Data storage capabilities are definitely not making surveillance more difficult. In fact, the new technologies have made it vastly more economical and feasible to capture and store everything that every person and business is doing on the web, on the streets and on their computers. If a terabyte of data can be stored on a device that will fit on a key chain, imagine the government’s capacity to capture and store more of people’s business and personal content than ever before in history.
Many have become used to the idea that the government can legally capture and record anything they do in the real and virtual worlds, including cell phone calls, web activity, behavior in public areas, and the content of their online caches, or “cloud storage” accounts. The New York Times recently reported that the so called “democracies” have given themselves vastly more legal empowerment and have invested in highly functional and cost effective technology for spying on their citizens.
TechNewsWorld expresses the fears of many, that while cyber criminals may be in more trouble than ever before, governments are getting more capable of spying on the lawful behavior of their own citizens. When referring to private cloud storage accounts, TechNewsWorld said,
“While many companies take great pains to protect cloud data from cyber-threats, they have no way to prevent governments from freely accessing their cloud data. Companies using the cloud may not realize that cloud data is more vulnerable than other remotely stored data, including data held in disaster recovery locations.”
Legal Self Empowerment
Three legal empowerment plots have given governments more power than ever to tap into cloud storage accounts. It all began with the American Patriot Act, which allowed access through court-issued search warrants and other means. Then came the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which gave access to foreign intelligence content. Then came Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) that allow nations to snoop into the cloud storage of other nations.
Slate Online has an article that describes increasingly disturbing levels of government self-empowerment to spy on the lawful conduct of citizens on the web and in the real world. Worse, even citizens who do not use the web still have large amounts of information about them that is collected and kept in cloud storage accounts without their permission or knowledge.
In other words, it does not matter where the cloud storage is located or how the contents got there, new laws and treaties give governments practically universal authority to tap in and collect information. Add in the fact that governments and their operatives can violate the laws and treaties, then use their powers to dodge justice, and the problem gets worse.
The technology called “deep packet inspection” allows a government to examine the contents of a data package, then to route relevant portions wherever it pleases. China and other oppressive governments use such technology to spy on activities and to censor content. While there are useful and benign purposes for deep packet inspection, a growing number of opponents do not want governments to use to give themselves universally intrusive access.
Imagine if every internet data packet was a piece of “snail mail”. “Deep packet inspection” is the equivalent to opening every piece of “snail mail” and reading it, then copying and storing any content that the government wants to keep and use. A government can also intercept and censor the “letters” by deleting words or phrases, or a government can prevent the piece of mail from being delivered.
Fortunately, deep packet inspection has two problems. Existing laws do not allow its use in democratic countries, and opposition is growing. The second problem is that it is easy to deny access to deep packet inspection software.
The defense against government intrusion into cloud storage accounts
According to Wired UK, access blocking comes in the form of “…hundreds of services on the web offering encryption for your communications. It’s far harder for deep packet inspection systems to dig into secured communications, so if you can create a secure “tunnel” between your computer and a server outside your ISPs network (known as a VPN, in this case), then any data that you send through will be much more difficult (read: not really worth the hassle, unless you’re doing something seriously illegal) for your ISP to access.”
In summary, so called “democracies” are giving themselves and each other vast new powers to spy on everything that people and businesses do on the web, using “terrorism” as a universal excuse. Since social networks have been pushing members to reveal more and more about their personal lives, their identities, and their activities, it appears that suppressing civil unrest may be the true reasons for such draconian and universal intrusion. Governments are testing the boundaries of human rights violations and the opposition is using its last chances to shut down the most aggressive plots.