“The NSA’s greatest win would be to convince people that privacy doesn’t exist,” says Danny O’Brien, international director of the US-based digital rights campaigners Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Privacy nihilism is the state of believing that: ‘If I’m doing nothing wrong, I have nothing to hide, so it doesn’t matter who’s watching me’.”
This has had an unintended effect of creating what O’Brien describes as “unintentional honeypots” of data that tempt those who want to snoop, be it malicious hackers, other corporations or states. In the past, corporations protected this data from hackers who might try to get credit card numbers (or similar) to carry out theft. However, these “honeypot” operators have realised that while they were always subject to the laws and courts of various countries, they are now also protecting their data from state security agencies. This largely came to light following the alleged hacking of Google’s Gmail by China. Edward Snowden’s revelations about the United States’ NSA and the UK’s GCHQ further proved the extent to which states were carrying out not just targeted snooping, but also mass surveillance on their own and foreign citizens.