Jacob Appelbaum of the Tor Project and Wikileaks addressed the European Parliament on the issue of surveillance and freedom. It was a remarkable speech, even by Appelbaum's high standards. An amateur transcript gives you a sense of what's going on, but the video is even better: "Is it used for coercion? Is data passed to autocratic regimes? Is it used to study groups? Is it used to disrupt? Yes, yes, and yes. Might they force or forge data? Absolutely."
When Obama says that we don't need to be afraid, first of all, it's insulting to every single one of you in the room. When he says to Americans "Don't worry, we don't spy on Americans." I think "What about every other human being on this planet?" And I apologize on behalf of my incredibly insulting President for saying that about each and every one of you, because that is not acceptable. He's also wrong, because in my experience with Wikileaks, Americans actually have more to be afraid of. The reason is that there is a system and culture of repression that is so total that in some cases, people will not pick up the phone to talk for fear of the meta-data linking that person to my telephone. So in the US I basically don't have a telephone that people know about. I have one for emergencies that is never powered on.
Is it used for coercion? Is data passed to autocratic regimes? Is it used to study groups? Is it used to disrupt? Yes, yes, and yes. Might they force or forge data? Absolutely. In fact, I've been detained at borders where they've let me know how utterly in trouble I was going to be but that they could not arrest me, which is a very fascinating thing. I'm not allowed to see this file, I'm not allowed to correct this file, I'm not allowed to know it. They've accidentally let me see the file while holding me in an interrogation cell. Their two-way mirror wasn't quite so good. In this case I said "hey, that data's wrong." They said "you can't see that data." I said "but I already did" They said "no, you didn't." "okay." So, clearly, someone makes mistakes, and whether or not it's an intentional mistake is a good question.
How do we detect this kind of surveillance? It's easy. Do you have a phone? You have a tracking device. You make a call? It was probably intercepted.