Why we should all be worried about the NSA story

So what’s been most surprising about the NSA story? The fact that the US and UK are accessing huge amounts of private citizens’ data without a search warrant? Or the fact that, apparently, nobody cares?

The FT’s John Gapper writes here about the way that, if you are not American, your emails and other data can be freely viewed by the NSA. With cloud computing and other services outsourced to the US, that could well be most of your data.

And we now know the NSA also broke its own rules.

So you’re probably thinking, I’m not a terrorist, so why exactly does this matter? No one is going to investigate me.

To make it really clear what the state having your private data could mean for you, you need to read this.

Technically, this is not ‘the NSA story’, but what it tells you about what states will do with data – once you have been called to their attention – is very interesting indeed. It is a chilling account in Harpers magazine by the American writer William T Vollman about his surveillance by the US state over more than 20 years. He’s a writer who’s never been charged with any offence or stood trial, and yet the FBI holds a file with over 785 pages on him. 

Freedom of information laws allowed Vollman to get hold of a redacted report of 294 pages.

The most chilling part of his account (worth buying Harpers to read) is the part where he discovers, reading this file, that he had late been denounced to the FBI by someone who suspected him of being the Unabomber. The evidence? Views expressed in five books he had written. Historical parallels with the treatment of writers under communism are hard to ignore.

Still not worried?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *