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Wikimedia, the non-profit organization behind Wikipedia and other online resources, has filed a lawsuit against the NSA and the DOJ over the NSA’s mass surveillance program. Their intention is to fight for the rights of their users from all across the world who are being spied on by the NSA. They are joined in the suit by 8 other organizations, and will be represented in court by the ACLU.

Wikimedia explains that its opposition to the NSA surveillance is based on the importance of privacy in promoting free expression and open dialogue, stating,

“Privacy is the bedrock of individual freedom. It is a universal right that sustains the freedoms of expression and association. These principles enable inquiry, dialogue, and creation and are central to Wikimedia’s vision of empowering everyone to share in the sum of all human knowledge. When they are endangered, our mission is threatened. If people look over their shoulders before searching, pause before contributing to controversial articles, or refrain from sharing verifiable but unpopular information, Wikimedia and the world are poorer for it.”

Wikimedia plans to challenge the NSA’s activities as a violation of the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and association, and the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. Previous attempts to challenge the NSA in court have been dismissed by the Supreme Court, because the parties lacked standing. In order to having standing to file a lawsuit, parties must show that they have suffered some harm. Since the NSA’s activities are secret, it has been very difficult for any person or organization to prove that they have been specifically targeted by the NSA’s surveillance programs and suffered harm because of them.

Wikimedia however, believes they do have standing to bring a suit against the NSA. A slide in a leaked PowerPoint presentation, which was used by the NSA, specifically mentions Wikipedia and displays its logo. Wikipedia was listed along with sites like Facebook and Gmail, which the NSA claimed could tell them everything they needed to know about a person, if they monitored the person’s activities on those sites.

It remains uncertain how the court will rule in this case, or even if it will hear the case at all. However if the suit is successful, it may be the victory privacy advocates need to restrict mass surveillance.

Do you think the court will hear the case, or reject it for lack of standing? How do you think they will rule if they do hear the case? Leave your comment below.


Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.