Catching up on the NSA’s Surveillance Program
As we adjust our tinfoil hats and try to make sense of the revelations that the US National Security agency has been monitoring email, cellular and other digital traffic for years now, we do a lot of reading.
It’s a fluid story with new facts coming to the fore about as fast as reporters can tweet them.
There are a lot of moving parts. First and foremost is news of NSA snooping on American activities via its PRISM program. Then there are denials by the Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft that they provided the Feds with back door access to their servers. Honest!
We’re not sure which is scarier: that they’re lying and actually do and did, or that they’re telling the truth and the government snuck in undetected.
While The Wall Street Journal appears quite happy with the program (Thank You for Data-Mining) and The New York Times quite angry (President Obama’s Dragnet), here’s some of what’s coming across our radar to help people get up to speed.
Chronicle Of Higher Education, Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’
Privacy is often threatened not by a single egregious act but by the slow accretion of a series of relatively minor acts. In this respect, privacy problems resemble certain environmental harms, which occur over time through a series of small acts by different actors. Although society is more likely to respond to a major oil spill, gradual pollution by a multitude of actors often creates worse problems.
The Guardian, Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations (Video)
Any analyst at any time can target anyone, any selector, anywhere. Where those communications will be picked up depends on the range of the sensor networks and the authorities that analyst is empowered with. Not all analysts have the ability to target everything. But I sitting at my desk certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a Federal judge to even the President if I had a personal e-mail.
New York Times, How the US Uses Technology to Mine More Data More Quickly
“American laws and American policy view the content of communications as the most private and the most valuable, but that is backwards today,” said Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington group. “The information associated with communications today is often more significant than the communications itself, and the people who do the data mining know that.”
The Guardian, Boundless Informant: the NSA’s secret tool to track global surveillance data
A snapshot of the Boundless Informant data, contained in a top secret NSA “global heat map” seen by the Guardian, shows that in March 2013 the agency collected 97 [billion] pieces of intelligence from computer networks worldwide… The level of detail includes individual IP addresses.
Wall Street Journal, Technology Emboldened the NSA
The NSA’s advances have come in the form of programs developed on the West Coast—a central one was known by the quirky name Hadoop—that enable intelligence agencies to cheaply amplify computing power, U.S. and industry officials said. The new capabilities allowed officials to shift from being overwhelmed by data to being able to make sense of large chunks of it to predict events, the officials said. [Related: Why Metadata Matters, via the Electronic Frontier Foundation.]
Tips and Tricks
Wired, Hear Ye, Future Deep Throats: This Is How to Leak to the Press.
Fox News, A guide for journalists (and everyone else) to avoid government snoops.
Medill National Security Zone, Digital Security Basics for Journalists.
Slate, How to Shield Your Calls, Chats, and Internet Browsing From Government Surveillance
Bonus: Our Surveillance Tag is a deep dive into all things… err, surveillance.
Image: Feeling Safer? by John Cole.