Experts explain your online privacy rights

Experts explain your online privacy rights in light of spying scandal

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According to documents, the NSA can directly tap into the servers of nine big internet companies, extracting photos, emails and video chats. According to documents, the NSA can directly tap into the servers of nine big internet companies, extracting photos, emails and video chats.
"If you don't want it online, the way to not have it online is to never put it online," said digital media manager Bob Wilson. "If you don't want it online, the way to not have it online is to never put it online," said digital media manager Bob Wilson.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Many people are concerned over headlines that the federal government has been monitoring phone records and Internet activity in the name of national security.

The Washington Post uncovered a massive spying program capable of tracing anything a person does online.

President Obama says the National Security Administration has been doing this since 2006, but the program doesn't apply to U.S. citizens.

According to those documents, the NSA can directly tap into the servers of nine big internet companies, extracting photos, emails and video chats.

News of the government collecting phone records and internet data is drawing many different opinions.

Some locals say if it prevents a terrorist attack, the activity is justified. Others say the spying is a violation of privacy.

Experts say you do have legal privacy rights and there are a few ways to try and keep some of your information secret.

Dan Jones, an internet and cell phone user, said he'd have no issue with the government collecting his phone records and tracking his online activity.

"I don't have anything to hide, so my phone calls, it's going to be public record anyway. You can see it on my phone bill. I don't see it being a big deal and if it prevents things, even better," said Jones.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said covertly mass collecting records and internet data is a violation of privacy.

"It's just ridiculous to me. I don't understand why somebody is not demanding that these kind of violations to our civil liberties stop," said Mayor Burchett.

6 News Legal Analyst Greg Isaacs said under the Fourth Amendment, individuals have an expectation of privacy with phone conversations and internet communications, unless there's a search warrant.

But under the national security exception, he says the Fourth Amendment protections are being diminished.

"Basically there are no rights according to the NSA and I think what you're going to see is Congress and the House act very swiftly to make them have a showing and define the parameters of what is, what is not a national security interest," said Isaacs.

Digital media manager Bob Wilson says there are steps you can take to protect your information online.

He says use difficult passwords and change them often. Don't click on suspicious links and periodically check privacy settings on websites because the settings often change.

Bottom line, he says, if you don't want others to have your information, don't put it out there.

"If you don't want it online, the way to not have it online is to never put it online," said Wilson.

Computer experts say if the government wants to get your information and are using tapping servers to obtain the information, no password will protect you.

Again, the president says no one is listening to the phone calls and the online activity of US citizens is not being monitored.

Obama administration officials say collecting the data is legal and approved by a special intelligence court.

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