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US Surveillance Guidelines Dangerously Outdated

Posted by on Sep 4, 2013

Most Americans rely on the government to be at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. It was governmental investments that helped launch the Internet and rapid developments in defense tech have changed the face of international policing forever. But while the U.S. is advanced when it comes to some elements of infrastructure and defense, the country’s surveillance guidelines haven’t been updated for 30 years. These outdated rules have paved the way for the rampant abuses of American privacy at the hands of governmental organizations like the National Security Agency and its PRISM program. Instead of waiting around for legal protections, online users should protect their sensitive data and identities by exclusively relying on secure clouds that offer strong encryption and user anonymity.

Early in 2013, President Obama appointed staff to the newly created Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. The board recently addressed the PRISM program and the absence of any revisions to privacy laws as old as 1984. Chairman David Medine of the PCLOB claims that the unique implementation of guidelines in each agency results in different approaches to data collection and sharing.  According to Medine, creating some standard “can constrain and specify what can be done with the information, how it’s collected and how it’s shared.” It’s up to each online user to determine whether or not to trust the government with their data, but given the NSA’s recent history of public lies users should proactively protect their sensitive data in the meantime.

In a recent interview with CNN, President Obama said, “I think there are legitimate concerns that people have that technology is moving so quick that, you know, at some point, does the technology outpace the laws that are in place and the protections that are in place? Do some of these systems end up being like a loaded gun out there that somebody at some future point could abuse?” Unfortunately, the time for questions is far behind us as citizens must grapple with a decade of data mining and monitoring without a warrant. President Obama also addressed the PRISM program directly, claiming, “What’s been clear since the disclosures that were made by Mr. Snowden is that people don’t have enough information and aren’t confident enough that, between all the safeguards and checks that we put in place within the executive branch, and the federal court oversight that takes place on the program, and congressional oversight, people are still concerned as to whether their emails are being read or their phone calls are being listened to.” But the real issue is that people haven’t been clearly given a picture of all of these alleged safeguards, checks, and oversights. Furthermore, given the President’s admission of the value of Snowden’s leaks, he pits himself in a sticky situation as attempts to apprehend and try the whistleblower are still ongoing.

David Medine

How did we get to this point in the first place? ForeignPolicy identifies four key steps that our nation took in the progressive erasure of civil liberties and privacy rights online: our hyperbolic response to the threat of terrorism after 9/11, the general public’s general acquiescence to monitoring for the sake of security, the rapid evolution of technology, and outdated privacy laws. The lack of security standards has led to some companies rising up to fill in the privacy gaps left by the government. Unsene is an encrypted Internet server that helps mask online activity and user identities.

Founder Chris Kitze doesn’t think that the government’s monitoring of private citizens has anything to do with security. Kitze says, “This has been going on for a long time and a company that I had that went public in 1998, in 1997 we went on a tour of the colocation facility. That is the place we hold all the servers. The person who was giving the tour said ‘that is the NSA room’. I asked ‘what do they do in here?’ and he said ‘they collect every e-mail and website visit that comes through here’. That has been going on since 1997 so it doesn’t really have anything to do with security. They are trying to make it pretend like it does, but they have just been doing this forever… I am sure there are good people in those agencies, who think they are doing something that is right, but they are crossing a line now and what they are doing is they are violating the constitution.” Ultimately, users must decide for themselves how much they trust government monitoring. But for privacy advocates, waiting for a governmental solution isn’t an option. The only way to guard your data and identity is through secure cloud services.

Guard Your Privacy & Shield Your Identity With SpiderOak

For most users, finding a truly protected third party cloud service can be a challenge as many “secure” services on the market have security gaps that leave data wide open to third party attacks, leaks, or hacking. One cloud storage and sync service that sets itself apart from the rest of the market is SpiderOak. This service provides colleges with fully private cloud storage and syncing, featuring all of the benefits of the cloud along with 100% data privacy. SpiderOak Blue is available with onsite deployment and private servers or outsourced deployment through a private and secured public cloud server, so that users and small businesses of all sorts and sizes can tailor the service to fit their needs.

SpiderOak protects sensitive user data with 256-bit AES encryption so that files and passwords stay private. Authorized accounts and network devices can store and sync sensitive data with complete privacy, because this cloud service has absolutely “zero-knowledge” of user passwords or data. And all plaintext encryption keys are exclusively stored on approved devices because SpiderOak never hosts any plaintext data. This way, even if programs like NSA’s PRISM continue to stand unchallenged, people can rest easy knowing that their data is truly protected. SpiderOak’s cross-platform private cloud services are available for users on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, along with Android and iOS mobile devices, allowing for full flexibility and mobile access.

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