If you read Boing Boing, the NSA considers you a target for deep surveillance
The NSA says it only banks the communications of "targeted" individuals. Guess what? If you follow a search-engine link to Boing Boing's articles about Tor and Tails, you've been targeted. Cory Doctorow digs into Xkeyscore and the NSA's deep packet inspection rules.
In a shocking story on the German site Tagesschau (Google translate), Lena Kampf, Jacob Appelbaum and John Goetz report on the rules used by the NSA to decide who is a "target" for surveillance.
Since the start of the Snowden story in 2013, the NSA has stressed that while it may intercept nearly every Internet user's communications, it only "targets" a small fraction of those, whose traffic patterns reveal some basis for suspicion. Targets of NSA surveillance don't have their data flushed from the NSA's databases on a rolling 48-hour or 30-day basis, but are instead retained indefinitely.
The authors of the Tagesschau story have seen the "deep packet inspection" rules used to determine who is considered to be a legitimate target for deep surveillance, and the results are bizarre.
According to the story, the NSA targets anyone who searches for online articles about Tails -- like this one that we published in April, or this article for teens that I wrote in May -- or Tor (The Onion Router, which we've been posted about since 2004). Anyone who is determined to be using Tor is also targeted for long-term surveillance and retention.
Tor and Tails have been part of the mainstream discussion of online security, surveillance and privacy for years. It's nothing short of bizarre to place people under suspicion for searching for these terms.
More importantly, this shows that the NSA uses "targeted surveillance" in a way that beggars common sense. It's a dead certainty that people who heard the NSA's reassurances about "targeting" its surveillance on people who were doing something suspicious didn't understand that the NSA meant people who'd looked up technical details about systems that are routinely discussed on the front page of every newspaper in the world.
But it's not the first time the NSA has deployed specialized, highly counterintuitive wordsmithing to play games with the public, the law and its oversight. From James Clapper's insistence that he didn't lie to Congress about spying on Americans because he was only intercepting all their data, but not looking at it all; to the internal wordgames on evidence in the original Prism leak in which the NSA claimed to have "direct access" to servers from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, etc, even though this "direct access" was a process by which the FBI would use secret warrants to request information from Internet giants without revealing that the data was destined for the NSA.
I have known that this story was coming for some time now, having learned about its broad contours under embargo from a trusted source. Since then, I've discussed it in confidence with some of the technical experts who have worked on the full set of Snowden docs, and they were as shocked as I was.
One expert suggested that the NSA's intention here was to separate the sheep from the goats -- to split the entire population of the Internet into "people who have the technical know-how to be private" and "people who don't" and then capture all the communications from the first group.
Another expert said that s/he believed that this leak may come from a second source, not Edward Snowden, as s/he had not seen this in the original Snowden docs; and had seen other revelations that also appeared independent of the Snowden materials. If that's true, it's big news, as Snowden was the first person to ever leak docs from the NSA. The existence of a potential second source means that Snowden may have inspired some of his former colleagues to take a long, hard look at the agency's cavalier attitude to the law and decency.
Update: Bruce Schneier also believes there is a second leaker.
Update 2: Appelbaum and others have posted an excellent English language article expanding on this in Der Erste.
Los Angeles! Come see me at Exposition Park library this Thursday, talking about Big Tech, monopolies, mind control and the right of technological self-determination
From 6PM-730PM this Thursday, May 23, I'm presenting at the Exposition Park Library (Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Library, 3900 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90062) on the problems of Big Tech and how the problems of monopolization (in tech and every other industry) is supercharged by the commercial surveillance industry -- and what […]
Economist international editor Edward Lucas devotes 4,000+ words in the new issue of Foreign Policy to the changing landscape of state espionage in the 21st century; it's not particularly well-organized (if there's a reason for the order in which his thoughts are laid out, I couldn't find it), but despite that, it's well worth a […]
Police in London conducted a public street trial with facial recognition cameras. A man who covered his face as he walked by the cameras was stopped by officers, forced to submit to being photographed, and then arrested on a charge of public disorder after complaining loudly. The segment starts at 3:35 in the embedded BBC […]
Kudos to those of us who have chosen a less wasteful third option to “paper or plastic” at the supermarket or club stores. Tote bags are reusable, but they can be a pain to tote around. Here’s an upgrade to that planet-saving measure. The Club Cart Lotus Trolley Bag is that rare tote you’ll want […]
Looking for a career in IT, gaming or software development? In the ever-changing world of the internet, versatility is your biggest asset. In other words, mastering Java might not cut it in an interview if you don’t know C#. However, there’s a bundle that covers the essentials in most any language. The Legendary Learn to […]
Getting a set of cookware that will outlast you is one of those signs you’ve truly grown up. It used to be easy to find durable materials that also cook well, but these days it can be hard to tell what’s quality and what brands are coasting by on a recognizable name. Well, there’s at […]