While companies like Facebook and Google strain themselves to convince users that their private information is safe, even from the government, a recent article published by The New York Times may not go over well.
According to the NYT, a recently disclosed document reveals that the NSA has the resources and knowhow to get passed the encryption that "guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats, and phone calls of Americans and others around the world..."
In other words, the NSA has cracked the Internet.
Ever since Edward Snowden leaked classified information on the surveillance programs conducted by the NSA, questions concerning the state of privacy in America have pervaded throughout the country. As more information is revealed on the dirty secrets of the intelligence community, the public trust in the federal government to protect privacy rights is waning.
The program used by the NSA that carves out its own "back door" in online encryptions, code-named Bullrun, "deployed custom-built, superfast computers to break codes." But, the agency didn't accomplish this on its own.
According to the leaked document, courtesy of Snowden, The NSA worked with technology companies in the US and around the world to create entry points into their products. Some companies claim they were coerced by the government to build a back door for them or hand over their "master encryption keys."
The document, however, does not reveal specific company names.
The NSA says its ability to crack encryptions is vital to its mission. The agency's efforts are still governed by laws that forbid it from deliberately targeting Americans without a warrant, but if nothing else, the document on "Bullrun" reveals that privacy protections cannot necessarily deter the intelligence community from not only collecting data, but reading the information it collects.
Agency officials are correct to some degree. The NSA must be able to decipher encrypted messages from known terrorists or terrorist cells, foreign spies, and enemies of the state. However, there must be safeguards to ensure that the rights of the American people are protected and preserved. When the NSA breaks those barriers down, Americans and people around the world are right to be skeptical of the agency and its actions.
It's not just about transparency in government. The NSA can find a way around that. It is about accountability.