Saturday, August 31, 2013

Internet TOS

In using the internet, you, the user, are hereby acknowledging that you have read and agreed to the following terms as put forth by the United States National Security Agency :
While using internet services, you will be subjected to the tracking and recording of your internet usage habits. This may include: browsing history, web search history, emails, downloads, uploads, torrents, videos watched, comments made, social media posts, “personal” uses, etc. While you are online, nearly everything a user can do on the internet can be collected.
Phone calls and phone activity may also be recorded and stored as metadata, which may not be the actual phone conversation, but all the other pertinent details. While not legally searchable, this can still be analyzed and interpreted to gather information on users. The authority to collect domestic information was granted in 2001 under the Bush administration, and gradually increased authority over time, and thus, the above actions are legal.  
Internet users are required to adhere to proper conduct during online activities. Websites that conflict with the views of the NSA or the US government may be shut down or blocked from user access at our discretion. Torrenting and illegal downloads of intellectual properties found during data collection may be subject to fine or arrest. Regular usage of internet will include research, legally obtained entertainment, or communication with acquaintances. Failure to meet this standard may result in more intensive inspection by NSA agents. If you have done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to fear. Any attempts to hide internet usage footprints may be deemed suspicious behavior.
By agreeing to these terms, you consent that this information may be collected and inspected without notification beyond this TOS message. This information may be handed over to the DEA, FBI, or IRS for use in their investigations into criminal activity. Any suspicious activity found in internet posts or search terms deemed illegal or potentially harmful to the public may be subject to further investigation or inquiry by proper authorities. Any attempts to collaborate or organize in opposition to the United States Government may also be considered hostile and subject to similar treatment.
International data may also be collected and legally inspected and analyzed. According to United States law, there are no legal restrictions on communications of Non-American persons. Non-American internet and phone usage may be subjected to increased scrutiny, and may be identified as potential threats. This is done to protect from any potential terrorist collaborations.
The use of social media sites (facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc.), while not required, are highly encouraged.  This will allow us easier access to your information, much of which is freely given. The NSA also urges the completion of facebook/twitter/youtube profile information, giving succinct data on each user. Usage of products by Google, Microsoft and Verizon are also encouraged. These companies have willingly cooperated with the NSA to facilitate data collection through their products, such as Windows, Skype, and Gmail.  
The collected data is not required to be divulged to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. The information the NSA has is for the use of the protection of the American people. Any breach in that security may compromise the goals of the NSA, and the security of the public. Any leaking of NSA information or data shall be considered illegal and treasonous.

By agreeing, you are also waiving your fourth amendment rights and agree to allow these searches and data acquisitions to occur. This is done for your own safety and the safety of the American people for the prevention of terrorist activities. Privacy is a necessary sacrifice for the price of freedom and security.

Okay This Is Really Weird

I just opened up Google Chrome to make my blog post for this week when this weird window titled "UNITED STATES CYBERPRIVACY TERMS OF SERVICE" popped up and made me click Accept just to advance through. It was really long but I wanted to post a part of it that I thought was really interesting:
. . .

A. In accordance with this contract, agreeing to our terms of service fully waives your rights to privacy when using this Internet browser within the mainland United States, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guantanamo Bay. A registered United States citizen or foreign visitor can assume that the following communications have been intercepted, processed, and reviewed:
  1. Personal or work related email messages
  2. Instant messages sent through a third party provider (such as Google)
  3. Facebook statuses and comments
  4. YouTube comments and video descriptions
  5. Tumblr Posts
  6. Wikipedia edits
  7. In-game messages within the context of a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game
  8. Answers to Internet questions on sites such as Yahoo! Answers and StackOverflow
  9. Unfinished drafts of messages that are deleted before being sent
  10. Whatever it says in the input field when everyone else sees “So-and-so is typing…”

B. Please be aware that, due to manpower and budgetary constraints, the following communications were deemed “out of scope” for surveillance.
  1. Questions and replies within Reddit “Ask Me Anything” sessions

C. The following search queries, as well as the results that you choose, are monitored procedurally by filters built into your browser. You can expect your searches to be reviewed whenever you use the following Internet services:
  1. Google
  2. Google Images
  3. Google Maps
  4. Google Build-A-Bomb
  5. YouTube
  6. Wikipedia
  7. Yahoo!

For those who prefer to keep their search results private, please note that not even the National Security Agency cares about Bing.

D. Additionally, be aware that your mobile phone is under constant surveillance as well. Citizens are asked to keep phone calls brief as a favor to National Security Agents who are listening in. The following communications are monitored on a 24/7 basis:
  1. Phone calls
  2. Voice messages
  3. Mobile app reviews
  4. Sexts, nexts, dexts, and any other portmanteau of “text” and another word

This act of information gathering and surveillance by the United States of America’s National Security Agency does not guarantee any of the following items:

Although the National Security Agency may have “high confidence” or even a “confirmation” that an individual under our surveillance will attempt a terrorist attack in the near future, this knowledge does not guarantee that they will be stopped from hurting American civilians. The National Security Agency cannot be expected to do anything besides listen in on phone calls and read emails, including (but not limited to):
  1. Warning federal agencies of the suspicious person(s)
  2. Warning local police of the suspicious person(s)
  3. Warning anyone at all about anything, at all
  4. Doing something about it ourselves 

To those who may be considering or are already involved in terrorist activity, the following guidelines should help you avoid detection by our foreign and domestic surveillance agents:
  • Try avoiding using the Internet as a communication tool. If you must use the Internet to communicate with other terrorists, suppliers, planners, or other kinds of conspirators, consider using euphemisms for “buzz words.” For example, a “bomb” can be a “package.” This allows your communication to be filed and stored alongside normal American idle chitchat, greatly reducing your chances of being detected.
  • Consider similar avoidance patterns on phone calls. Whenever possible, try to mask any “terrorist” accent you may have. If you have to ask yourself "Do I sound like a terrorist?", it is very likely that you do. See our self-help guide here at
  • Meeting up in person is a fun way to spend time with like-minded individuals and plan destructive mayhem.

With the advent of "cyber war", it is understandable to assume that Internet espionage will take the place of actual physical war, preventing hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. This could not be further from the truth. Although the National Security Agency maintains implants around the globe in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Hoboken, and other terrorist safe havens, this is not enough to demonstrate American superiority. The United States government reserves the right to commence airstrikes, seastrikes, and/or landstrikes against any nation that appears often enough in the news. The reason for such a strike may include:
  1. Wanting to prove to disagreeing nations that we do not need their help
  2. Wanting to prove to disagreeing Congressmen that we do not need their approval
  3. Merely wanting to puff out the nation’s proverbial chest 

We trust you will understand our position on this issue and humbly ask that you take caution when deciding whether or not to live in these countries.

In the event that the National Security Agency is informed of incoming attacks or inclement terrorist actions that place innocent American or foreign civilian lives at risk, this contract in no way guarantees that anything will be done to stop said action. It is imperative that citizens be constantly prepared for terrible things to still occur in remote areas of the world, despite the fact that surveillance agents have full knowledge of when they will occur days or weeks in advance.

. . .

It goes on from there for a while, but I just thought you guys might want to take a second glance at that part. I have to admit I didn't really feel like reading the whole thing when I saw it first either, but it's good to know what you're agreeing to when you log online, don't you think?

Terms of Service, Over Before it Began

                Should the United States federal government decide that they wanted to create either a Terms of Service (TOS) document, they would find it difficult to enforce. As it TOS agreements are constantly disregarded by end users now. They are commonly countered by jailbreaks and key generators. Any attempt to instate such type of agreement for the internet as a whole will see methods designed to bypass or eliminate the restrictions imposed by the contract. This is not even taking into consideration how many ways currently exist for this document to be bypassed or ignored.
                One of the easiest ways for this contract to be ignored is for a US citizen to use a Wi-Fi hotspot in another country. As the US is the only country which would have an internet TOS contract, the hotspot by default would not forward the user to the “Please accept US TOS” page. As there is no way currently for a wireless access point to know that this new device belongs to a US citizen, they would be allowed to access the internet without agreeing to the US TOS.
And even if there was a way for the wireless access point to know that the device belonged to a US citizen, you would need every other country to force all of their citizens to configure their devices to perform the necessary checks for any US citizen connecting to their access point. It is very unlikely that every other country would force their citizens to perform this reconfiguration of their devices considering some of the countries are antagonistic towards the US. They would take offense if the US tried to make and enforce laws in their countries possibly leading to further hostility and perhaps even attacks on the US for our interference in the way their countries are run. Then even in the countries that might comply with this, there would be problems having the owners of the access point perform this reconfiguration as not every citizen has the technical knowhow to make the change on their equipment. This would mean that all a user needs to do to bypass this restriction is connect to an internet connection outside the country.
                The next way I can easily think of is using a service such as the onion router (TOR) or a virtual private network (VPN). These services would create a secure channel between your computer and another computer. If the exit computer or exit node of this channel was outside the US, then any web traffic sent from the exit node would be seen as coming from a non-US host and therefore would not be subject to the US TOS monitoring.
As VPNs are used extensively in businesses across the world and TOR was produced and distributed by the research laboratory of the US Navy, there is no way for the US to ban or block these services. Banning TOR would be counterproductive as it assists in providing people with access to socially sensitive topics such as chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors. Banning VPNs on the other hand would cause an economic nightmare as international businesses would be unable to transmit data from the offices in the US to another office securely and easily. This might cause a few businesses to move out of the US and therefore possibly cause an economic recession or even an economic depression if enough businesses move out.
            These are just two examples of how any attempt by the US government to create and enforce a TOS agreement on its citizens could be bypassed. Should this actually come to pass, I am sure that other ways would be quickly found. This would make the purpose of the TOS agreement moot as the only people which would be using it would be the law abiding citizens. Overall this would just be an extreme waste of time and money for our government as the people that the TOS were aimed at would use work-arounds such as those mentioned above to invalidate any monitoring brought about by the agreement. 

Terms of Service for the Internet?...I don't think so

In the world today a Terms of Service or TOS is used whenever you sign up for anything.  It could be for a gym membership, online site, or a program you just downloaded. The list can go on and on.  Terms of Service have almost become a way of life.  Since we see it on every website why do we need one for the internet as a whole?  We already have to agree to a Terms of Service on most websites we log onto. But the internet as a whole should not require this.  As a citizen of the United States of America we are entitled to the rights described in the Bill of Rights.  Of which include, freedom of speech, press, and religion; as well as the right to be secure from unreasonable search and seizure.  These two specific Amendments are currently violated on a daily basis.  

As early as 2006 the US government has been working specifically in tandem with AT&T in illegal surveillance of the internet.  This is not only being done on domestic use of internet but international as well.  All of this illegal surveillance has been attributed the Patriot Act.  Although now there are other telecommunication companies responsible for this as well. For instance, as of July 2013 Verizon was ordered to turn over all phone records.  Resulting from this were several court cases questioning the constitutionality of the matter.  Two of which directly correspond to these two companies. 

The first, Hepting v. AT&T was filled by EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) for violating privacy law by collaborating with the NSA in data-mining and wiretapping anything that was communicated through them. It was eventually dismissed by a federal judge.  The EFF then applied to be head by the supreme court in which case it was declined.  The second court case, First Unitarian v. NSA was filed in 2013 and was a lawsuit based on FISA's published court order for Verizon to turn over all phone records.  

This is clearly in violation of the first amendment.  If the US is supposed to have freedom of speech and press (first amendment), why should there be a TOS for the internet.  The internet is no different from any other form of media.  We shouldn't be afraid of the things we visit or read on the internet.  Articles written recently suggest that the information being collected by the government can be used to target specific groups.  The information being collected is not just the information that we send and receive, but also with whom we are communicating with.  

Contrary to popular belief this is much more damaging than actually having the information that is being communicated.  Metadata allows the government to see where we are at any given moment.  It can show where we live and spend most of our time.  It can also reveal what groups of people we associate ourselves with.  If we were to have a TOS for the internet it would be sending a message to the government saying that we are okay with our rights being violated.  Do we really want the government logging and keeping track of all the things we do or say on the internet so that one day it can be used against us.  Many people may say they don't mind because they have nothing to hide.   However, if there is a record of anything you have ever visited,  the risk of it being wrongly interpreted significantly increases. This alone should convince people that a TOS for the internet should not be done.

If you give Uncle Sam a look...

If you give Uncle Sam a look...

(Originally based from "If you give a Mouse a Cookie")

If you give Uncle Sam a look, he’s going to ask for more access for the NSA. (The National Security Agency)

When you give the NSA more access, he’ll probably ask for emails, Facebook Chats, Websites Visited, Google Maps Searches, transmitted files, photographs and documents of different kinds. .

When he is finished, he’ll ask to search for people based on Language they use or Security on their internet. 

Then he’ll want to look into your phone calls to make sure he didn't miss anything.

When he looks into your phone calls, he might notice he needs to check out some people. 

So he will probably ask for their names. 

When he’s finished giving them a call, he’ll want to sweep it up to make sure he protects you from danger. 

He’ll start sweeping.

He might get carried away and sweep through every computer in the United States. 

He may even intercept huge amounts of raw data and store billions of communication records per day in its 

When he’s done, he’ll probably want to gather intelligence under Section 702 of the FISA Amendment Act. 

You’ll have to allow him to gather information on nearly everything you do on the internet in order to prevent attacks and threats. 

He’ll just look right in, make himself comfortable and fluff through the information a few times. 

He’ll probably collect more detailed information.

So you give him your computer and phone access, and he’ll ask to see more.

When he looks at the actual phone calls and entire content of email accounts, he’ll get so excited he’ll want to obtain this detailed information. 

He’ll ask for the request form and permission, 

He’ll draw together a conclusion. 

When the picture is finished, he’ll want to find out more.

Then he’ll hang up the data and stand back to look at it. 

Looking at the picture will remind him that he wants a look inside. 

So….he’ll ask for more access

And chances are if he asks you for a look, he’s going to ask for more.

This would be a start for a children's book ages 4-8. It gives a vague introduction to what the NSA currently does without trying to scare the child. The catchy wording and tune will give the children a positive outlook on the NSA and how it actually protects them rather than just looking into their personal information. The parent can chime in at different places adding more or less information. It also gives a guideline for a parent to go into the past and talk about why the NSA is looking into our data and information on the computer. In a children's book I did not want to include 9/11 attack or other harmful and scary incidents. The book is purely to put some fun into what the NSA does. As a child I loved the book If a mouse wants a cookie... and it portrayed the good and the bad which I attempted to do in this version of the book.

A Father, Daughter, and the NSA

One early Sunday afternoon, as the sun beamed down on the screened-in porch, a father and her daughter sat enjoying the beautiful spring day.  The daughter, Ariel, was searching for a new website to play educational games.  Somehow, she mistyped the title of her game and ended up at a website which looked like a warning.  She sat back from her laptop screen, puzzled, and called for her father.

“Uh, daddy?” Ariel asked.

Her father got up from his lounge chair and placed his tea on the end table that was right next to it.  He walked over to where his daughter lay on the floor and sat down next to her, eyeing the red screen.

“What is it sweetheart?” he answered back.

“I just got blocked while I was searching for a new website to play games on and I got this screen after I clicked on one of the links I found.”

“Well let me take a look” Ariel’s father responded as he turned the computer screen to face him.  He read the notice quietly and audibly sighed.

“Ah yes, this is just a message from the NSA sweetie.  Just try another website” he said, with a look of defeat on his face.

“What’s the NSA daddy?” Ariel asked, puzzled.

“Well…” he sat back up and stretched. “This is quite a long story, so I’ll have to grab my tea to tell you.” He stood up and walked back to where he was previously sitting and grabbed his tea cup, then returned to his daughter’s position.

“You see Ariel,” he started, “A few years ago, there was a massive terrorist attack on the American people, you and I.  They took down a national landmark and huge area where people work.  They hurt a lot of people, really bad guys.  So the country decided to get the guys that hurt us.  We went to get them to try and stop them and we’re still fighting them.”

“So the bad guys are still out there?” she asked, still puzzled.

“Yes honey, but they can’t hurt either of us because we’ve stopped most of them.  Because of the NSA, the people that stopped you.”

“Who are the NSA?”

“Well… the NSA are a bunch of men and women that watch what we do on computers and on phones to catch bad guys like the ones that hurt us.  They read our e-mails and text messages to try and catch more bad guys so you and I can sit on the porch and enjoy a beautiful day like today.”

Ariel jumped up in shock, “So you mean they can listen to our phones?  They listen to when I talk to you and mommy?”

He scratched his head and sighed. “Well… yes.  They can.  They don’t often because you and I aren’t bad guys but they do it to try and protect us.  They’re watching us because they don’t want us to get hurt.”

“But daddy, that’s what I say to you and mommy. I say I love you and everyone knows but why can someone I’ve never met know?” Ariel asked, extremely inquisitively.

“Yeah sweetie I understand what you mean… But there’s really nothing we can do.  That’s the world we live in now. Everyone uses a computer or a cell phone so everyone can be watched, but they do it to protect us.  Not to hurt us,” he smiled sweetly, reaching out his hand to pat her head. “And I love you too, and I don’t care who knows it.”

Ariel hugged him and smiled. “I think I understand daddy. A bunch of people want to protect us by reading what we say on the computer because a lot of bad guys talk on their phones and computers so they want to catch them by watching us… right?”

He smiled softly and hugged her back, “Yeah, something like that kiddo.” He grabbed the computer and found a website that had all her games on there, with no block message, and handed her the computer.

“Here you go Ariel, all fixed. I’ll stay here and watch you play, you teach me.”

“Okay!” Ariel smiled and opened her favorite game and they both proceeded to enjoy the rest of their afternoon.

An Internet Terms of Service: Intrusive and Ineffective

The United States is in the midst of a great deal of soul-searching. As a result of the recent disclosures of classified documents revealing the existence of unprecedented mass surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency, there is a national conversation taking place over how to protect ourselves from those who wish to do us harm, while at the same time protecting our rights to privacy and free expression, given to us by the United States Constitution. It has been suggested that one potential means to achieve this end is the establishment of a general Internet Terms of Service, indicating the rights and responsibilities that individual users have and do not have when accessing any page on the Internet. I believe that establishing an Internet TOS is the wrong thing to do because it will not address either end of the balancing act: it will intrude on our rights to free expression and privacy, and it will not secure our Internet from those wishing to use it to coordinate and execute criminal activity, including terrorism.
Let us think for a moment about what we would really be getting ourselves into by agreeing to an Internet TOS. By clicking a “Yes” or “I accept” button on an Internet TOS, we would effectively be signing a contract between us and the federal government, and by so doing confining ourselves to what the government says we can and cannot do on the Internet. In my opinion and in the opinions of many others, this would constitute an unprecedented step towards federal overregulation of the Internet. Such overregulation violates our right to free speech and our right to privacy. Recent history shows that every time the federal government has attempted to tighten its control over the Internet, the powerful forces of opposition have fought back. In early 2012, the US Congress was considering two bills – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) – that would attempt to address the issue of online piracy by stripping offending sites of their US funding, appearances on search engines, and visibility on web browsers. The reaction by search engine and social media companies, along with millions of web users, was fierce and overwhelming. The two bills were denounced as a grave threat to free speech and to the openness of the Internet. On January 18th, 2012, numerous sites including Wikipedia and Reddit closed down their content in protest of SOPA and PIPA, generating attention from all over the world. The forces rallying against SOPA and PIPA became so much more powerful after the shutdowns that within days both bills were indefinitely shelved. When I think about the effects these bills would have had on the Internet as we know it, it becomes clear to me that an Internet Terms of Service would have much of the same effects. By establishing a TOS, the government would be sending a message that no American can be trusted to use the Internet properly. We would not be able to use the Internet in the ways that we wish, and we would not be able to secure our personal information from anyone (particularly the government) whom we do not wish to know about it. What would we be able to do by clicking that “I Accept” button? The answer to that question is consenting to the codification of the government’s ability to strip away our online freedom of expression, and our online right to privacy, which are part of the general rights to free expression and to privacy given to us by the United States Constitution.
Now then, what is the other reason I believe having an Internet TOS would be a bad idea? It quite simply would not work. It would be difficult to enforce. Once users accept the TOS they are effectively free to use the Internet as they wish. There are no structural mechanisms built into the Internet that would prevent users from accessing sites that the TOS would forbid them from accessing. Even after a user accepts the terms, nothing stops him or her from downloading child porn, or bootlegged movies, or other illegal content. Nothing would stop the user from using the Internet to launch a cyber-attack, or God forbid, to plan and coordinate a terrorist attack against a country. Enforcement of an Internet TOS would depend largely on the honor system. Only by users making a conscious choice to adhere to the terms would the TOS be effective. As we know all too well, not everyone plays by the rules, and some will do whatever it takes to use the Internet to do harm to others, even if it means signing off on a Terms of Service that they have no intention of obeying just to gain access to the Web. If the federal government believes that users are violating the Internet TOS, they have a way of investigating such possible violations, the NSA. The only way for the government to determine if users are in fact violating the TOS would be for the NSA to gather personal information about their activities on the Internet, using the very practices that Edward Snowden has tried to bring to our attention - the very practices that are causing us to have this conversation in the first place. That would again, violate our constitutional rights to free speech and to privacy. If such practices were to not be used to investigate suspected violations of an Internet TOS, then the government would be powerless to enforce the TOS. If there is no effective lawful means of enforcing the TOS, then it is useless to prevent the Internet from being used to commit criminal acts.
Protecting the American people from infringement on their constitutional rights and protecting the people from those wishing to do them harm are two extremes at opposite ends of a complicated spectrum. The most acceptable solution is one that falls somewhere in the middle – one that protects us from harm and protects our constitutional rights. We are seeking a solution that will help address both extremes, not one that only addresses one extreme. And if we are not seeking a solution that only addresses one extreme, there is no reason we should consider something like an Internet Terms of Service, which would address neither.

Why an Internet Terms of Service will not work.

Today, you can find a Terms of Service (TOS) on almost any electronic device, or software. It is a company’s way of laying out the ground rules to using their products. Although nobody enjoys reading through a TOS, that is of course if you actually decide to read it, companies still have a right to create a TOS so that they can further protect their property. It’s a completely understandable method of letting us know that we are free to use their product, as long as we play by their rules. The reason a TOS will not work for the internet is because does anyone actually own it? Sure, the internet had its founders, but today, everyone who uses the internet has a stake in it. Whether it is a search engine, a social networking web site, or even a programming forum, we are all able to contribute in improving the internet. Therefore, I do not believe that it would be right for anyone to attach a TOS to the internet since I do not believe anyone can declare rightful ownership.

A possible fear I have with a TOS for the internet would be that it might contain a large number of unsettling conditions granted to its creator, which in this case would be the US government. Such an example that is found in most TOS documents is that any rights not granted to you in a TOS are reserved to its creator.

The licensor (“Application Provider”) reserves all rights not expressly granted to You.” –Apple

“YouTube and its licensors reserve all rights not expressly granted in and to the Service and the Content.” –YouTube

“We reserve all rights not expressly granted to you.” –Facebook

This is all fine and well for only a product or service owned by a company, but for the entire internet, this seems like a very large and unspecified amount of power to grant to a single owner. Would the government even have to specify the services it will be monitoring? If the TOS will grant users the ability to use a list of specified internet services privately, will the government now reserve the right to monitor any other services not mentioned? It will be extremely difficult to pinpoint exactly what rights the government is granted through this TOS, which can ultimately lead to a severe lack of transparency. Unfortunately, this is something that the government is already well known for.

          Another possible fear I have with an internet TOS is that it is usual for its creators to hold the right to change their TOS at their discretion. This is not uncommon in a TOS, and similar clauses can be found for many products and services today.

 “We reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to change these Terms of Use ("Updated Terms") from time to time.” –Instagram

The Services that Twitter provides are always evolving and the form and nature of the Services that Twitter provides may change from time to time without prior notice to you.” –Twitter

“From time to time, Microsoft may change or amend these terms.” -Microsoft

It is perfectly understandable for a company to write such a clause for their own product, but for the US government to be able to change its TOS on the internet could open up a number of disconcerting doors. To further explain, imagine that Version 1 of the US’s TOS would allow the government to record what web sites users have visited. This might be able to help identify users seeking information regarding illegal activities, but I highly doubt that this information would be sufficient enough for the government to preserve national security. Since it is only natural to require more information, Version 2 of the TOS might allow the government to monitor and record the activity of all social networking accounts. Again, this still probably won’t be enough information, prompting the government to find different ways to obtain private data. As a result, Version 3 of the TOS might allow the government to read personal emails, and download personal documents uploaded to cloud storage services. This now becomes a severe invasion of privacy, but because email is the main form of communication over the internet, it would only make sense that monitoring this data will greatly improve the effort in preserving national security. However, the problem with monitoring all of this data is simply where do we draw the line? I’m sure obtaining all of this information would not hurt national security, but it is being done at the expense of millions of innocent people. Ordinary law abiding citizens can now become possible targets of suspicion based on privately sent emails to other individuals. Since all of these methods of obtaining data can be justified in some way or another, how do we start to tell what’s too much, and what’s not enough? In a fairly recent article, the FBI made a request to a US court judge that would allow them to install a malicious program on a suspect’s computer in order to take control of the suspect’s web cam (Source). The request was denied on the grounds that it was too invasive, but it is a perfect example of the more advanced ways being introduced today that further the effort of spying on people.

For the reasons provided, I think it is best for the internet to remain unregulated by the government completely. There are simply too many boundaries to cross, and moral decisions to make that might actually do more harm than good. Instead, I believe that a much more sensible solution to providing some regulation on the internet is to leave it to those that helped create it. What I mean by this is that the various companies and users who provide a service on the internet should be the ones who are responsible for reporting, and preventing as much illegal activity as possible. For instance, web site hosting companies have shut down domain names related to the Virginia Tech Massacre, such as “” and “”, to prevent people from profiting over this tragedy (Source). Facebook regularly scans any new posts or chat conversations of its users for criminal activity, and in one case, they were able to report a man in his 30s to the police who had arranged to meet a 13 year old girl (Source). Moreover, Google has developed a hashing algorithm that tags, tracks, and deletes child abuse images from the web (Source). By no means will the internet ever be completely regulated to prevent all illegal activity, but too much regulation will take away the very thing the internet excels at, which is being an open platform to communicate and spread ideas. I truly believe that the best way to keep the internet clean is to leave it up to the ones who have a stake in it, which is just about anybody who uses it.

The United States Already Comes with a Terms of Service. You Just Won’t Fix It.

Writing a new terms of service for the United States would be a classic example of American thinking, the wrong solution to the wrong problem. The United States already has the perfect terms of service, an amendable constitution. Many of my peers may argue that the constitution is an outdated document, doesn't provide the protections they want, and specifically isn't suited for the increasingly digital world in which we live, and they'd be right. But because it is amendable through a democratic process, all of that can change. It hasn't changed, however, and given all the polarization and lack of political participation that exists in this country today I highly doubt I will see another amendment ratified in my lifetime, the last of which being ratified in 1992, 203 years after it was first proposed in 1789.

So if it’s so difficult to pass an amendment to the constitution, why not just write up a new document? Because that response is ignorant of the problems that keep our constitution from adapting to the times, an ignorance that is becoming increasingly typical of my generation’s libertarian hacker set. This is a group that believed Occupy Wall Street was a viable movement, seems to believe that the government shouldn't be conducting any amount of intelligence gathering or espionage, and are extremely vocal about just how upset they are with the current state of the United States. And what has my generation decided to do about it? Yell and scream from behind a keyboard and an LCD screen. Ask anything more than sign a petition or up vote a new set of creative memes and you’re unlikely to see our nation’s youth pull themselves away from Minecraft or an eight hour binge session of Breaking Bad long enough for anything to actually be done about all these issues they have with this country.

Who can really blame us? I am as uncomfortable with the way PRISM or National Security Letters work as the next guy, but the comfort of a 50 inch plasma screen that can stream on demand just about anything my heart desires goes a long way to pushing any of those concerns to the back of my mind. A new terms of service isn't going to change anything. We need to change. We need to decide that these problems are worth going to the street about and demanding things be done, worth giving up our careers and suspending our educations until we accomplish our goals. Or we can complain about it on reddit while we wait for Grand Theft Auto 5, and just hope that one day soon it doesn’t come to a point where things are so bad that it is too late. Until any of that happens, no matter what you think you’re doing about it, including writing a new terms of service, you're just making more noise.

We have to change ourselves before we can change or system, and especially before we start to create something new.

Internet Terms of Service

The federal government has been receiving a lot of criticism lately over its illegal surveillance programs. In order to help clear these issues we have written a simple “Terms of Service” so that we can all have a better understanding of what to expect on the internet.

Internet Terms of Service
Thank you for using the internet. The internet is provided by the National Security Agency, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Central Intelligence Agency located at absolutely everywhere and henceforth referred to as The Government. By using the internet you are agreeing to these terms. These terms are intended to keep you safe and protect your freedoms on the internet.
As a user of the internet you agree to allow The Government free and unlimited access to your online activities. This includes personal emails, social media accounts, news websites and blogs, comments sections, video sharing sites, pornographic sites, web searches, web chat, video calls, religious websites, political websites, image boards, satirical websites and any other method of interaction online. You forfeit all rights to contest the use of this information for any purpose including but not limited to criminal investigations.
Do not misuse the internet. Misuse includes using the internet to plot criminal activities or terrorist attacks, visiting websites of groups unfriendly to the mission of The Government, sharing confidential government information, saying anything threatening, saying anything that can be mistaken for a threat, writing articles critical of The Government, or otherwise improperly abusing your First Amendment Rights. By using the internet you agree that you have nothing to hide from The Government and are fully committed to being a good American Citizen.
For violating the terms of service The Government reserves the right to suspend the rights granted to you in The Constitution and further monitor your life in the form of secret FISA warrants. The Government is not required to disclose the purpose or scope of these warrants to you or any oversight committee. Using the record of your life we keep from our monitoring The Government reserves the right to scrutinize every decision you have ever made online or offline and make assumptions and decisions about your life. If The Government decides that you are a subversive element punishment will be handed down accordingly in the form of confiscation of electronics, restrictions on air travel, or other punishments The Government deems appropriate. The Government is not required to employ any due process in this. The Government is not responsible for any harm, financial, physical, personal, or otherwise that these actions may cause you. The Government is not required to answer any questions you may have on these terms of service. The Government is not required to have any oversight from Congress and reserves the right to lie when answering questions under oath at congressional hearings. The Government is not required to be truthful with the secret FISA court it uses to approve these terms of service and any other required spying on you. The Government is not required to respond to any lawsuits from the American people as this could compromise the safety of you or our system.
Information collected by The Government is used by The Government to continue to defend you from the thousands of terrorist attacks in ways that you would not understand and are not required to be disclosed to you. In cases where you believe that you haven’t done anything wrong The Government reserves the right to search your personal history and find something you did wrong or can be perceived as wrong. The Government assumes responsibility for keeping you, your nation, and your rights secure from elements that we deem dangerous but assumes no responsibility in protecting you from The Government itself.
These terms of service are not complete as there are many more things we cannot disclose to you but you must agree with. These terms may be changed at any time for any reason with no notice to you. In order to use the internet you must accept these terms.
Do you agree to the terms and conditions outlined in this document?
[_] Yes
[_] No, but continue to monitor me anyway   

Thank you for using the internet! Stay safe, stay free.