Personal email and private clouds fall in war on privacy

Not content to track smartphone and Internet use, the industrial surveillance state claims two more casualties

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• The DEA uses data from NSA intercepts in drug cases, then goes back and "re-creates" the investigation to cover up the use of that data. From there, the DEA uses it to coerce plea bargains out of suspects. When the suspects decide to challenge the evidence instead, the DEA usually drops the case. Not only did senior DEA officials tell Reuters they're doing this, they admit they've been doing something like this for decades -- calling it a "bedrock concept" of drug enforcement.

This is your war on drugs. And it's only cost about $1 trillion so far. At least we got "Breaking Bad" out of it.

• The NSA routinely searches the content of emails coming in and out of the country for keywords -- not just the emails of non-U.S. citizens, and not just the conversations of people who are on the NSA's 875,000-member terrorist watchlist. If your email is merely "about" something the NSA is interested in, it goes into the hopper for further analysis.

Doesn't that directly contradict what spy agency officials have been telling Congress and the rest of us? Yes, it does. Hope you're not asking your foreign friends for recommendations on what pressure cooker to buy or talking about how Daft Punk is "da bomb."

Oh yeah: Glenn Greenwald promises there are plenty more leaks still to come. Fasten your seatbelts.

International men of misery
Most of the debate in the United States has been whether the NSA is targeting Americans when it's not supposed to. (The answer to that also seems to be yes.) Because it's a given the NSA is targeting everyone else on the planet who has access to electricity.

Guess what? The rest of the planet is not pleased. The damage to U.S. Internet companies that do business internationally -- which is to say, nearly all of them -- may be catastrophic.

A report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation says that NSA spying could cost U.S. cloud companies between $22 billion and $35 billion, as international customers take their business elsewhere. Given the privacy regulations in the EU and parts of Asia, they may not have any choice.

Let's say you approach a cloud storage company and ask if your data is truly secure or whether it's going be funneled into a massive database and used to prosecute meth dealers in New Mexico. But instead of answering, the company shrugs its shoulders and makes the zipper motion across the mouth. Would you do business with that firm?

That's the situation facing companies Lavabits and Silent Mail -- not to mention Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Dropbox, and so on. If no one is allowed to say what's really going on, no data is safe, and everyone becomes suspect.

I thought the NSA's job was to keep people from hurting this country. I must have had that backward.

Do you feel safe keeping your data in the cloud? Post your thoughts below or share them with me (and possibly the NSA) here:

This article, "Personal email and private clouds fall in war on privacy," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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