Monday, July 07, 2014

NSA surveillance has led to lots of "selfie" info on ordinary Internet users in US; remote risk that it could be misused by mistake exists

Paul Waldman has a brief perspective this morning, on how people around the world feel about the NSA spying issue, here where  refers to some other specific stories.  But he skips the enormous story Sunday July 6 by Barton Gellman, Julie Tate and Askkan Soltani, “Caught in the NSA net: Intercepts mostly from non-targets; ordinary web users’ data dominates collection”, here.   Generally, as reported before, the NSA has been using the more lenient standards of PRISM to go after data when it doesn’t have time for FISA court supervision.

The circumstance that seems to lead to extraneous collection is an “ordinary” person’s calling or texting a number on a target list (often overseas), or possibly answering emails, forwarding or responding to tweets or other social media posts of targets, or sometimes visiting certain websites.  The story mentioned the collections of selfie photos, family pictures, resumes, job applications, even medical history or perhaps psychiatric information.  But the case histories of actual collections seem to involve individuals incidental to foreign persons under big-time surveillance because of (usually) radical Islamic activities or sometimes hacking or organized crime in places like China and Russia. 
Personal blog posts are probably culled.  Since mine are public, that’s fine with me.  Maybe the NSA has the unusual email sent to my AOL account Aug. 15, 2008 by activists in Nigeria threatening to attack oil fields (I don’t think it’s spam).  I reported it publicly (on the International Issues blog) , and the government (as are oil companies) is free to use it and correlate the info as it likes. 
CNN discusses the story this AM (related link), and still expresses concern that someone can wind up on a no-fly list without recourse.  It gave one obscure example.  There does need to be Congressional oversight.  I did not fly from late 2006 until mid 2011, and I didn’t fly in 2012 (I did a plane trip to Atlanta recently). Something could happen behind my own back.  CNN expects more users to want to use end-to-end encryption, as offered recently by Google.    

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