In ‘Golden Age’ Of Surveillance, US Has Big Edge


Electronic eavesdropping is, of course, far from an exclusively American pursuit. Many other nations pry further and with less oversight.

China and Russia have long hosted intrusive surveillance regimes. Russia’s “SORM,” the Russian-language acronym for System for Operational-Investigative Activities, allows government officials to directly access nearly every Internet service provider in the country. Initially set up to allow the FSB, the successor organization to the KGB, unfettered access to Russia’s Internet traffic, the scope of SORM has grown
dramatically since Vladimir Putin took power in 2000 and now allows a wide range law enforcement agencies to monitor Russians’ messages.

In China, surveillance is “pervasive, extensive, but perhaps not as high-tech” as in the United States, said Andrew Lih, a professor of journalism at American University in Washington. He said major Internet players such as microblogging service Sina, chat service QQ, or Chinese search giant Baidu were required to have staff – perhaps as many as several hundred people – specially tasked with carrying out the state’s bidding, from surveillance to censorship.

What sets America apart is that it sits at the center of gravity for much of world’s social media, communications, and online storage.

Americans’ “position in the network, the range of services that they offer globally, the size of their infrastructure, and the amount of bandwidth means that the U.S. is in a very privileged position to surveil internationally,” said Wright. “That’s particularly true when you’re talking about cloud services such as Gmail” – which had 425 million active users as of last year.

Many are trying to beat America’s tech dominance by demanding that U.S. companies open local branches – something the Turkish government recently asked of San Francisco-based Twitter Inc., for example – or by banning them altogether. Santa Clara, California-based WhatsApp, for example, may soon be prohibited in Saudi Arabia.

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Posted by on Aug 1st, 2013 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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