As Snowden's hoard of NSA documents slowly drips out through the Guardian and related media taps, should we be surprised that a country with the wealth and Internet proliferation of the US is actively involved in tapping that information?

While I have to say I am worried about the extent of the activities that have been going on, particularly because there would appear to be very little meaningful oversight or accountability. I can't but help see the point of those who say, they're a spying organisation doing spying - what do you expect? But then again if the police started locking everyone , because well they're the police they lock people up (actually in the US they do like to lock a lot of people up.) we'd rightly be up in arms. Loosing your freedom and having your personal data 'touched' are clearly two different things. But it's not a big leap to see how the latter leads to the former. 

Apart from the obvious issues with the 'lets spy on everyone just incase' attitude that appears to be rife. I think a lot of the uneasiness stems from the realisation that the Internet isn't quite as anonymous as we once thought. Now I'm not so naive, as to imagine the Internet, as perhaps the early users did, as the new utopia. I know that it's not that hard to gather data on your users, track them, target ads at them, loose their login details etc etc. But somehow I felt ok with that. I understood it and entered into it. What's different is when a nation state collects vast amounts of data, in private and with the threat of legal action.

The carefully worded statements from the NSA appear to support the idea that they have packet sniffers in data centres and a significant amount of relevant data is being 'touched'. Even if it's not a large percentage of the total traffic if you know what to look for you don't need to tap much data to glean an awful lot of information. Whether or not they have broken SSL or it's related technologies remains to be seen. If they have I doubt we'll see any evidence of it soon. We rely so heavily on it to carry out 'secure' transactions that it would be devastating if it were revealed to be broken. If history is anything to go by, breaking a cipher and then selling it on as unbroken isn't unheard of. The British and American's did it with the Enigma machine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra#Postwar_disclosures  .

The fact that Internet traffic is being spied upon, isn't really that much of a surprise. The fact that is seems to be so widely tapped and stored is very concerning though. Those vast warehouses of data hold data about us, and we have no way of validating what is held and for what reason. With further details about the lack of proper security measures on NSA data and further leaks of spying at the UN, how sure can we be that the data isn't flowing across to other countries to sit in their pools of private data. 

Are the Snowden leaks that surprising? appeared on the blog of Pablo Ardila 
 





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