Despite President Obama’s assurances in June that the NSA’s email collection program “does not apply to U.S. citizens,” it turns out the spy agency gathers millions of email address books, sometimes copying so much private data that it runs out of space to store it all.
The collection program, which has not been disclosed before, intercepts e-mail address books and “buddy lists” from instant messaging services as they move across global data links. Online services often transmit those contacts when a user logs on, composes a message, or synchronizes a computer or mobile device with information stored on remote servers.
During a single day last year, the NSA’s Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers, according to an internal NSA PowerPoint presentation. Those figures, described as a typical daily intake in the document, correspond to a rate of more than 250 million a year.
The volume of NSA contacts collection is so high that it has occasionally threatened to overwhelm storage repositories, forcing the agency to halt its intake with “emergency detasking” orders. Three NSA documents describe short-term efforts to build an “across-the-board technology throttle for truly heinous data” and longer-term efforts to filter out information that the NSA does not need.
What steps can you take to avoid playing the NSA’s game?
- First and foremost, spread the word by sharing this article with others. An informed public is much tougher for the NSA to spy on than a flock of sheep.
- Use an encrypted email service.
- Consider one of the new systems soon to be available to prevent anyone, including the NSA, from spying on your communications.
- Make it clear to your elected representatives that you will not tolerate this shameful NSA overreach and will use the power of your vote.
Source: Washington Post
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