Many individuals and businesses who live and work in the Wrexham area will use Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Youtube and Apple services. This could extend to using them for mobile services, for example using iPhones or Android devices. Over the last 24 hours its been revealed by the Guardian that the United States Government have an active surveillance program in place directly collecting data from these services.
The Guardian has 41 separate classified and verified authentic slides from a PowerPoint presentation which detail what information is collected, which lists emails , chats, photos, voice chats and files along with several other types of data.
Today the United States Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the systems only targets “non-US persons”, which no doubt is great for the people of the USA, however for people in other places who use USA based services it is hardly reassuring. Likewise all the tech companies named have issued denials, saying that no ‘direct’ access to servers have been given. There is no mention on the indirect, for example a simple API or the like, access that has been provided.
Data intelligence is nothing new, however this revelation is perhaps the first which will knowingly affect so many people in the UK directly. Since 1946 the UK has been part of ‘FiveEyes’, a data sharing agreement between the UK , United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This is often referred to in terms of ECHELON, a intelligence collection system.
Last month it was revealed that a popular mobile phone network in the UK was selling data, and approaching the Met Police as a possible buyer. The data was said to include “gender, age, postcode, websites visited, time of day text is sent and location of customer when call is made”.
As the majority of the people of Wrexham are not US Citizens it is likely they would be under the impression that UK laws and EU laws apply to their communications and data however using these services it seems this is not the case. Similarly those who wish for the state, and other foreign states, to be unaware of their communications and data they could of course encrypt it. Sadly in the UK there is a law (RIPA 2000) that makes it a crime to not hand over any encryption keys when requested , punishable with a prison sentence.
Crucially there is no method to input into the policy formation and execution of a different country, the people of Wrexham are unable to vote or have their say on this new spy revelation. Even if a Wrexhamite chooses not to use the services of companies involved does not guarantee that your data is not being passed on by others who are not transparent.
Many will not be overly concerned that American spy services have the ability to read their Facebook messages about what is on the telly tonight or listen in to their Skype conversations about the weather in town. However, even if personal communications are not of concern there is no information on what systems some public services use, be it hardware or software, and where and what data is stored and exchanged with many turning to USA hosted cloud services.