June 6, 2013

Government surveillance of Verizon’s customers

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If you haven’t heard, the NSA obtained a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court allowing them to collect data every day from Verizon cell phone customers. This data can include phone numbers, IP addresses, location data, unique identifiers, etc., but supposedly not the content of calls. The British news source The Guardian has some of the best coverage of this case:

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

Here are a list of articles from The Guardian:

CBS News also has a related piece on how the Department of Homeland Security now says that phones, electronic devices, and laptops can be searched on a “hunch.” From the article:

U.S. border agents should continue to be allowed to search a traveler’s laptop, cellphone or other electronic device and keep copies of any data on them based on no more than a hunch, according to an internal Homeland Security Department study. It contends limiting such searches would prevent the U.S. from detecting child pornographers or terrorists and expose the government to lawsuits.

Slashdot has a very good discussion of The Guardian articles. Among the comments, was a link to a site that reports the total number of FISA court order requests, including the number that requests information on US citizens (only happening since 2004).

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