Does The Government Spy On You?

In the 1920s, US Army cryptographers set up the ‘Black Chamber’ to monitor international communication coming in and out of the country Flouting the Bill of Rights’ proud declarations of privacy, they asked Western Union’s permission to access telegrams – they acquiesced

Does this pattern of private corporations relinquishing their customers’ personal information and communications to Government agencies sound familiar? Since the dawn of nation states, governments have tried to retain power by controlling their citizens, and the best way to stay on top is to keep a very close eye on what your populace is doing, saying or thinking Julius Caesar had a network of spies throughout Rome, while in the Ancient Chinese text ‘The Art of War’, Sun Tzu notes that: “Enlightened rulers and good generals who are able to obtain intelligent agents as spies are certain for great achievements” In more recent times, advances in technology have increased the resolution and field of view of the government’s watchful eye to a never-before-seen magnitude In the USA, it was post-World War anxiety that got the ball rolling In August 1945, Project SHAMROCK began

It was a way for the Army to continue tapping major communications cables, something that was legal only in war-time American citizens were still unaware when, in 1952, the National Security Agency was established to take over Project SHAMROCK, which it ran until 1975 It collected up to 150,000 messages each month Cable companies were never told that the government’s activity involved analysing the telegrams of American citizens, as well as sanctioned foreign nationals Project SHAMROCK may have been shut down due to increased scrutiny, but the NSA still operates freely today and with very little scrutiny

Now with vastly greater technology and vastly greater resources, often attributed to post-9/11 paranoia, it is claimed that the government is capable of spying on people in myriad ways The prime example of which is monitoring internet usage Smart phones are particularly vulnerable In 2013, Bloomberg reported that the NSA had inserted code into the Android Operating System The code is called ‘Security Enhancements for Android’, and is normally invisible to the user of the phone

Also in 2013, ‘Der Spiegel’ reported that they had seen evidence that the NSA could access data from Android, iPhone and Blackberry devices The information that the NSA is able to acquire remotely includes text messages, location details and saved documents The Government is particularly interested in where you are and where you are going Cell phone towers can be used to track citizens In 2011, cellphone companies revealed that Government institutions made 1

3 million requests for locations and other phone data Thousands of private records were being handed over every day When companies refuse, the police can use small boxes called ‘Stingrays’ that mimic cell phone towers to gather data Some of these are small enough to mount on drones You can’t even get away by turning your phone off – the tracking techniques still work

If you abandon modern technology altogether, the Postal Service can photograph your mail If the NSA is so secretive and clandestine, then how do we know anything for sure? A little-known security contractor named Edward Snowden was hired as an infrastructure analyst through consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton In 2013, while stationed at an NSA facility in Hawaii, he downloaded up to 200,000 files, fled to Hong Kong, and then released them to journalists working for The Washington Post and The Guardian This is what the files revealed The NSA runs a number of programmes designed to collect and analyze the data of all American citizens

UPSTREAM and PRISM are the two main systems that the NSA uses to collect data UPSTREAM directly taps into fibre-optic cables in order to harvest data, while PRISM takes information directly from the servers of service providers The documents explicitly name Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple The Guardian revealed that these companies were paid millions of dollars in return for their cooperation Optic Nerve is a further information collection tool

This scans webcams of Yahoo Messenger users, takes photographs, and stores them in a database During 6 months in 2008, 18 million accounts were targeted Boundless Informant is used to map the intercepted meta-data of communications The government claims it only monitors foreign individuals in the interest of national security

But in March 2013 alone, Boundless Informant collected 3 billion pieces of metadata from United States citizens without their knowledge There are many more programs, but possibly the most powerful, is XKeyScore XKeyScore is a tool used to search through all the information collected by the other programs With just a personal email, any NSA analyst has the ability to wiretap, view search histories and even see Facebook chat conversations They can monitor anyone, from a friend, to an enemy, a journalist, the police, a judge or even the President – all they need is your email address

The 200,000 documents that Edward Snowden extracted are still being slowly but surely leaked, so more secrets will see the light of day Now we know that the Government is spying on us, but the true extent of their surveillance remains to be seen One thing’s for certain, they know you’ve watched this video"

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