It’s always the lies. With the revelation that the US is collaborating with various big name internet companies like Google and Apple to spy on everyone comes round after round of denial, and I don’t know which bugs me more. The latest is the claim that we’re only snooping on foreigners, not US citizens (as if that makes it OK, anyway).
At a hearing of the Senate intelligence committee In March this year, Democratic senator Ron Wyden asked James Clapper, the director of national intelligence: "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"
"No sir," replied Clapper.
Oh, yeah? Here’s a screenshot from the NSA datamining tool, called BoundlessInformant (just the name is revealing, isn’t it?). Color is a measure of the degree of surveillance, with red the most and blue the least. What’s that country in the lovely goldenrod somewhere in the middle of the western hemisphere? Oh, that’s us.
Relax, though. All those companies collaborating with the NSA are swearing on a stack of Bibles that they have nothing to do with it.
On the heels of media reports that the NSA has gained access to the servers of nine leading tech companies — enabling the spy agency to examine emails, video, photographs, and other digital communications — Google has issued a strongly worded statement denying that the company granted the government "direct access" to its servers. That statement goes so far as to say that the company hasn’t even heard of "a program called PRISM until yesterday."
It’s Google. It’s their company policy to not be evil. They wouldn’t lie to us, would they?
According to Chris Soghoian, a tech expert and privacy researcher at the American Civil Liberties Union, the phrase "direct access" connotes a very specific form of access in the IT-world: unrestricted, unfettered access to information stored on Google servers. In order to run a system such as PRISM, Soghoian explains, such access would not be required, and Google’s denial that it provided "direct access" does not necessarily imply that the company is denying having participated in the program. Typically, the only people having "direct access" to the servers of a company like Google would be its engineers. (Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has issued a similarly worded denial in which he says his company has not granted the government "direct access" to its servers," but his language mirrors Google’s denial about direct access.)
No, not Facebook, too!
I like the point made by Cenk Uygur in this video: it’s a clear violation of the fourth amendment to the US constitution. Isn’t it cute how people are absolutists about the right to bear arms, but prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures? That we can wobble on.