Federal Law Enforcement Stores All Domestic Communications–Not Just Metadata

Federal Law Enforcement Stores All Domestic Communications–Not Just Metadata

Here at VG we’ve advised you several times to do all you can to get private on the internet.  Now the internet is abuzz with stories about Tor, the standard in private and anonymous browsing—and how the FBI compromised the networks, ensuring that you can run, but you can’t hide.  Your private communications are still being stored in Utah.  Is it for real?  Is there anything safe?  The answers are, respectively, yes and no.

First, let’s look at what exactly the feds are storing.  Here’s a partial list of what the federal government currently has access to—and is storing—that’s  yours:

Recordings of your phone calls (including Skype, Google Talk, FaceTime, Google Hangout, etc.)
Your Facebook messages
Yahoo, Bing and Google search results
Microsoft Windows OS
Google Chrome OS
Apple (Mac) OS
Paypal and Google Wallet transaction history
Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail, and Yahoo email
All of the content in you iCloud, Dropbox, iDrive and Skydrive
All your AOL, Yahoo, Google Talk, and MSN instant messages
Flickr, Instagram, Picasa, Tumblr and Youtube
Your private Livejournal…or any other online journal

Just think about that.  Every phone call, every email, every video chat, every online purchase.  The sad thing is, for those who have been paying attention, none of this is really news.  In fact, as far back as 1999, the chief executive of Sun Microsystems (the company behind Java) was quite open about what the ramifications of technology were.

“You have zero privacy.  Get over it.”

Using the tired old idea that “it’s to keep us safer and to catch the bad guys,” the FBI actually created malware that sends identifying information to a place in Reston, Virginia.  (To be fair, it’s not definitively proven yet that it was the FBI, but experts have said that it’s obviously an American law enforcement agency.)  Tor has advised users to get off Windows because of it, and we are all left wondering if there’s any way to really be private on the internet, or if the police state has been fully realized.

While there is certainly no guarantee of safety and privacy as long as you use any form of computer, there are steps you can take to help minimize the problem.  We’ve gone over some of those things before here at VG, and there are more resources as well.  One very good site to check out is PRISM Break, which explains how to “opt out of global surveillance programs” by reducing dependence on so-called “proprietary services” such as Windows, Microsoft Office, Gmail, and many others–all of which we now know are completely compromised and even working in collusion with the federal government to spy on you.  PRISM Break offers lists of alternatives that you can use for everything from an operating system (Linux, obviously) to office software, phone service, and even web searches (use StartPage).

In the coming days I’ll be writing a series on how to truly get yourself ‘off the electronic grid,’ so to speak, for those who are interested in real privacy; be warned, however–it will require a lifestyle change.  At this point, at least for those who care about things like overreaching federal power and police raids because you happened to Google the wrong term, it sounds pretty worth it.


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  • Left Coast Conservative says:

    Are all of my business contacts compromised as well – we communicate through e-mail – nothing on the cloud but other employees are pushing the company in that direction. Frankly, I never wanted to be a computer expert. I just wanted to be functionally competent. Sounds like the dream of a long forgotten era.

  • ALman says:

    Blessed John Paul II stated that the internet was neither good nor evil, but depended upon the use to which it was put. From the Vatican website,

    MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II FOR THE 36th WORLD COMMUNICATIONS DAY – “Internet: A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel”

    there is this excerpt:
    “Despite its enormous potential for good, some of the degrading and damaging ways in which the Internet can be used are already obvious to all, and public authorities surely have a responsibility to guarantee that this marvellous instrument serves the common good and does not become a source of harm.”

    Emphasis on that phrase “does not become a source of harm.”


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