companies are not part of their government and that there needed to be a global pact about surveillance.

It’s certainly true that the American government weren’t the only ones involved in the NSA revelations. They were a key player, but this was a scandal that was global. Nevertheless, just because other countries are acting similarly doesn’t make the behaviour permissible.

Speaking to the Guardian back in July, Clinton told the paper that she believes Snowden, who is currently in Russia under temporary asylum, should return to America.

“Whether he chooses to return or not is up to him. He certainly can stay in Russia, apparently under Putin's protection, for the rest of his life if that's what he chooses. But if he is serious about engaging in the debate then he could take the opportunity to come back and have that debate. But that's his decision.”

It’s clear that government surveillance isn’t an issue that’s going to go away any time soon. It’s an ongoing debate as to the extent that the government should be allowance to monitor our online activity. Be sure to join the debate and let your views on the subject be heard – it’s important that something like this isn’t forgotten.

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