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SurveillanceU.S. tech companies could go “dark” to regain trust

By David Glance

Published 7 November 2013

With each new revelation of the scope of the American National Security Agency’s spying, perceptions of the importance of privacy are hardening around the world. There is thus a motivation for major technology companies to provide a verifiably secure means of allowing users to communicate securely without an ability for the companies to provide access to security agencies, even if requested to. Two companies, Silent Circle and Lavabit, have come together to form the Dark Mail alliance in an attempt to do exactly this.

With each new revelation of the scope of the American National Security Agency’s spying, perceptions of the importance of privacy are hardening around the world.

Systematic monitoring of the world’s communications can possibly be justified when terrorism is the driver, but it’s clear the spying has not been limited to terrorist targets.

Brazil’s largest oil company Petrobas has been spied on along with the United Nations and possibly the most shocking of all, the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

There could be no justification for spying on Angela Merkel on the basis of protecting the U.S. or anyone else against terrorism. This was plain political espionage using the massive technological monitoring capabilities at the NSA’s disposal.

Nobody could be left in any doubt that the U.S.’s interests extend beyond terrorism and for that reason corporations and civilians worldwide are always going to be “subjects of interest.”

After discovering that it has been subjected to NSA spying, Brazil has initiated calls for internet infrastructure and governance that bypasses the U.S. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is trying to legislate that Internet companies like Google and Facebook store all data relating to Brazilian users locally, a move being opposed by these companies.

Brazil is also building a “BRICS Cable” that connects Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa in order to bypass the current cable that is routed through Miami.

At the same time, Internet users are revisiting their use of encryption and anonymization technologies. Although the move to try and protect privacy might have started because of concerns over the NSA, there is now general acceptance that it’s not simply the U.S. that is engaging in systematic monitoring. This has been a worldwide phenomenon with the only distinction being whether the spying was done simply in the individual country’s interests or on behalf of another like the U.S.

Security analyst Bruce Schneier has outlined five pieces of advice for those wishing to remain secure from the NSA and other agencies.