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Have you ever wondered if you’re on an NSA observation list? Turns out that if you’ve even thought about it (or online privacy in general), you’re probably more likely to be on one. A few concerning news updates regarding mass surveillance by the NSA within the past week, including revelations from an analysis of the XKeyscore data collection system Why Email Can't Be Protected From Government Surveillance Why Email Can't Be Protected From Government Surveillance “If you knew what I know about email, you might not use it either,” said the owner of secure email service Lavabit as he recently shut it down. "There is no way to do encrypted... Read More , have given us an idea of who might be among the NSA’s “targeted” individuals.

Are You on the List?

In previous documents, interviews, and other now-public materials, the NSA has stated that, while they can collect data from nearly anyone, they only target a small number of people who could be engaged in suspicious activity. Exactly what constitutes suspicious activity has never been very clear, but it’s safe to assume that anyone trying to get in touch with a terrorist organization, buy drugs online, or be in another way clearly intending to break the law, would be a target.

Turns out that a lot of things can get you on the list, including visiting a number of privacy-related websites, or even running searching for privacy-related tools. For example, a recent analysis of an alleged piece of XKeyscore code revealed that people would be targeted for surveillance if they searched for articles on TAILS, a secure operating system. The code states that TAILS is “advocated by extremists on extremist forums.” (I wonder if they know that it’s also advocated as a very secure Linux distro by tech writers on MakeUseOf Linux Distros For The Paranoid: What Are The Most Secure Distros? Linux Distros For The Paranoid: What Are The Most Secure Distros? If you're a Linux user, security was probably one of the benefits that made you switch from whatever operating system you were using before. Linux has a great reputation for being one tough nut to... Read More .)

xkeyscore

Unsurprisingly, searches for Tor also land people on the targeted surveillance list. Other apps that make an appearance include “HotSpotShield, FreeNet, Centurian, FreeProxies.org, MegaProxy, privacy.li and an anonymous email service called MixMinion as well as its predecessor MixMaster.” (daserste.de)

It’s reasonable to assume that VPNs, encryption software, and other security-related apps and services will also earn you a spot on the surveillance list.

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If this is the case, it seems likely that a huge number of MakeUseOf readers are already being monitored, and many more will be on the list before long.

How Do We Know About XKeyscore?

Hearing something like this might make you wonder about the source of the information that has a lot of security experts riled up. The XKeyscore program was first detailed in Edward Snowden’s revelations, and has been profiled a number of times since then (here’s a good overview of XKeyscore from The Guardian). In short, it’s a system that allows NSA employees to search a massive database of collected information, including e-mail, and allows for the monitoring of real data, not just meta-data.

The XKeyscore code that’s making waves at the moment was first published in a German publication called Taggeschau, though they declined to state where the information came from. There was nothing to indicate that the code came from documents released last year by Snowden, leading a number of leading privacy and security experts to speculate that there is now a second NSA leaker.

After the XKeyscore code was released, it was analyzed by a number of experts and some of the results were published in Taggeschau in a review by Jacob Applebaum, John Goetz, Lena Kampf, and others. Since this publication, other experts have weighed in. Errata Security posted an interesting review of the code, stating that it might not be real code at all—that it could have been compiled from snippets of older code, or possibly from a training manual. So everything has to be taken with a grain of salt at the moment.

What Does This Mean For You?

In short, it means that you’re probably on an NSA targeted surveillance list, especially if you’re a regular reader of MakeUseOf or if you’ve run searches for privacy-related tools or articles. And while this doesn’t mean that your phones are tapped or that there’s a black van sitting outside your house, it’s very concerning from a privacy point of view.

Although searching for privacy tools will likely get you added to an NSA list, we still recommend using them, even if you have nothing to hide. Just because you get put on a list for searching for Tor doesn’t mean that the NSA can see what you’re up to while you’re using it. And even if you’re on the TAILS list, it’s still a great secure operating system.

tails-logo

If you’re not sure why you should care about online privacy, or what to do about it, you can check out this recently published article on the Don’t Spy on Us Day of Action Lessons Learned From Don't Spy On Us: Your Guide To Internet Privacy Lessons Learned From Don't Spy On Us: Your Guide To Internet Privacy Read More that reiterates all of the reasons why mass surveillance is bad and a number of things that you can do to make a difference, including using encryption tools, supporting privacy-focused organizations, and spreading the word.

And don’t forget to check out all of the tips presented by our Security Matters section: encrypt your e-mails with PGP PGP Me: Pretty Good Privacy Explained PGP Me: Pretty Good Privacy Explained Read More , encrypt your Facebook chats Keep Your Facebook Chats Secure With Encryption Keep Your Facebook Chats Secure With Encryption Facebook wants to take your personal messages and use them as a way to target you with more advertising. Let's try to stop them. Read More , learn the essentials of smartphone security What You Really Need To Know About Smartphone Security What You Really Need To Know About Smartphone Security Read More , and more.

What do you think about these revelations? Are you surprised by the XKeyscore code? Do you think it’s a real code snippet, or something else? What do you think we’ll see in the coming weeks? Share your thoughts below!

Image credit: Mike Mozart via Flickr.

  1. Avery
    September 14, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Hello to all. I am new to beefing up security: however, I have always thought the Big Brother concept in a " Free County " removes the Free and just leaves county. Are we on the path to living in one very large police state? We have camera's watching our every move...could be in our TV's, phone's, tablet's, etc. After 9/11, things changed a great deal, and nobody needs to ask why, but what most people don't believe, or don't wan't to face, is that this has been going on for a lot longer than that.....just not so straight forward. We do need or government to keep an eye out for us, but they are abusing "their new found freedom". Enough about that. I have just subscribed to a VPN service, and now I have to ask, what's the point, if it put's me on the hit list ? I mainly wanted it to protect me from man in middle attack, and shopping security but it is nice to have some alone time as well. I do think that having more people sign up for VPN's and Secure Proxy's is a way to let them know we don't like it. I do wonder though if this just gives them more to sift over to find the real dangers. we don't want to lose anymore live's, and if we aren't doing anything wrong, than it's really is just a principal. In the end, I think if they are putting everybody that searches for anything related to privacy on a list, they are making too much data to analyze, and we are less secure as a counrty.

    • Dann Albright
      October 19, 2016 at 10:23 pm

      I know what you mean—it can seem counterintuitive to pursue increased privacy if it's also going to increase surveillance. But the more people use tools like VPNs, the harder it is to monitor everyone. And that's what we're fighting against; monitoring some people is fine, and totally necessary. It's watching everyone that's not okay. And if everyone is using a VPN, that gets much harder. So you might be on the list now . . . but stick with it!

  2. Chris
    December 4, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    That awkward moment when this article gets you on the list for reading it.

    • Dann Albright
      December 9, 2015 at 7:20 pm

      Yeah, I thought about putting that warning at the top of the article, but figured that it would have been too late already. :-)

  3. Ilya Geller
    May 1, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    The Era of Absolute Privacy is coming! NSA is absolutely harmless!

    I discovered and patented how to structure any data: Language has its own Internal parsing, indexing and statistics. For instance, there are two sentences:

    a) ‘Fire!’
    b) ‘Dismay and anguish were depicted on every countenance; the males turned pale, and the females fainted; Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle grasped each other by the hand, and gazed at the spot where their leader had gone down, with frenzied eagerness; while Mr. Tupman, by way of rendering the promptest assistance, and at the same time conveying to any persons who might be within hearing, the clearest possible notion of the catastrophe, ran off across the country at his utmost speed, screaming ‘Fire!’ with all his might.’

    Evidently, that the phrase ‘Fire!’ has different importance into both sentences, in regard to extra information in both. This distinction is reflected as the phrase weights: the first has 1, the second – 0.02; the greater weight signifies stronger emotional ‘acuteness’.
    First you need to parse obtaining phrases from clauses, for sentences and paragraphs.
    Next, you calculate Internal statistics, weights; where the weight refers to the frequency that a phrase occurs in relation to other phrases. After that data is indexed by common dictionary, like Webster, and annotated by subtexts.
    This is a small sample of the structured data:
    confusion - signify - : 333321
    speaking - done - once : 333112
    speaking - was - both : 333109
    To see the validity of technology - pick up any sentence.

    Do you have a pencil?

    All other technologies, used by all current companies, depend on spying, on quires, on SQL, all of them. They all use External statistics, only my technology gets statistics internally, form text itself.
    Being structured information will search for users based on their profiles of structured data. Each and every user can get only specifically tailored for him information: there is no any privacy issue, nobody ever will know what the user got and read. (By the way - no spam!)

    My technology exploits the Laws of Nature, which determine the inner construction of all Languages: I came from Analytic Philosophy, from Internal Relations Theory.

    The profiles of structured data can only be used and where NSA will use them? After all - NSA is a part of Government, it can be controlled. As for commercial spying - I personally killed it. Sleep well, you are protected!

  4. OzZie-mAte
    August 7, 2014 at 6:33 am

    I might be a bit to chime in here... but I think some Americans need to step back and consider there is more to the story.
    I am an Australian, and this is my side of the story.
    Although it goes without mentioning that it is the US government that are putting on the big show for the world to watch, unfortunately for us in Australia, we are almost all part of the same government. We live in similar cultures. We eat the same GM food, take the same medicinal and non-medicinal substances , burn the same oil to drive our cars (on the right hand side of course!), and watch the same crap labelled as "news" on TV... more to the point, all the bits n' bytes of data that I spew out all over the internet goes through the same fibers as all of yours does.
    Inherently, this is not just a matter concerning the US, it is very much an issue for all of the world, and in particular, us other country's that have governments that seem to have all become "bed-buddies". Do you think there is not an interesting list or file with my name on it somewhere because I am not an American citizen?? Hell yeah there is! I would be naive and stupid to think otherwise.
    So consider that when the "news" broadcasts in Australia, covering just as much of what is happening in US affairs... we may as well be on the same soil.

    • Dann A
      August 7, 2014 at 10:47 pm

      Ozzie, you bring up a good point here. Of course there are countries that are doing the same things as we're seeing the NSA do in the States, and we're aware of that, and we try to put a spotlight on it when we can (we did a recent article on DRIP in the UK, for example). But because Snowden, the NSA, and the US government are in the spotlight at the moment, there's a lot more information out there.

      It's very possible that Australia will be next and you'll start seeing a lot of articles about the Australian government!

  5. Anonymous
    July 18, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    To: Dann A. I can only respond with what has been going on with representatives speaking on behalf of their particular agencies over the past few years and more so now in this administration..........lies, obfuscations, distortions and blatant untruths to hide the truth and actual facts.....so much so now, that I look at most anything and everything emanating from our government with a serious and jaundiced eye. I recall the Russian words spoken by Gorbachev during the Salt II Treaty meetings with President Reagan, and when interpreted, Reagan said, "trust, but verify.......I like that !" Unfortunately now we have Big Brother being a pathological liar ! Just make sure one keeps their guns well-oiled and their 'powders' dry..........as history will and all too often does repeat itself. Can say no more.

  6. Bud
    July 17, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    To: Dann A. As per your suggestions of reading this link, http://blog.erratasec.com/2014/07/validating-xkeyscore-code.html , I maybe overly paranoid, but don't know many who have ever read the late FBI Director, J.Edgar Hoovers' Masters of Deceit, where in we learned about the Soviet art of disinformation, an art our government as adopted and used "hook, line, and sinker," first with foreign adversaries via the CIA, and now with the NSA towards it's 'own' (sic) citizens. nothing is really as it seems or appears to be.

    • Dann A
      July 18, 2014 at 9:58 am

      Bud, I'm not sure what you're getting at here. Are you suggesting that Errata Security is run by the NSA and that their numerous Xkeyscore posts are meant to spread misinformation?

  7. Bud
    July 17, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    After perusing thru many posts here, I wonder if anyone remembers the old Apple commercial of a Big Brother type figure speaking on a huge video screen and the masses in the audiences were like "fixed humanoids," until someone had a huge sledgehammer and threw it at the screen? The "sledge hammer will be the rebellion of the largest 'army' in the world, US gun owners and hunters. Notice from WW II history, why the Japanese never attempted to invade the US.....yet the NSA seems to think that a major up-rising and retaliation will not happen to them.......thank you Snowden !!! Soon more and more NSA techies will be looking over their shoulders, as small fuses are lit, and then spread to larger fuses creating a huge fire-ball of retribution for privacy invasions. The "Walls of Jericho" (NSA)...WILL come crashing down, not from the trumpet blast from outside, but from within America's borders............!!!

  8. George Washingbasket
    July 17, 2014 at 3:39 am

    So US citizens tote guns to protect themselves from other US citizens but they aren't allowed to protect their own data from hackers on the net because that would be suspicious. Interesting logic...

    • Dann A
      July 17, 2014 at 7:34 am

      I understand your point here, but just to be totally clear, no steps have been taken by the NSA or any other arm of the government to restrict the access of individual citizens to these tools (though there have been discussions of the NSA seeking to destabilize the larger Tor network). We are still allowed to take whatever steps we want to protect ourselves—they just keep an eye on us if we do take those steps.

  9. Anomaly
    July 17, 2014 at 2:23 am

    I hope the NSA or some other douche bag agency is watching me. If they are thy will see me bending over and my pants down so they can kiss my ass hole.

    • ShadowSmith
      July 23, 2016 at 9:17 pm

      ROFLMAO!!!! Master

  10. Sean
    July 16, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    I take 2 things from this: 1. I'm on the NSA's ever expanding list.

    2. These NSA idiots are at one point going to be tracking all of us (in one way or the other) and it is my firm belief that it is because of their EOW (Equal Opportunity Watch) that they will be flooded with far too much information to make sense of and do the job they were supposed to be doing the first place. If I say Obama's the bomb on a left wing website, or some girl posts on her friend's wall that she enjoyed learning about the Koran in school today, or a Grandma posits on her page, "What's a Jihad?"....we'll be watched or perhaps even renditioned (seriously...give it a few years). The terrorist on the other hand, is able to carry out her mission because the NSA's hubris and continued lack of focus ON THE REAL PROBLEM.

    Every person will now be a suspect and the actual terrorists will be able to continue their dialogue with one another along with my friends and I, and that analyst will find my comments worrisome and the terrorists innocuous. The terrorists (if they really want to) will find a way regardless of the DHS, FBI, CIA, or NSA. The bottom line is they aren't interested in stopping a terrorist threat anymore...they are only interested in consuming our freedoms to give themselves unwieldy power.....Oh jeez...what's that black van doing over there?

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 7:23 pm

      Sean, I think the scenario you describe may have come to pass if the NSA didn't have so many resources that they can throw at this problem. Machine learning and algorithmic analysis are improving very rapidly, and I imagine that it's not too hard to prioritize "What's a Jihad?" much lower than something that could potentially be suspicious.

      If there was just a group of people monitoring all of this information, I'd agree that it would be more than it was possible to handle. But with a massive bank of super-powerful computers that get smarter all the time, they might not run into that problem.

      Thanks for commenting!

  11. MikeS
    July 16, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Keep in mind that what the NSA is interested in and what the Police are interested in are two separate matters. In your normal everyday routines, dodging taxes, engaging in your usual street corner affairs, etc :-p

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 7:20 pm

      That's very true! I'm not sure what part of this article or which comment you're responding to, so I can't comment on that, but you've made a true statement here. If you'd care to elaborate, I'll probably have more to say about that!

  12. MikeS
    July 16, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    So.....dos that mean if you buy a Black, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackphone, that your at the top of the list? Most likely...

    • Dann A
      July 17, 2014 at 7:28 am

      It depends on how accurate this code is. As I mentioned, some people don't believe that it actually came from Xkeyscore, and that it was just made up for training or demonstration purposes.

      That being said, I'd say it's a safe bet that interest in a Blackphone will get you put on a list. That wouldn't surprise me at all.

  13. kilroy
    July 16, 2014 at 1:03 am

    You won't stop the government from spying, but we can make it more difficult for them. Encrypt all your communication, esp if it is mundane. Send meaningless encryptions to your friends. Put the words b*mb al q*DA , allah akbar, ( and others ) in every message. Don't put your trash in your own trash can. Wear all black clothes and take your trash to your neighbors trash can, etc. etc.

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 5:50 am

      Putting extra words in your communications to draw attention to yourself probably isn't the best idea . . . and putting your trash in someone else's big is probably illegal. Encrypting everything, however, is a great idea, and something that more people should do. E-mails, browsing traffic, IM, text; encrypting as much of your communication as possible will help make it economically unfeasible for continued mass surveillance.

  14. Darrin L
    July 15, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    why dont we all just drop our pants and our draws then crack a smile and take a pick and then use it for our profile pics. but yet use it for all our profile pics..

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 5:48 am

      While the NSA is monitoring a lot of things, I doubt that they're keeping a close eye on people's profile pictures. But if you feel strongly about it, I can't stop you . . .

    • jason
      March 24, 2015 at 2:34 am

      Well somebody's checking pictures because I had a picture on facebook of my mom holding my gun in a non threatening ironic pose which is funny if you knew my mom and I guess someone in the cloud didn't like that and now I have a half a picture of my mom, minus the gun

    • Dann Albright
      April 1, 2015 at 7:26 am

      If that's the case, I would say that Facebook is probably behind it. I can see why they'd want to reduce the number of images of guns on their site. While the NSA might be pervasive in their surveillance, I think they're probably a little more subtle with their actions.

      Thanks for pointing this out, though—that's interesting!

  15. Bud
    July 15, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    This link is NOW BLOCKED........"Errata Security posted an interesting review of the code," using Tor.

  16. Bud Mulqueeney
    July 15, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    every time***............

  17. Bud Mulqueeney
    July 15, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    BIG BROTHER is watching youuuuuuuu ! Now all we need is an app that automatically sends a photo of an "Italian salute" to the NSA, or photo of a mouse giving the same salute to a huge eagle swooping down on it, with the caption....."The Ultimate Act of Defiance, "very time we go online !

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 5:38 am

      Ah, would that it were that easy. That's the sort of thing that these algorithmic programs are trained to avoid, I imagine. I think well-thought out intelligent action by an organized group of people is far more likely to make a difference!

  18. robin
    July 15, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    If they spy on me, they gonna need a lot of coffee.
    Only thing the see now by following me in realtime is porn.

  19. robin
    July 15, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Someone told me this, (son, if your on no ones watch list, you should be ashamed of yourself).

    I was more than one week looking on google on how to encrypt a dual boot Linux Windows install, and got fde working on both dual boot systems, firewall and tails on a USB drive.

    I'm proud to be on the NSA watchlist, BTW by reading this you might be on the list too.

  20. Mark
    July 15, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    This article makes one thing obvious to me: the NSA is not a very efficient agency. Personally, it doesn't bother me all that much if they're spying on me, my life is so mundane, what a spy could pick up would be mainly boring and occasionally amusing. But I always figured I would never arouse interest because of said boring background. But if everyone who looks at a MUO article is suspect, those guys are spending way to much time monitoring dead ends. I hope that's not the case.

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 5:32 am

      As far as I understand it, they actually are pretty efficient—that's what the Xkeyscore program and other algorithm-based programs are all about. These automated, algorithmic systems monitor a huge amount of traffic, and only flag users if they behave "suspiciously." It's the definition of "suspiciously" that's at issue here. But I would guess that they're pretty good at what they do, and that they're able to do it efficiently. There are an awful lot of really smart people working for the NSA, and it's almost certainly the case that there isn't a "spy" sitting at a computer watching what you do all day. :-)

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 5:41 am

      Oh yeah, I almost forgot! A lot of people say what you wrote in your comment: "it doesn't bother me all that much if they're spying on me, my life is so mundane"—but there are bigger issues at stake than the NSA monitoring the boring things you do online. I wrote about it here: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/lessons-learned-dont-spy-us-guide-internet-privacy/ Check it out!

    • Harry
      July 16, 2014 at 11:27 am

      What concerns me is, there are so many people who don't seem to get how serious privacy is. The "I have nothing to hide" coinage is only true for non-humans. This is not exclusive to criminal activity.
      There are many examples of why privacy is imperative - here is one that comes to mind.
      Your medical records.
      This can affect everything from insurance to whether you get a job or not.
      The EDR (Event Data recorder) in your car is another one. Are you a perfect driver who ALWAYS obeys the speed limit?

      Almost everything we do is recorded now. And you really don't care about being under the microscope?

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 7:26 pm

      You bring up a very good point. The "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" argumet just doesn't hold water (I discussed this at length in my article about Don't Spy On Us a couple weeks ago; it's linked above, if you care to read it). And while medical records and automobile monitors might be safe at the moment, there's no reason to believe that they'll continue on that way.

      Alas, some people just don't care, and can't be convinced. That's why a huge outreach is important.

  21. Robert B
    July 15, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Why do you think the US Gov't is so paranoid? I do not believe for one minute that world terrorism is the real reason they are concerned about maintaining power. I am convinced that the US dollar will fail at some future time more than likely in the near future and they are concerned about anarchy in the streets and a possible repeat of our history, think 1776. I have read reports that the Dept of homeland security (what a joke) has around 10000 rounds of small arms ammo for every man woman and child living in the US. My biggest fear is that the US is going to see a repeat of similar events that occurred in Nazi Germany during WW2. Our elected officials (both parties) do not respect the US Constitution, the current administration is continually attacking our freedoms while the Republicans sit by and let it happen without the first protest. When they get sworn into office they all swear an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic, so I suppose that this makes all of our elected officials to be LIARS. It is no coincidence that there is an ever increasing attack at our right to hold and bear arms because this is the one thing that is the final check on a totalitarian gov't. If they have their way the only people who will have guns will be the crooks and gov't, oh did I say crooks? Damn let me rephrase that last comment, the only people who will have guns will be the Crooks. Well do you think I am on the NSA's list? HOPE so, all true Americans who hold to traditional values and beliefs probably are.

  22. Christian Hartleben
    July 15, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Don't promote a false sense of security. Every America phone call is recorded. There is no avoiding the police state. This article was written by an under-informed author with no insights into totalitarianism.

  23. Bill
    July 15, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    How safe then would be private TOR-like servers, like SurfEasy or IronKey?
    The exit node is not controlled or monitored.

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 5:28 am

      To tell you the truth, I'm not sure. I don't know anything about SurfEasy or IronKey. Hopefully someone else can chime in and enlighten us!

  24. John Williams
    July 15, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Snag is, the bad guys just find a way round the wiretaps while all us ordinary folk get the inconvenience. The Mexican drug lords run a whole comms network on cheap walkie talkies with clever repeaters and solars panels up random poles and roof tops. Meanwhile, the A-rabs have probably gone back to high speed scrambled Morse Code in Arabic.

    Just like the enormous Homeland Security operation, strip searching, scanning, taking shoes off, no liquids, make sure your phone is charged etc - all massive inconvenience and expense for ordinary travellers, when the terrorist has actually just come in by private plane.

    You notice most CCTV is used after the event - it very rarely prevents crime or terror. So most of this surveillance is useless and gains little or no foresight into the intentions of would be wrongdoers.

    • Godel
      July 15, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      I disagree slightly on your comment on CCTV. I'm a believer in the saying that "there's never just one cockroach in the kitchen". When they catch someone thanks to CCTV it prevents them committing other crimes of the same nature, and may clean up a bunch of older crimes that they've already committed.

      If you arrest a person for one burglary, it's a good chance they've already committed 20 or 30 similar crimes before you caught them, with more intended for the future.

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 5:23 am

      John, you're right about law enforcement being a step behind—that's just the nature of of being law enforcement, I think! It's a lot more difficult to anticipate what criminals are going to do than it is for the criminals to just change their tactics in response to a certain kind of monitoring. However, I don't think that's necessarily a good argument against taking those measures. Yes, I think the NSA has overstepped its bounds, but I don't think the entire surveillance program should be rolled back. It does have its uses—it's just being taken advantage of at the moment. What do you think? I'm not sure if this is the issue you're trying to get at.

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 5:52 am

      You make a good point here, Godel. While things like CCTV might not work well as a preventative measure for the first crime of a certain type or in a certain area, they could serve as a future deterrent.

  25. Totoliciu D
    July 15, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    And so far, and so on.....

  26. Del
    July 15, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Nearly every electronic transmission of any kind is recorded,THEN, the algorithms determine what will be further explored. a hit on that search could warrant further search by a deeper or different program.A hit on the second stage might warrant a human review of the content.Every level and every stage has its own list.Some suspicious content might be monitored in real time.Some would be referred to a different federal or state agency and a false story built as to how the information to arrest was obtained.In special areas of interest cellphones may be turned on to monitor, or cameras activated. On line computers can be monitored and their cameras used.Next are automobile and television monitoring Some small amount is already possible with onstar and televisions which monitor a room and cable boxes which monitor. The future is total monitoring of our lives,because we did not rebel when it was first made public.As long as people can be made to fear danger from without they will accept enslavement from within.

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 5:14 am

      You're right about a lot of the system being algorithm-based; if I understand it correctly, that's a bit function of Xkeyscore. You say that cars can be monitored through OnStar—do you just mean location data? Or have you heard about other sorts of surevillance taking place via that kind of system? If you have links to any articles about that or monitoring via television, I'd be interested to see them; I've never heard of that before.

  27. TEMarc4sure
    July 15, 2014 at 5:37 am

    Just play with there minds, it's your tax dollars at waste here. Let them chase ghosts. The "War Pigs" no longer have nation-states to flush on. Us and them.

    • Dann A
      July 15, 2014 at 6:18 am

      War Pigs . . . Black Sabbath fan? :-)

  28. tony
    July 15, 2014 at 4:33 am

    damn,so that means I'm already in a couple of lists then...
    I guess installing privacy addons for firefox and using hotspotshield to download from gamefront means I'm a potential threat for USA O_O

    • Dann A
      July 15, 2014 at 5:07 am

      Yeah, I think most of the readers of MakeUseOf are probably on a couple lists. Interestingly, the government probably has reason to not want your privacy addons working well, as a lot of government surveillance is built on top of corporate surveillance.

      Thanks for reading!

  29. Ken
    July 15, 2014 at 3:31 am

    At what point do we say enough is enough and make the govt go back to doing their constitutional job only!

    • Dann A
      July 15, 2014 at 5:05 am

      There are a lot of organizations out there that are pushing back against mass surveillance. If you haven't seen my previous article on the Don't Spy On Us event (linked above), you should check it out! There are a lot of useful tips on things you can do and organizations you can support to make your voice heard.

    • dragonmouth
      July 15, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      "There are a lot of organizations out there that are pushing back against mass surveillance."
      Unfortunately petitions, protests and resolutions ain't gonna cut it. What is needed is a more proactive approach, otherwise 1984 WILL arrive in all its glory, just a few years late.

    • Dann A
      July 15, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      Well, we did manage to stop SOPA. :-) I think it'll just take a coordinated effort on an unprecedented level. There's a reason that it's unprecedented: it's really difficult. But maybe we'll all be motivated enough if this continues.

      What do you think is the first step in a "proactive approach"?

    • LordIbuprofen
      July 15, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      I don't think it matters, to be honest. If, by some miracle, the Supreme Court, Congress and the President were all to agree that NSA surveillance against regular citizens needs to stop, the NSA would say "Yes, sir", and then keep right on doing it. No matter what orders the NSA receives to stop, and no matter from whom those orders come, they will lie, and keep on doing it. The NSA does not care about government; at this point they're doing it because they can, and because it's about the power they amass by doing so. Wouldn't surprise me if they dirt on everyone in government, and could extort any result they want anyway.

    • John G
      July 16, 2014 at 12:24 am

      Do you _really_ think the idiots in DC will ever get off their butts and do the things that are needed for the benefit of this country and its citizens?

    • Dann A
      July 16, 2014 at 5:11 am

      LordIbuprofen, you make an interesting point—just because someone is told to do something by their boss doesn't mean they'll do it. However, it can't hurt to have the highest judicial, legislative, and executive powers telling them to put a halt to mass surevillance of people who aren't suspected of anything.

      Also, that's why encryption is important; if everyone starts encrypting their traffic, e-mails, IMs, and so on, it will soon become more cost-efficient for the NSA to surveil only people that are actually suspected of wrongdoing. They may be able to ignore the president and congress, but the laws of economics aren't as easily ignored.

    • dragonmouth
      July 16, 2014 at 11:03 pm

      "it will soon become more cost-efficient for the NSA to surveil only people that are actually suspected of wrongdoing."
      The problem with that is if everyone starts encrypting their traffic, the NSA will not be able to tell the good guy traffic from the bad guy traffic and will have to surveil everybody. Also, if everybody is encrypting, the NSA will feel it is their duty to crack the encryption.

      The NSA and other intelligence agencies have grown past the critical mass and are self-sustaining. Getting rid of them is like getting rid of kudzu vine or caulerpa taxifolia. Nothing short of a nuclear blast will remove it.

    • Dann A
      July 17, 2014 at 7:43 am

      dragon, the cost-efficient argument assumes that the NSA isn't deterred by encryption—only slowed down. Given enough time and money, I'm pretty confident that they can get past any of the walls we throw up. However, it does take more effort, which means it takes more money. So then, if they actually want to crack all of the encryption and trace through VPNs and things, it would cost a monumental amount of money.

      That's the thought, anyway.

    • Anonymous
      January 24, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      Amen!

  30. Zack McCauley
    July 14, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    So now everyone who has looked at this article has been traced and tracked. Wonderful. -.-

    • Dann A
      July 14, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      That's probably true. But if you were interested enough to click on this article, you've probably read others like it . . . and were already on a list. :-)

    • Zack McCauley
      July 14, 2014 at 9:36 pm

      That is the truth xD

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