07/17/2013 10:22 pm ET Updated Sep 14, 2013

What Edward Snowden Is Teaching Us About America

Ever since Edward Snowden stepped into the global spotlight for leaking information about U.S. intel gathering, he has become a quasi-celebrity. Much of the media attention is focused on his Carmen Sandiego-esque globetrot, evading American authorities. This media attention is keeping Snowden alive. He won't be assassinated by the U.S. while we all watch. In fact, he's likely being afforded extra protection by clandestine U.S. security forces.

Now that our government has been so vocal against China and Russia for allowing him safe passage, Snowden has become a high value target for those who may want to further smear the reputation of the U.S. government by harming him and blaming the U.S. The meat of the story, however, lies not in Snowden's plight, but in the information he leaked and the methods by which he's evading capture.

The Meat and Potatoes

Snowden has become a political Kardashian. The media attention focuses on his current actions, while the public is left in the dark about his actual work. Many people I've talked to know about his exploits in Hong Kong and Russia. They're aware that the U.S. is hunting him. I've yet to hear anything disparaging said about him offline, although that may be because I, too, am a whistleblower. What everyone seems to be missing is what he leaked and why it's so important.

The government is monitoring us... all of us...

This is old news to anyone who works for law enforcement, the military, the government, or any of their contractors. The PRISM monitoring program that Snowden blew the whistle on has been in full operation since 2007, although friends and family I've talked to in law enforcement tell me it's been in use since 2003, which means it's likely been in use much longer. Why is nobody bothered by this?

Orwellian Reality

Big Brother is now upon us. From the joint Microsoft/NYPD "Domain Awareness" project to CISPA, the Congressional Act providing the government with many legal overreaches in regards to personal data, an all-seeing eye watching over society has become a chilling reality. Knowing companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Facebook have backdoors at all is bad enough, but the realization that they grant permission to other people to use our personal and private information as a commodity is disgraceful.

Just because I don't commit any crimes doesn't mean I'm OK with being watched in my own home. The government can monitor any digital device connected to the Internet. This means the camera, GPS, and everything else on your computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet, e-reader, PS3 (and Eye Toy), Xbox (and Kinect camera), DS, 3DS, iPod, and more is exposed to law enforcement at any time they feel like searching. I don't know what kind of terrorist you're hunting, and I'm not entirely sure why you feel you need these encroaching powers to find them, but it's not OK.

Fight Back

I'm working with my editors at HardcoreDroid, Lifehack, and Mainstreet on a few projects to fight back against intrusive government monitoring programs. Stay tuned for things to heat up over the next couple weeks. In the meantime, familiarize yourself with online security. Become aware of the gadgets and gear you have in your home. You never know who's watching you on the other end... or why...

Brian Penny is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower and freelance writer. He's a frequent contributor to Mainstreet, Lifehack, and HardcoreDroid and an affiliate of Manduka and Tazo. He documents his experiences working with Anonymous, practicing yoga, and fighting the banks on his blog.