NSA Spying: A Visual Guide

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 4/21/2014 12:33:00 AM

I likened the NSA to East Germany's notorious secret police the Stasi via a job placement for electro-spooks a few moons ago. Data privacy is very much a hot topic in IPE as to the appropriateness of government spying. The American debate concerns citizens' rights to privacy and their willingness to abrogate them because of purported "security" concerns over terrorism and the like. While I am sure Americans don't particularly care about their spooks spying on foreigners, the issue is even more complicated at the international level. That is, does the American government's utter indifference to privacy concerns when spying on other countries' residents raise global governance concerns?

There are thus two big issues in this respect. First, should the current US-centric architecture continue? Already, plans are afoot to transferring assigned names and numbers away from the American non-profit corporation ICANN. Even if this transfer is done, the question remains of how easy it will be for the NSA to spy on you and me with such great ease. Hence the oft-mooted plans to make the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU) the primary overseer of Internet governance. (Meanwhile, I am amused by American complaints that doing so may result in Internet security concerns when their government's spying animates much of this discussion. The point is that more proactive Internet governance could have made the system more resilient to American intrusion than today's Pincushion 1.0.) Second, should other nations route their Internet traffic away from US hubs and servers to ensure information privacy? I am inclined to think it's a Brazilian/European PR gimmick since the Americans are endlessly resourceful at sticking their noses into everyone else's business.

Speaking of which, I have long been looking for an overview of American spying technologies care of the NSA. The leaks have produced a steady dribble of oddly-named projects: Candygram, Toteghostly, Gopherset, Dropoutjeep, Monkeycalendar. Bruce Schneier has detailed some of these, but there has not been a single, relatively broad overview...until very recently.

Head over to Bloomberg Businessweek for a neat infographic detailing most of the nefarious programs the NSA is running to extract data. Or, at least those which have been uncovered so far. They are in equal parts ingenious and sinister.

It all makes me want to go back to the good old days of fax machines (remember those?) But seriously, consider using analog technologies for transmitting more sensitive information if they prove more resilient to America's vast data tentacles. Make no mistake: having alienated the rest of the world, the US is pretty much alone against everyone else on this matter.