27 June 2013
British spy agency GCHQ taps and stores all transatlantic network traffic, totalling between 60 and 100 petabytes, for at least three days.
That is the claim of investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, speaking at The World Conference of Science Journalists this week. He added that the recent Prism scandal proved that the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) did, indeed, theoretically enable the "whole cloud to be copied".
This and similar revelations over the past few weeks may stimulate greater interest in genuine internet privacy tools and technologies. That means organisations not just being careful about where their data is stored, but also deploying tools to enhance and maximise privacy.
The UK's Tempora programme was revealed in The Guardian newspaper earlier this week. The clandestine surveillance programme involves GCHQ receiving a secret feed of all internet and telephone traffic from more than 200 fibre optic cables. The companies that operate the cables are paid from public funds for their compliance.
GCHQ employs some 300 analysts directly to examine and conduct queries on the data, while the US National Security Agency has some 250 analysts assigned to the same purpose. About 850,000 people in total have security clearance to access the data.
Reporting about GCHQ's internet spying activities - which are even more far-reaching than the NSA's - has been muted by "D-Notices" that the government rushed out to the national press to gag them from reporting any further details.
However, on the continent the news was met with scorn. Germany's
Justice Minster, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, described the Tempora
programme as a "Hollywood-style nightmare".