Edward Snowden's Leaks & How not to Misuse the Web  
Edward Snowden [l] is a computer specialist that was employed as a contractor by the NSA [l] and the CIA [l]. In June 2013, he leaked classified documents and exposed to the press how the NSA was spying on the users of Facebook, Google, Microsoft and other software/internet companies with physical ties to the United States. He fled the United States and sought refugee status in Russia, which he obtained in August.

Edward_Snowden_-Thank_You-_bus.jpg
Bus ad in Washington DC thanks Edward Snowden. This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
08.31.13
It is debatable whether or not Snowden's leaking of classified documents is justified — he could probably have achieved the same effect by following a different path which would not have resulted in exposing top secret information to the press. But nonetheless, it's hard to dismiss his courage to let go of a 6 figure income job and a really hot girlfriend because he felt it was important to let the public know that they were being spied on by the NSA.
His action (either heroic or treacherous depending on your point of view) nonetheless did have a significant impact on how the average citizen now sees the internet: it has become clear that pretty much everything that is posted on the internet or that is written in emails can be accessed by the authorities without the need for warrants. I can see how this can be advantageous to the society (in terms of preventing crime, anarchy, or terrorism), but this also means less freedom of expression to the individuals. I suspect that background checks and security clearances make use of the data collected by the NSA. Such is of particular importance to us, aerospace engineers, who very often need security clearance [l] to get a job or to be promoted. And I wouldn't be surprised if some of the private data collected by the NSA or other agencies is also used by many companies to screen out potential employees even when no security clearance is required. (Indeed, a 2009 study by Microsoft [l] showed that about 80% of U.S. recruiters base their decision to hire a potential employee on his/her online reputation within social media websites, forums, etc).
Needless to say, it is wise to assume that everything we write in emails, in chat programs, on social media websites, or on general discussion boards (even when using an “anonymous” identity or email address) can end up being associated with our name and social security number. This is not to say that the internet should not be used, but that it should be used assuming there is no privacy of any kind ;)
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