It's been nearly a year since whistleblower Edward Snow's leaks blasted open the National Security Agency (NSA)'s spying programs, but little has been done in terms of curbing the U.S. government's excessive espionage. Not only does the NSA target foreigners, it also maintains surveillance over U.S. citizens at home, often without reason or suspicion. About 30% of all Americans' call records are collected by the NSA.
While the methods described below do not affect all internet and phone users, and some of them are reserved for perceived terrorist threats, they indicate that the government's disturbing trend in privacy violation and unauthorized data collection, and Internet activists are fed up.
On this Day of Action against mass surveillance, let's take a look at 11 ways the NSA monitors Americans:
1. It collects phone data on an "ongoing, daily basis."
The NSA has a blanket order to collect private phone information such as the numbers of the parties involved, as well as location, duration and time of the call. The data is then centered in massive storage centers, like the one above.
2. It tracks your credit card payments.
International payments, banking and credit card transactions are flagged and monitored by the NSA. It has specifically targeted big credit card companies like VISA.
3. It collects and stores 200 million text messages a day.
Let's repeat it once more for effect: 200 million text messages per day.
4. It can even access smartphone app data.
All the major smartphones (iPhones, Androids, Blackberrys) can be hacked by the NSA.
5. It can decrypt private phone conversations.
Even if you're taking the extra step of encrypting private calls and messages, if it's over public airwaves, the NSA can decode it with its sophisticated decryption programs.
6. It considers your emails, online chats and browsing history as fair game.
The NSA program XKeyscore allows the agency to trawl through vast databases that contain private online history of millions of users.
7. It monitors your social networks.
Not only can the NSA pull information from your social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), it can combine it with other private data (GPS location, frequent contacts) to build complex profiles of where you are and who you're with.
8. It collects data from online gaming.
Because online gaming is an effective portal for international communication, the NSA has appropriated it as a surveillance tool. It has already infiltrated popular games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life to collect data and even recruit informants.
9. It can even hack into computers that are offline.
Using radio and wireless technology, the NSA can plant spyware on offline computers.
10. It can direct you to mirror sites and record your activity.
For instance, if you try to log onto the Yahoo servers, the NSA can intercept your request and direct you to a mirror site, from where it can monitor and record your activity. Similarly, if you try to visit certain religious or terrorist sites, it can automatically misdirect you and inject malware onto your PC.
11. It steals Windows crash reports.
A Windows crash report contains data on a user's computer and sends it to Microsoft engineers so they can improve user experience. But in the hands of the NSA, crash reports show system vulnerabilities that can be exploited by the agency.
If you want to get involved with the Day of Action, visit the website here to learn more.