Thursday, October 10, 2013

Amazing new report on government surveillance


Rachel Levinson-Waldman has authored a new report for the Brennan Center for Justice entitled What the Government Does With Americans' Data. Fun facts from the report:

  • NSA's PRISM data collection program may well be reading your emails.  While putatively targeted an non-citizens, the data of Americans can be collected if "incidental" or because the NSA presumes, in the absence of information as to a person's citizenship, that the person is a non-citizen.
  • The NSA has your phone call metadata. Since just after 9/11, the NSA has collected data from phone companies on who calls who, and for how long.
  • "Suspicious Activity Reports" can get you put into a federal terrorism database.  The second-most common type of SAR is taking pictures of a building. The standard for inclusion on this list is lower than reasonable suspicion.
  • The FBI has employed their sweeping surveillance power in investigations of Greenpeace, Catholic Worker, and PETA.
  • FBI employees have accessed its massive information databases to look up exotic dancers and celebrities they "thought were hot". 
  • The NSA is almost done building a massive spy center in Utah where about 100,000 square feet of space will be devoted to housing computer servers.  The better to watch you with.
This report is an impressively comprehensive assessment of the ways in which the Government monitors, uses, and retains your data.  Thanks to Ms. Levinson-Waldman for assembling it, and good luck to her in dealing with the elongated TSA screens which surely await her now.

For more information on protecting your own data, visit the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (more on this organization soon).  Among other tools available at their site, EFF has created a browser extension which helps encrypt your communications with major websites.  Download it here.

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