XKeyscore and NSA surveillance leaks – expert reaction
By Paul Dalgarno, The Conversation
XKeyscore is an online surveillance tool run by America’s National Security Agency (NSA) that allows analysts to search contents of chats, emails and browsing histories without warrants, according to leaked slides from CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The slides, published in The Guardian today, seem to support claims XKeyscore can search “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet” and in one 30-day period in 2012, collected and stored nearly 42 billion records.
The NSA slides declare some 300 terrorists were caught using XKeystroke technology by 2008.
Our experts respond below.
Sean Rintel, Lecturer in Strategic Communication at University of Queensland and board member of Electronic Frontiers Australia
It is clearer now than ever that, since we can’t retrospectively change these surveillance technologies, and indeed there may be valid uses of them, citizens of all countries need to stand together to demand three new kinds of digital rights.
- We must have rights to personal data control. Knowing what, when, and how much of our personal data has been collected, and which agencies have access it to it.
- We must have rights to transparent security institution oversight. Parliamentary and legal procedures must be in place to ensure that all searches of such data require strictly evidenced belief that a search is necessary, that searches are narrowly targeted, and that citizens have methods to access the details of such proceedings.
- We must have rights to meaningful checks and responses to abuses. If there is any kind of problem with the use or integrity of data in such systems (such as overreach of searches, searches for non-security/law-enforcement purposes, data breaches) then citizens must have the right to meaningful civil and legal recourse. News website Mashable is currently running a campaign to crowdsource a digital bill of rights.
Australians should be involved in that because some of our traffic relies on US services and, as such, US laws. Australians should also engage with their political parties and civil society groups, such as Electronic Frontiers Australia (of which I am a board member) and its Citizens Not Suspects campaign.
With an election looming, now is the time for meaningful action. Whether or not one trusts our government or others, trusts security services/law enforcement or not, or believes that it is or is not reasonable to trade privacy for security, new digital rights to choice, control, and transparency will ensure our civil security.
For The Conversation’s coverage on the NSA leaks and their aftermath, click here.
- Rintel, S. (2013, June 11). Nine reasons you should care about NSA’s PRISM surveillance. The Conversation.
- Listen to my 612ABC interview: Levingston, R. (2013, June 11). What do you know about PRISM? 612 ABC Brisbane.
- Brief portions of a television interview are in a Today Tonight story: Hansen, D. (2013, July 10) Spying councils? Today Tonight.
- Rintel, S. (2011, November 4). Do privacy settings work in the age of online reputation management? The Conversation (Online).
- Rintel, S. (2011, November 3). Unthink rethinks online identity – and fronts up to Facebook and Google+. The Conversation (Online).
Want meaningful activism? Please donate to Electronic Frontiers Australia to help us continue to be your voice for digital freedom, access, and privacy.