Judges rule that citizens can sue the NSA for wiretapping, but not telecom companies.
The National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland. According to the Washington Post, the NSA sends millions of Google and Yahoo records each day to data warehouses to the Fort Meade headquarters. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

One more reason to be skittish about entrusting your info and data to the cloud:

A  Washington Post story on Wednesday, based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, asserted that the NSA regularly intercepts data from Google and Yahoo as it passes through the companies’ servers outside of the U.S.

This data almost certainly includes Americans’ email and other information.

Google and Yahoo deny knowledge of the government spying program, code-named Muscular (who comes up with these names?). Because the NSA collects data that passes through the tech companies’ private clouds overseas, the agency does not need U.S. court approval. The leaked documents include a hand-drawn diagram showing “Google Cloud Exploitation.”

The Times explained how Muscular is deployed:

Even though NSA has been obtaining data directly from Google and Yahoo with court orders through the previously disclosed PRISM program, the new documents show it also has been taking data without permission abroad, outside the oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. According to the documents, which include a hand-drawn diagram, the information is collected as it passes through the companies’ private clouds and makes its way to the public Internet. The information, which includes metadata (participants, date and time of a communication) as well as text and video content, is reportedly not encrypted.

NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander told Politico on Wednesday that he was “unaware of the Post’s report — adding the NSA is ‘not authorized’ to access companies data centers and instead must ‘go through a court process’ to obtain such content.”

The Times published a statement by an NSA spokeswoman, which said: “The assertion that we collect vast quantities of U.S. persons’ data from this type of collection is not true. NSA applies attorney general-approved processes to protect the privacy of U.S. persons – minimizing the likelihood of their information in our targeting, collection, processing, exploitation, retention and dissemination. NSA is a foreign intelligence agency. And we’re focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only.”

Google has said it’s beefing up its encryption processes. Still, it’s probably best to assume at this point that whatever you write in an email can be read by the NSA.

 

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor