I was somewhat surprised to hear that the news that CIA (or NSA) has been snooping on Internet interconnections has surprised anyone (read that twice). In the computing world, this has been the assumption since the Internet became commercial, and probably before. There’s a widely held belief that Facebook was built on CIA money, and although I’ve not seen any evidence to prove it, strategically it all makes sense. Social networking promises a rich goldmine for the intelligence services. If they weren’t digging in it I’d want to know why I was funding them with my taxes. Amazon and IBM are currently in a spat over who gets a contract for a CIA “cloud” data centre. Of course they’re all connected!
Here in the UK there’s now a kerfuffle about whether GCHQ is involved in using this data. Snooping without a warrant is considered “not cricket”, and I’ve just watched Sir Malcolm Rifkind (chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee) backing up the Prime Minister in saying that the UK agency was acting within the law, and wasn’t listening in on conversations without a ministerial warrant. This has never been the issue. Tracking those conversations that take place is not the same as listening in on them, and as I understand it, is perfectly legal. In fact ISPs are required to record the details of such conversations, but not the content unless they so wish. They know who calls who, but not what was said.
The public has no right to get all precious about this invasion of privacy. They signed it away when they signed up to Twitter, Facebook or whatever other freebie social networking service they joined. These services exist to mine personal data on their users to sell advertising, or just to sell. If you’re happy about telling a multi-national corporation with dubious morals what you think and who you associate with, why should you be unhappy about your elected government knowing the same things? If you don’t trust them, vote them out.
Personally, I don’t use Yahoo, Facebook or any other service for “social networking” – and not just because I have a life. If you choose to, don’t be naïve about it.