There has been a lot of debate about the legality and morality of governments using electronic mass surveillance of other nations, their own citizens, and the world in general. I’m no lawyer, so I won’t be discussing the legality of such things.
As for morality, all I’ll say is that our governments are supposed to be our employees, our servants. We own them. If anything, we should be surveilling them, and they should be fearful of us.
For now I’ll explain why the whole thing is ultimately futile and a complete waste of money and effort.
You see, as more money, resources, effort, and overall investment is devoted to electronic mass surveillance systems, as they become more pervasive and intrusive, those intended to be the subjects of such surveillance invest money, resources, and effort in electronic measures which would result in exposure to such surveillance. In other words, the more the watchers invest in high tech surveillance, the less the watched invest in electronic communications. It’s not a linear inverse relationship, but a relationship such that the moment the intended subjects of such surveillance discern that the surveillance is a serious threat to them, well, that’s the tipping point, the trigger, after which the intended subjects simply stop using the communications media targeted by such surveillance.
In simple terms, if you snoop on someone’s Internet communications enough that they think it’s actually a serious problem, they stop using the Internet.
This is why various terrorist organisations are going back to face to face meetings; hand written notes in codes known only to them, using local knowledge and phrases which have significance only to them and their friends; and why nations are working on detaching their computer networks from critical infrastructure.
So if greater electronic communication monitoring is a proposition with diminishing returns as far as a state’s enemies go, what about the state’s citizens? Well, if the increasing use of such surveillance is less and less useful for protecting a state’s citizens, and the enemies of the state are less and less susceptible to it, but the monitoring continues or expands, the only people left being monitored are… you guess it, the citizens of the state. This is the inevitable result of it all. The bad guys are not monitored by it any more. Only the citizens who have done nothing wrong are monitored by it.