The recent revelations by Edward Snowden about how the US secret service National Security Agency has massive access to almost everyone’s data stored by the telecommunications and cloud service providers over the past decade was not a surprise to me. I have never understood why people have deplored the intrusion by snoopers on the privacy of non guilty. Apart from fools, we all know that criminals and terrorists hide like needles in the vast haystack of the innocent majority. When terrorists strike most people shout to their rooftops and fail to appreciate that in order to find terror plotters and other security posing criminals, the hardworking secret service agents need to scan who among us is guilty and that’s what has made me put security above privacy at any given time. The Edward Snowden’s leaked material did not change what I knew to be far-reaching powers of secret services.
Having read about Mossad, the world’s most feared secret service and their friendly brothers from United Kingdom MI6 I did not understand what the fuss was all about Snowden leaking which personally I considered unfortunate. United States just like any caring government has at its disposal powers to request and obtain data from telecommunications and cloud service providers because that’s the only this world can be safe and secure. Apart from rogue states, searches and seizures by secret services, requires the state authorities to prove beyond any doubt the cause of crime committed and in most cases in the western world there must be a production of a warrant and for the subject of the warrant to be notified.
One of the reasons why the NSA was capable of accessing data for Americans was because it was stored by a third party and that way a person can’t claim data to be confidential and private if that data is stored with a third party like Facebook, Google, Apple and the likes and US secret services are said to use this exception every now and then so as not to require a warrant. Whether you like it or not, technology is available for secret service agents to determine our exact data like names, contacts on file-sharing, shared wireless network users, webmail, chat accounts, exact locations and among many others. A tradition enforcing wiretap of telecommunications services at will by secret service agencies worldwide even without a requirement to inform their target is common in any country. In addition to that, Internet Service Providers, telecommunication and other service providers have to comply with many countries operation secrecies. In most countries, electronic surveillance of an individual can be conducted without a warrant.
Another way for the most powerful agents to access our data is by having telecom operators, banking and financial services organizations as well as Internet Service Providers hand over the data on suspects. A national secret agency can order data from a service provider and in most cases the agencies forbid service provider from revealing the existence of such a process. In countries like Finland, Canada and Australia there are no laws that allow authorities to demand data from private organizations and individuals, but secret services there can instead use selected pieces of legislation to access the data. There are plenty of surveillance tools operated by secret services and are used in mining information and agencies can build databases of phone records from mobile operators. In Europe, the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime allows for a global network of law enforcement authorities to gather data from within their jurisdiction for the purpose of sharing with their counterparts. While there are plenty of instruments by which the secret services worldwide can monitor their citizens and aliens, legal experts have long warned that most service providers never hand over customer data willingly. I’am worried that we’ve set our minds on privacy at the expense of security which matters more than Edward Snowden’s making front page headlines worldwide.
(Security Affairs – Secret service, surveillance)