Big Uncle: the total lack of privacy in electronic communications

We have been discussing Big Uncle: the benevolent aspects of ceding privacy to security systems. Be aware how little privacy you have in electronic communciations.

According to EchelonWatch [before their site was munted by spammers], the NSA’s project

Echelon [was] perhaps the most powerful intelligence gathering organisation in the world. Echelon attempts to capture staggering volumes of satellite, microwave, cellular and fibre-optic traffic, including communications to and from North America. This vast quantity of voice and data communications are then processed through sophisticated filtering technologies.

Wikipedia says

the European Parliament concludes that, on the basis of evidence presented, ECHELON was capable of interception and content inspection of telephone calls, fax, e-mail and other data traffic globally through the interception of communication bearers including satellite transmission, public switched telephone networks and microwave links.

According to the ACLU Echelon is old hat:

The NSA has gained direct access to the telecommunications infrastructure through some of America's largest companies. The agency appears to be not only targeting individuals, but also using broad "data mining" systems that allow them to intercept and evaluate the communications of millions of people within the United States... We do not know the extent to which [Echelon] continue to be significant for the NSA, or the extent to which they have been superseded by the agency's new direct access to the infrastructure, including the Internet itself.

The Pentagon had a program called Total Information Awareness to link databases of personal information and scan them for signs of terrorist threats. Every credit-card purchase you make, every prescription you fill, every phone call you place could go into a government computer. TIA funding was removed by Congress but portions of TIA continue. Wikipedia says:

Despite the withdrawal of funding for the TIA and the closing of the IAO, the core of the project survived... One technology, now codenamed "Baseball" is the Information Awareness Prototype System, the core architecture to integrated all the TIA's information extraction, analysis, and dissemination tools.

The Transportation Security Administration had similar goals for its Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS-II), now called “Secure Flight” and somewhat restricted... for now.

There is also a FBI online wiretapping program, dubbed "Carnivore" but renamed DCS1000, which uses Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to intercept and analyze e-mail. Carnivore is possibly now retired in favour of commercially available tools.

So there is no use going on about electronic privacy of communciations - you don't have any.

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