NSA Leaks Bring Surveillance, Privacy, Digital Security to the Forefront

The recent public discovery of massive NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens as well as foreign citizens and even foreign leaders has opened up a conversation about human rights, the “surveillance industrial complex,” (Gates, 2012) and the implications of the new age of surveillance on international relations.  In late October, the news that the NSA had been monitoring the personal cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel since 2002 sent shockwaves through the international community and prompted many governments to demand new rules for international intelligence gathering.  But the latest leaks from NSA documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the U.S. is not the only government with large-scale surveillance programs.  Reuters reported on November 2nd that “[s]py agencies across Western Europe are working together on mass surveillance of Internet and phone traffic comparable to programmes run by their U.S. counterpart” (Shirbon, 2013).

Clearly, international political leaders have much to discuss about how digital security and surveillance will be governed in the future. A new study by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs concludes that the surveillance activities that have been undertaken by the NSA, GCHQ, and other European intelligence agencies violate several European Union laws. The study recommends that the full nature of these intelligence programs be exposed for analysis and asserts that “A ‘professional code for the transnational management of data’ within the EU should be set up, including guidelines on how this code would apply to EU partners” The study also argues that “[l]arge-scale EU surveillance programmes also compromise the security and fundamental human rights of citizens and residents in the Union, in particular those related to privacy and effective legal protection” (Bigo et al, 2013).  Undoubtedly, European and U.S. policymakers will be discussing and debating these surveillance activities in the months and years to come, and the stakes will only rise as technology advances and as more of our lives take place and become documented in the digital realm.

Want to learn more about this topic? The sources below will get your started!

Scholarly Articles

Bigo, Didier, Carrera, Sergio, Hernanz, Nicholas, Jeandesboz, Julien, Parkin,Joanna, Ragazzi, Francesco, and Scherrer,   Amandine. (2013). Mass Surveillance of Personal Data by EU Member States and its Compatibility with EU Law. (Report No. 61) Brussels : The Centre for European Policy Studies.

Ball, K.S and D. Murakami Wood. (2013). Editorial. Political Economies of Surveillance. Surveillance & Society 11(1/2): 1-3.

Richards, N. M. (2013). THE DANGERS OF SURVEILLANCE. Harvard Law Review, 126(7), 1934-1965.

Books from the UIUC Library

Assange, Julian., Appelbaum, Jacob, Müller-Maguhn, AndyZimmermann, Jérémi. (2012). Cypherpunks: freedom and the future of the internet. New York : OR Books.

Ball, K.S. and Snider, L. (eds). (2013). The Surveillance Industrial Complex: Towards a Political Economy of Surveillance. London, New York: Routledge.

Gates, K. 2012. The Globalization of Homeland Security, in K.S. Ball, D.H. Haggerty and D. Lyon (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies. London / New York: Routledge, 292-300.

Johnson, Emily M.Rodriguez, Michael J. (Eds.) (2012). Legalities of GPS and cell phone surveillance. New York : Novinka.

Luppicini, Rocci. (Eds.) (2013) Moral, ethical, and social dilemmas in the age of technology theories and practice. Hershey, Pa. : IGI Global.

Pimple, Kenneth D.. (Eds.) (2013). Emerging pervasive information and communication technologies (PICT) :ethical challenges, opportunities and safeguard. Dordrecht : Springer.

Rosen, David,Santesso, Aaron. (2013). The watchman in pieces: surveillance, literature, and liberal personhood. New Haven : Yale University Press.

Trottier, Daniel. (2012). Social media as surveillance: rethinking visibility in a converging world. Surrey,  England:  Ashgate.

News Coverage of NSA Leaks

Reuters

The Guardian

The Huffington Post

Al Jazeera

 

 

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World Maps and Worldview: Social and Political Implications

TrueSizeOfAfricaSmallMaps are our visual representations of the world, and they shape our understanding of the world in a lot of ways. While maps can be a wonderful teaching tool, helping us to visualize our world and our place in it, misrepresentations in maps can have profound effects on our worldview. From a historical perspective, maps from different points in time illustrate the mapmakers’ priorities – what did they find important enough to include, to emphasize, to depict as larger or smaller on the map? Historian Dirk Raat, in describing how Old World peoples created maps, states that “medieval Europeans and their New World counterparts organized space according to philosophical and religious principles” (285). Meaning that their maps not only represented land mass, but how they viewed themselves and their beliefs in relation to the land that they occupied. So from this early point, maps inherently held social and political weight.

In 1569, European mapmaker Gerhardus Mercator devised a new world map projection, which became hugely popular and is to this day a widely-used representation of the world. In the Mercator projection, straight lines on the map represent constant directions on the Earth’s surface, which is hugely helpful for navigational purposes (one of the big reasons the Mercator projection became so popular at its creation). The Mercator projection, however, while utilitarian, does not accurately depict area. The map stretches the parts of the world that are nearer to the North and South poles (including Europe and North America), making them appear larger than they truly are. When using a world map as a teaching tool for conceptualizing the world, the Mercator map can be problematic because it distorts the size of landmasses.

In the twentieth century, especially as many nations in the equatorial regions of the globe were gaining independence from imperial powers such as the United Kingdom and the United States, the Mercator projection began drawing criticism for its misrepresentation of land masses. Since many developing nations are near the equator and therefore represented as much smaller than their actual size, critics argued that a map that more accurately depicted true land mass was needed. New projections such as Goode’s Homolosine and the Gall-Peters Projection (among many others) depicted the world more accurately in terms of land mass, and have become a more popular way to teach world geography.

Nevertheless, many argue that ignorance of world geography (or as Kai Krause calls it, “immappancy”) is still prevalent, especially among first-world peoples. This image, The True Size of Africa*, by Krause, illustrates a point that has been discussed for decades about the implications of misrepresenting land mass area in world map projections. Krause’s map makes us stop and question our view of world geography, and what effects that view could have on social and political issues. This discussion is one that will likely continue for some time, and one that carries many implications in the realm of global studies. Check out the resources below to investigate this topic further.

* It is important to point out that Krause actually used the Mercator projection country shapes in his illustration, something that has drawn some criticism from cartographers.

Books at UIUC Library:

Johnson, Jenny Marie. (2003). Geographic information :how to find it, how to use it. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press.

Barber, Peter.Harper, Tom. (2010). Magnificent maps :power, propaganda and art. London : British Library.

Garfield, Simon. (2013). On the map : a mind-expanding exploration of the way the world looks. New York, N.Y. : Gotham Books.

Piper, Karen Lynnea. (2002). Cartographic fictions :maps, race, and identity. New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press.

Wood, Denis.Fels, John. (2008). The natures of maps :cartographic constructions of the natural world. Chicago : University of Chicago Press.

Articles:

Raat, W. (2004). Innovative Ways to Look at New World Historical Geography. History Teacher, 37(3), 281-306.

Stephens, David. (February 2002). Making Sense of Maps. In History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web. Retrieved from http://historymatters.gmu.edu/mse/maps/.

Walbert, David. (2010) Projections and Propaganda. In Map skills and higher-order thinking. Retrieved from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/mapping/6434

Awesome websites on maps and cartography:

Map Projections

BU African Studies Center – Teaching Africa – How Big is Africa?

Maps as Instruments of Propaganda

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New Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report: Debates and Implications

Climate change is an issue that, perhaps more than any other, exemplifies the complexity of intergovernmental cooperation and international policymaking. For decades, climate change has been debated and discussed in the forum of international politics, most notably since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was negotiated in 1992. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established in 1988, produces reports on the status of climate change based on the latest in peer-reviewed scientific literature on the topic. Since its inception, the IPCC has published four major reports on the status of climate change, each of which have been heavily relied upon by policymakers worldwide in creating environmental policy at the national and international levels.
This week, the IPCC released Working Group I of the Fifth Assessment Report (Working groups II, III, and the Final Synthesis Report will be released in 2014.) The report states that it is “extremely likely” that human activities have been a contributing factor to climate change in the last 60 years. This shows an increase in certainty of human involvement in climate change since the IPCC’s last report in 2007. The report provides projections of future climate change, with four scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions. It also provides a peak “target” level of greenhouse gas emissions, at which climate changes will become irreversible.
Since becoming a topic of international discussion, as well as grounds for national and international environmental policy, the science of climate change has often been mired in public skepticism. The IPCC itself came under attack by skeptics in 2009, when thousands of emails between IPCC scientists were leaked to the public. Critics claimed that the emails showed negligence and even deliberate tampering of climate data. While eight independent committees found no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct in the emails, public distrust of climate science remains an issue and influences environmental policy.
Nevertheless, international leaders are certain to draw upon the findings of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report in negotiating a new treaty to reduce emissions. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General, plans to assemble a panel of world leaders in 2014 to negotiate just such a treaty, and once again the world will watch as climate change becomes a forum for international debate and policymaking.

Official releases on the new study:

Summary of the UN Committee’s finding for policymakers
IPCC Press Release
IPCC “More Info” page about AR5

Press coverage of AR5:

New York Times
Reuters

Official government policies on climate change:

EU Summary of policy on climate change
EPA website on climate change

Selected Books at UIUC Library on Climate Change/Politics:

Boasson, Elin Lerum; Wettestad, Jørgen. (2013) EU Climate Policy: industry, policy interaction and external environment. Farnham, Surrey, England : Ashgate.

Kellow, Aynsley J.Boehmer-Christiansen, Sonja. (Eds.) (2010) The international politics of climate change. Cheltenham, UK : Edward Elgar.

Osofsky, Hari M.; McAllister, Lesley K. (2012) Climate change law and policy. New York : Wolters Kluwer.

Wang, Weiguang; Zheng, Guoguang; Pan, Jiahua. (Eds.) (2012) China’s climate change policies. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; Routledge.

Scholarly articles on politics of climate change:

Andonova, L. B., Betsill, M. M., & Bulkeley, H. (2009). Transnational Climate Governance. Global Environmental Politics, 9(2), 52-73.

Compston, H. (2010). The Politics of Climate Policy: Strategic Options for National Governments. Political Quarterly, 81(1), 107-115.

Davidson, S. (2010). Climategate hits the IPCC. Institute Of Public Affairs Review, 62(1), 26-28.

Ravindranath, N. H. (2010). IPCC: accomplishments, controversies and challenges. Current Science, 99(1), 26-35.

Zajko, M. (2011). The Shifting Politics of Climate Science. Society, 48(6), 457-461.

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Global Issues Surrounding the Syrian Civil War

The conflict in Syria has garnered the attention of the world since its inception in 2011, prompting the international community to address issues of terrorism, chemical weapons, and the growing humanitarian and refugee crisis arising from the struggle. In 2012, the United Nations, the League of Arab States, and the Foreign Ministers of the world’s leading powers agreed to the Geneva Plan, which sought to end the violence in Syria and facilitate a Democratic transition in the country. The plan, however, has thus far failed to be implemented and the conflict has only intensified, with tensions rising in the international community. Tensions have come to a high point in August and September of 2013 as UN weapons inspectors confirmed that chemical weapons were used in an attack near Damascus that killed more than 300 people. UN negotiations to craft a resolution to rid Syria of chemical weapons are the current focal point of disagreements between the United States and Russia. The framework of a deal to eliminate Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons was agreed upon by United States and Russian representatives in the UN on September 14th. However, negotiations are ongoing concerning the details of the deal and how it should be enforced, with the United States threatening the use of force if the chemical weapons are not given up.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in Syria continues to escalate. The UN refugee agency estimates the number of refugees that have crossed the border since the conflict began in 2011 to be over 2 million, a number that is rising by 5,000 daily. The surge of displaced Syrians into Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq creates the immense challenge of providing the refugees with food, housing, and healthcare. Moreover, millions of Syrians remaining in the country are in need of humanitarian aid. UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos stated during an appeal for humanitarian aid in Syria that, “Ordinary women, men and children are bearing the brunt of this crisis” (UNOCA, 2013). Although humanitarian organizations have made an immense effort to help those in need, the escalating violence continues to place the Syrian people in danger.

Check out the video of the recent Teach-in on Syria, from the Center for Global Studies at UIUC.

Latest Books at UIUC Library on Syrian Conflict:
• Martini, Jeffrey; York, Erin; Young, William. (2013) Syria as an arena of strategic competition Santa Monica, CA: Rand Group.
• Pierret, Thomas. (2013). Religion and state in Syria :the Sunni Ulama from coup to revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
• Wieland, Carsten., Almquist, Adam., Nassif, Helena.Hinnebusch, Raymond. (2013) The Syrian uprising: dynamics of an insurgency. Fife, Scotland: University of St. Andrews Centre for Syrian Studies.

Major News Outlets on Syria:
The Guardian – Latest news from Syria

Al Jazeera – Syria’s War

CBS News In-depth coverage of Syria Crisis:

BBC News – Syria Conflict

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