Feeds

Telcos wish to deny mass snooping

'Compassionate totalitarianism' proves tricky for the private sector

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Now for a brief word on just how bad this mess actually is. Assuming the NSA program is as advertised, it would not constitute a serious threat to privacy. So long as the agency sticks to its stated goal of analysing call patterns, without identifying data, it's fairly harmless.

That's not to say it's a good thing. Indeed, it might well be illegal. The Bush Administration is betting its authority to analyse domestic phone calls on a presumption of wartime powers, and subsequent certifications by the US Attorney General that the practice is legal under the circumstances. These certifications amount to a get out of jail free card for the telcos, if scant insurance against a PR backlash.

However, if Bush's authoritarian house of cards, built on a very questionable claim of "wartime authority", is to blow away, the shock waves will be severe throughout Washington (and Fort Meade, and Langley). And the telcos could face a PR debacle of Biblical proportions.

Second, the potential for abuse is enormous, when we consider how easy it is to purchase, quite legally, personally-identifying data from sources like ChoicePoint, et al. The NSA has demonstrated, in the (post-Church-Committee) recent past, that it is admirably conscientious about protecting the privacy of US persons insofar as it can. But today it's absurdly easy to get all of the personally-identifying data one could wish for merely by paying a data broker, while the climate of paranoia, endless emergency, and imperious swagger within the Bush Administration is palpable. The outside pressure from the administration, and the internal temptations, to take it to the next level must be tremendous. One has got to figure, if they haven't given in yet, it's only a matter of time.

Still, at least until we learn more, this program appears to be minimally intrusive, if quite foolhardy. The NSA is going to be buried in data, and making useful sense of it is a long shot.

Far more ominous is the admission, by Bush himself, that the NSA has been eavesdropping on the actual content of phone calls and emails between US persons and foreigners, without a FISA warrant. This is a felony. And if the telcos have been cooperating with this outrage - if this is what they cannot confirm or deny - then there is no number of "certifications" from the Attorney General that will keep the gaoler's hand off their collars. ®

Related stories

CIA defends unaccountable snooping(18 May 2006)
Protection from prying NSA eyes (17 May 2006)
DoJ intervenes in 'warrantless' wiretapping lawsuit (15 May 2006)
NSA data trawl furore (12 May 2006)
Senate to save Bush's bacon on illegal wiretaps (8 March 2006)
NSA searches for advanced data mining tech (27 February 2006)
NSA uses ECHELON against US citizens (16 December 2005)
Arrest at UK's spook station after NSA UN bugging claim (9 March 2003)
This is how we know Echelon exists (14 September 2001)
What are those words that trigger Echelon? (31 May 2001)

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Nadella: Apps must run on ALL WINDOWS – PCs, slabs and mobes
Phone egg, meet desktop chicken - your mother
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.