The US is now the World’s STASI

The blanket spying (or wiretapping) on communications data in the USA predominantly  applies to non-US nationals according to the BBC (US security services seem to acknowledge this with some pride). As I reported in an earlier article on cloud computing the US in fact has a law which automatically gives them the right to snoop on all data carried on their networks which originates from non-US nationals. This means anything you post on Google, Dropbox, Mediafire or simply Skype can be logged and used for their own ends. Apparently this snooping is perfectly acceptable as  non-US nationals don’t matter. Interestingly though the snoopers charter can apply when one of the people involved is not from the US.

Mr Clapper said the communications-collection programme was “designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-US persons located outside the United States”. (Source: BBC News)

It should be noted though that the current scandal also seems to suggest that US nationals have also been spied on however if what I read is correct then the law was only ever designed to target foreign nationals. Furthermore, worrying for everyone is the use of the term “private” with respect to data as apparently information stored on a telecom network is for the most part not deemed private anymore as the company has access to it. This also means the US authorities do not need a court order in order to obtain data on anyone – regardless of nationality. All of this falls under the PRISM programme which the Guardian reports basically circumvents any previous safeguards.

China and Saudi Arabia often get cited as a places which snoop on Internet communications but the PRISM programme basically allows the US authorities access to any data they wish and as the Guardian notes essentially allows them direct access in real time to any data. In effect this makes the US on the same level as Saudi Arabia and most likely many other similar regimes across the globe. It has always been my view that the Internet was by far the best spying platform available to any state, it seems sadly that view is not far off the mark. Not scared yet? Well the British based Indepedent Newspaper suggests claims that:

According to the report, the intelligence agencies have access to the central servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple.”

Interestingly telcos and other providers are also not allowed to confirm if they are taking part in the scheme as this apparently would also be a breach of national security. While I am sympathetic to the needs of the US post 9-11 I do think that this kind of behaviour will  only further undermine the support the receive from people such as myself. Indeed as it stands the current law seems to take the view that all foreign nationals are potential terrorists  – which I find totally unacceptable.

About Rod McCall

Rod McCall is a researcher in the field of human-computer interaction in areas such as augmented reality, mobile gaming in-car systems and virtual environments. He has a passing interest in economics after not being entirely convinced by the rubbish presented as fact during lectures on that particular subject while at uni.
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