Online Privacy, Is the government watching you?

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Is the government watching you?

In the United States, the NSA collects vast amounts of information about the activities of individuals in the United States and abroad including its allies.

The surveillance is based on a series of Executive Orders (E.O.s). The E.O.s authorize the collection of “foreign intelligence information” if the collection does not involve information “concerning a United States person.” The collection of “foreign intelligence information” means information that is neither about United States persons nor about “United States persons.”

Surveillance under counter terrorism

The surveillance is carried out under the Executive Order by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which is made up of the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and, as part of the Executive Order, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In addition to the Executive Order, there are three specific regulations implementing the US Patriot Act: a “section 702” Memorandum of Understanding; an “order” directing the intelligence services to preserve the scope of the section 702 collection; and an “order” directing the NGA to preserve its access to US-person information.

Everything is monitored

The agency can tap into emails, telephone calls, text messages, and Internet activity. It can collect and sift through massive amounts of financial and personal information, as well. Many Americans assume that all of their personal communications and personal transactions are captured and stored by the NSA and will never be used against them in any way. This is incorrect. The NSA can access your personal emails and records and retain those materials for ten years, or at least that is the case in practice. That includes your emails when you are a government employee or the recipient of government services, but that doesn’t include emails that you send to business partners or family members.

The NSA does not search the records it collects on Americans because that would require a search warrant. The NSA relies on a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows the agency to collect all sorts of data from Americans that aren’t specifically targeted for surveillance. For instance, the NSA can also read emails that were sent by or to US citizens.


The NSA also collects information on everyone that links to the target of an investigation. This is done through a mechanism called PRISM. The agency takes this data and searches it for information that may have any nexus to terrorism or espionage. It’s not clear how long this data is retained, or to what degree the NSA and other government agencies access this data, which is stored by the companies themselves.


Some feel that this is an invasion of privacy while others feel that if they do no wrong, they have nothing to worry about. How do you feel about your government collecting all of your internet and telephone data?

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