Post inspiration: Yahoo, complying with U.S. intelligence directive, searched emails
We’re living in a scary time in regards to online data and how that data is kept secure and private. We put a lot of faith in the companies where we save our personal data without much thought about how its kept private and secure. The article above is confirming what I’ve known since the Patriot Act was passed. The U.S. Government, in execution of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) request, using the Patriot Act as leverage, has forced Yahoo into complying with a directive to search emails. Yahoo designed a custom application to search their entire email system looking for key words, not yet known, catalog then place the information in a repository for remote pickup.
What irks me to no end is that the FISA was passed in 1978, well before anyone even dreamed of electronic storage or communications. The government used the FISA, as a sub-section of the Patriot Act, to allow it to spy on U.S. citizens in the prevention of terrorism. The crappy part of this is that they’re not targeting anyone specifically, rather, their using keyword searches and specific criteria to search EVERYTHING they can access easily. Think of trying to swat a fly with a 20 lb. sledge-hammer and you’ll come sort of close to what the government is doing. What I didn’t realize until just recently, is that the FISA has been amended with the following:
- USA PATRIOT Act
- Protect America Act of 2007
- FISA Amendment Act of 2008
- USA Freedom Act
These aren’t what I’d call light reading. In my estimation, the FISA has been essentially used as the vehicle to push modern agendas that eroded away the security of U.S. citizens to the point that we’re not treated any differently than a foreign actor. The problem with keyword searches is simple: searching for “bomb” in the email inboxes of potentially 500 million people will result in a massive amount of data. The data is of course taken out of context and often falsely targets individuals that have nothing to do with terrorism. That’s the problem with casting a wide net, you get a lot of things caught in it that you don’t want or need to catch, but need to look at none the less.
I had a Yahoo account, I deleted it on Wednesday. I had a Gmail account and deleted that a few months ago. I’m consolidated to a few Outlook accounts at this point and am starting to think that a fully encrypted offshore email service is the better way to go. It’d be a major pain to migrate everything to a new email address, but for now, I’m going to stay put as I’ve yet to see anything damaging in regards to Microsoft bending over backwards for the government similar to the way Yahoo did. I do have a ProtonMail account, based in Switzerland, and reported to have end-to-end encryption that is unique to each account (meaning not even they can decrypt). As in, if you forget your mailbox password, in order to recover access it has to delete your mailbox and start you over. With years worth of email (something I’ve been meaning to go through), it would be a horrible tragedy to have to start over.
Our government has created a structure of law that allows them to essentially do what they want, when they want to, basically without our knowledge or approval. I’m left asking myself what the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights actually stand for when, very clearly, we’ve lost some or most of our rights to privacy, security, and personal freedoms. Shame on Yahoo for just “complying” with the Governments request to search emails of all their users. Shame on the American people who have traded their privacy in exchange for violations of their rights in the name of national security. My recommendation, encrypt as much of your data and activity as you can. Encryption, as we found out in the FBI vs. Apple, requires court orders to compel you to unencrypt; and then only after they have justified their request. I’m sure the elite will alter the law to make it so that even encryption isn’t adequate protection for your privacy. How and when remains to be seen.