The era of privacy in America and elsewhere is over. The NSA enjoys broad, unchecked surveillance over phone calls, and virtually all data that changes hands on the Internet, at least through the major US companies, is routinely at their fingertips.
It begins at the NSA, but where does it end? That’s an open question, but the enormous treasure trove of personal information on Americans and, indeed, everybody else, is being shared around the English-speaking world.
Britain’s GCHQ, their NSA-counterpart, has been given access to the NSA’s scheme, and according to some reports has been using it to circumvent British bans on them surveilling British citizens. Because it’s not Brit-on-Brit surveillance, it’s the Americans, surveilling Britons for them.
And of course it wouldn’t stop there. The US-UK information sharing has since been expanded, to include Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. US officials confirmed this, in fact, saying that the foreign spies aren’t allowed to sit “at the actual terminals,” but they get unredacted access to the results after the NSA types in their requests for them.
What about surveillance-enthusiast Israel? They’re involved too, it turns out, with two Israeli companies closely tied with Israel’s domestic spy agencies not only linked to the program, but actually doing a lot of the work installing the system for the NSA.
All of that’s got Europe (minus Britain) pretty nervous, by all accounts, and German Privacy Minister Peter Schaar condemned the program as “monstrous,” demanding the US provide clarity into why this wasn’t as reprehensible as it, clear as we can tell, is.
The only concrete proposal came from the Hessian Justice Minister, Joerg-Uwe Hahn, who called for a total boycott of all the companies involved, insisting their “flippant” attitude was unacceptable. How practical this is however is unclear, since Google and Microsoft, between them, account for virtually the whole search engine industry, and are both complicit.