A Proposed New Law That Affects Almost Everyone

This article is from Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, a blog I receive nearly every day. Occasionally he deviates from genealogy with other important news such as the article below.  Everyone should take the time to read it.

FBI Wants to Read Facebook, Gmail, Skype Messages, and More

I admit to being a bit of a privacy nut, but this proposal really bothers me. What do you think?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently proposed a change in the U.S. law related to wiretapping. If passed, the change would allow government monitoring of Facebook, Skype, and some email services. The idea is to change the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which currently doesn’t give investigators the right to monitor and intercept communications. The proposed new law forces telecommunications providers to set up their services in a way to allow wiretapping by the FBI and other unnamed government agencies.

You can read more on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_Assistance_for_Law_Enforcement_Act and on Slate.com at http://goo.gl/MWEpu. A quick search on Google will find dozens more articles about the proposed legislation.

Skype is being especially targeted as it is a difficult product for the Feds to wiretap. Unlike normal telephone calls, all Skype conversations are encrypted. Calls from one Skype user to another Skype user remain encrypted through the Internet. When a Skype user calls a regular telephone (an extra-cost option), the call is encrypted from the Skype user to the point where the call enters the old-fashioned telephone network. It is decrypted at that point and then travels to the other person’s telephone as a normal telephone call. Even worse (from the Fed’s viewpoint), Skype uses a distributed, peer-to-peer network with no central point at which the Feds can insert a wiretap “probe.”

Add that to the biggest-ever domestic surveillance data complex, to be completed in Utah in 2013, and you have spying capabilities that were previously unbelievable. The NSA is constructing a datacenter in Utah that some people believe will be storing yottabytes of surveillance data.

What is a yottabyte? I’m glad you asked. There are a thousand gigabytes in a terabyte, a thousand terabytes in a petabyte, a thousand petabytes in an exabyte, a thousand exabytes in a zettabyte, and a thousand zettabytes in a yottabyte. In other words, a yottabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000 gigabytes.

NOTE: The claim of yottabytes of storage is an estimate by several people outside the NSA. The NSA isn’t saying what the storage will be, nor is the agency revealing any other facts about the new center’s capabilities.

“Domestic surveillance” is a euphemism for the government spying on every person in the United States. That’s right: the government wants to know about everything you and I do. The huge new data center will presumably collect copies of every email you and I ever send or receive, every charge on our credit cards, a record of every phone call we make or receive, and probably the capability to record those calls as well.

George Orwell was right! He was only off on the year.

The new data center is so invasive that it makes the illegal personal groping by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) look like child’s play. Even worse, the new center is simply an ADDITIONAL data center, probably the biggest of all. However, NSA, the FBI, and probably some other agencies already have had a number of similar data centers in operation for several years. These previous data centers probably will continue in operation, even after the Utah center goes live.

What can you and I do to stop this huge invasion of privacy and what some people call an unconstitutional act? Obviously, we need to call or write our legislators and the White House. However, I suspect even that is not enough. The FBI, NSA, and other agencies have a history of getting what they want – with or without legislative approval.

By the way, I suspect the NSA already knows you are reading this article.