The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.


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It Never Stays “Over There”

Ryan Gallagher summarizes the latest revelations from Snowden and Greenwald:

The documents confirm beyond all doubt that the NSA can and does incidentally sweep up domestic communications while targeting foreigners, and it has the authority to retain such communications for up to five years. The NSA has to destroy communications concerning “U.S. persons,” except for cases in which the communication intercepted is deemed to contain “foreign intelligence information”; shows evidence of a crime; relates to a security vulnerability; or contains information pertaining to harm of life or property. In some cases, the NSA can incidentally grab Americans’ communications—without any specific search warrant under the broad authority it has under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—and pass them on to the FBI or other agencies.

No one should find this surveillance acceptable because it targets “foreigners.”  Whatever is being done “to them” will soon find its way to us.  Take the military’s use of drones to fight terrorism.  Who’s clamoring for drones now? Our domestic police force.


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A European Perspective on Government Data Surveillance

By Christopher Kuner

The recent revelations concerning widespread US government access to electronic communications data (including the PRISM system apparently run by the National Security Agency) leave many questions unanswered, and new facts are constantly emerging. Thoughtful commentators should be hesitant to make detailed pronouncements before it is clear what is actually going on.

Nevertheless, given the potential of these developments to fundamentally reshape the data protection and privacy landscape, I cannot resist drawing a few high-level, preliminary conclusions, from a European perspective:

Legal protection without political commitment is insufficient to protect privacy. In the regulation of data flows across national borders, trying to resolve conflicts between privacy regulation and government access requirements solely through legal means puts more pressure on the law than it can bear. In addition to strong legal measures, we need greater commitment to privacy protection at the political level, which unfortunately is lacking in many countries.

Government access to personal data is a global issue. International Data Privacy Law recently published a detailed legal analysis last year of systematic government access to private-sector data in nine countries (Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, the UK, and the US), and concluded that a lack of adequate transparency and clear legal standards in this area is a global problem. Revelations about the US programs should not distract attention from issues regarding government access to data in other countries. Continue reading