The Fourteen Eyes & More… Why Americans Need to Provide Their Own Privacy

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The Fourteen Eyes & More... Why Americans Need to Provide Their Own Privacy

When syn­th­pop sen­sa­tion Rock­well released the hit sin­gle “Somebody’s Watch­ing Me” in 1984, it’s unlikely that the para­noia he was singing about con­cerned gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance. Nev­er­the­less, the 30-​year old pop anthem remains rel­e­vant today because it speaks to the feel­ing that so many of us have.

Indeed, it no longer seems cuckoo to say that all eyes are upon us…because they are! You can’t walk down a city street with­out being mon­i­tored. There are an esti­mated 30 mil­lion sur­veil­lance cam­eras in the US alone and that num­ber will only con­tinue to grow.

And never mind walk­ing down the street, you don’t even have to leave the com­fort of your own home to find your­self scru­ti­nized. Not only do inter­net ser­vice providers (ISPs) col­lect all of your per­sonal infor­ma­tion, but they are free to sell it off to third party enti­ties for mar­ket­ing and other purposes.

More alarm­ingly, our world gov­ern­ments have been snoop­ing on their cit­i­zens for decades. In 1941, the UKUSA Agree­ment was forged. This mul­ti­lat­eral covenant for coop­er­a­tion in sig­nals intel­li­gence between Aus­tralia, Canada, New Zealand , the United King­dom and the United States, oth­er­wise referred to as the “Five Eyes,” revolves around the covert STONEGHOST net­work, a sys­tem that is said to hold some of the West­ern world’s most sen­si­tive secrets.

In the ensu­ing years, this alliance has expanded to include sec­ond and third party part­ners. Today, Bel­gium, Ger­many, Italy, Spain and Swe­den have formed SSEUR or the “Four­teen Eyes,” join­ing the “Five Eyes” in their exchange of del­i­cate data.

The House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee has released a memo that alleges that the FBI and Jus­tice Depart­ment are guilty of gross sur­veil­lance abuses against their own gov­ern­ment and the Elec­tronic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion shows that the malfea­sance doesn’t stop there.

Work­ing in tan­dem with major telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion car­ri­ers, the National Secu­rity Agency has engaged in mas­sive, ille­gal drag­net sur­veil­lance since as far back as 2001. In that time, they have spied on the domes­tic com­mu­ni­ca­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tion records of mil­lions of tax-​paying, law-​abiding Amer­i­can citizens.

Under the Obama admin­is­tra­tion, the NSA vio­lated the Con­sti­tu­tion and court-​ordered guide­lines pur­suant to fed­eral law, will­fully exploit­ing loop­holes to unmask Amer­i­cans’ iden­ti­ties when shar­ing this infor­ma­tion with other agencies.

What’s more, then-​President Obama even mon­i­tored Trump cam­paign offi­cials prior to Trump’s appoint­ment as our Commander-​in-​Chief. It would seem that even the Leader of the Free World isn’t exempt from the sur­veil­lance state.

There are no less than 6 gov­ern­ment pro­grams that watch­ing us 247. The Jus­tice Depart­ment is reg­u­larly obtain­ing and using evi­dence from social net­work­ing sites. That means that no per­son with a Face­book, Twit­ter or Insta­gram account is safe.

The depart­ment can col­lect and use any of your per­sonal com­mu­ni­ca­tions against you if they deem it rel­e­vant to estab­lish­ing “motives and per­sonal rela­tion­ships.” If this sounds a lot like what the law calls cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence it’s because that’s exactly what it is.

For instance, if some­one you know is mur­dered and your social media pro­file con­tains pic­tures of you bran­dish­ing a knife at a hor­ror con­ven­tion, the Jus­tice Depart­ment could, in the­ory, use those pho­tographs to sup­port the notion that you were involved in the com­mis­sion of such a crime.

The Inter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice also uti­lizes social media sites, includ­ing Face­book, Google and YouTube, to inves­ti­gate tax­pay­ers. Since 2009, this prac­tice has been part of their agent train­ing program.

The next word you type into Google may get you flagged by the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity. The depart­ment is using an aggres­sive mon­i­tor­ing pro­gram that tracks a whop­ping 380 keywords.

It’s a scary time to be an Amer­i­can, espe­cially with global cyber­at­tacks pos­ing a very real daily threat. After all, if they’re not sim­ply snoop­ing then they’re hold­ing our per­sonal data hostage. Using sophis­ti­cated means, hack­ers from all across the globe are tar­get­ing busi­nesses and pri­vate cit­i­zens with ransomware.

Such attacks, like the one that was likely per­pe­trated by North Korea, con­tinue to plague our nation and threat trends for the year ahead indi­cate that ran­somware, firmware and other mali­cious soft­ware will dog us if we don’t do some­thing to stop it.

It’s times like these when we would be smart to take a cue from our Commander-​in-​Chief and pro­tect our­selves against pri­vacy infringe­ment, cen­sor­ship and more. In Novem­ber of last year, Trump paved the way dur­ing his visit to China.

By using a vir­tual pri­vate net­work (VPN), the pres­i­dent was able to cir­cum­vent the “Great Fire­wall” and access Twit­ter which is banned in Bei­jing, where the pres­i­dent was stay­ing, and every­where else across the country.

VPNs are WANs (Wide Area Net­works) that use ded­i­cated con­nec­tions and advanced encryp­tion pro­to­cols to gen­er­ate P2P con­nec­tions. They “spoof” your IP address by replac­ing it with one of their own VPN providers.

Most VPNs have mul­ti­ple servers in most every major coun­try, mean­ing that you can pro­tect your pri­vacy even if you are trav­el­ing. Some of the best VPNs on the mar­ket fea­ture intru­sion detec­tion and pre­ven­tion, DNK leak­age pro­tec­tion, sig­na­ture pro­to­cols, IPSec (an extra layer of secu­rity), split tun­nel­ing and unique authentication.

VPN solu­tions like ExpressVPN deliver fast speeds, 247 cus­tomer sup­port and mobile apps so that you can stop the snoops from snoop­ing when you’re tex­ting your friends or doing busi­ness on your iPhone or Android device.

A word of warn­ing, how­ever, for my more fru­gal read­ers. Yes, there are free VPNs avail­able online, but as with your ISP, these free ser­vices are only offered for free because, unlike subscription-​based solu­tions, they keep logs of all your ses­sions and can sell your data to third parties.

Some of the less rep­utable VPNs, such as Hide­MyAss, have been served with sub­poe­nas and shared their cus­tomers’ log sec­tions with law enforce­ment offi­cials. For this rea­son, it’s impor­tant to use a VPN that stands by its “no logs” policy.

By using reli­able web host­ing and military-​grade encryp­tion, we can effec­tively anonymize our online activ­ity and keep cyber­crim­i­nals from gain­ing pur­chase to our PCs. Pri­vacy and secu­rity are right at our fin­ger­tips, just where they right­fully belong.

As Jus­tice William R. Day famously said of our Fourth Amend­ment, “The efforts of the courts and their offi­cials to bring the guilty to pun­ish­ment, praise­wor­thy as they are, are not to be aided by the sac­ri­fice of those great prin­ci­ples estab­lished by years of endeavor and suf­fer­ing which have resulted in their embod­i­ment in the fun­da­men­tal law of the land.”

When synthpop sensation Rockwell released the hit single “Somebody’s Watching Me” in 1984, it’s unlikely that the paranoia he was singing about concerned government surveillance. Nevertheless, the 30-year old pop anthem remains relevant today because it speaks to the feeling that so many of us have.

Indeed, it no longer seems cuckoo to say that all eyes are upon us…because they are! You can’t walk down a city street without being monitored. There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras in the US alone and that number will only continue to grow.

And never mind walking down the street, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home to find yourself scrutinized. Not only do internet service providers (ISPs) collect all of your personal information, but they are free to sell it off to third party entities for marketing and other purposes.

More alarmingly, our world governments have been snooping on their citizens for decades. In 1941, the UKUSA Agreement was forged. This multilateral covenant for cooperation in signals intelligence between Australia, Canada, New Zealand , the United Kingdom and the United States, otherwise referred to as the “Five Eyes,” revolves around the covert STONEGHOST network, a system that is said to hold some of the Western world’s most sensitive secrets.

In the ensuing years, this alliance has expanded to include second and third party partners. Today, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden have formed SSEUR or the “Fourteen Eyes,” joining the “Five Eyes” in their exchange of delicate data.

The House Intelligence Committee has released a memo that alleges that the FBI and Justice Department are guilty of gross surveillance abuses against their own government and the Electronic Frontier Foundation shows that the malfeasance doesn’t stop there.

Working in tandem with major telecommunication carriers, the National Security Agency has engaged in massive, illegal dragnet surveillance since as far back as 2001. In that time, they have spied on the domestic communications and communication records of millions of tax-paying, law-abiding American citizens.

Under the Obama administration, the NSA violated the Constitution and court-ordered guidelines pursuant to federal law, willfully exploiting loopholes to unmask Americans’ identities when sharing this information with other agencies.

What’s more, then-President Obama even monitored Trump campaign officials prior to Trump’s appointment as our Commander-in-Chief. It would seem that even the Leader of the Free World isn’t exempt from the surveillance state.

There are no less than 6 government programs that watching us 24/7. The Justice Department is regularly obtaining and using evidence from social networking sites. That means that no person with a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account is safe.

The department can collect and use any of your personal communications against you if they deem it relevant to establishing “motives and personal relationships.” If this sounds a lot like what the law calls circumstantial evidence it’s because that’s exactly what it is.

For instance, if someone you know is murdered and your social media profile contains pictures of you brandishing a knife at a horror convention, the Justice Department could, in theory, use those photographs to support the notion that you were involved in the commission of such a crime.

The Internal Revenue Service also utilizes social media sites, including Facebook, Google and YouTube, to investigate taxpayers. Since 2009, this practice has been part of their agent training program.

The next word you type into Google may get you flagged by the Department of Homeland Security. The department is using an aggressive monitoring program that tracks a whopping 380 keywords.

It’s a scary time to be an American, especially with global cyberattacks posing a very real daily threat. After all, if they’re not simply snooping then they’re holding our personal data hostage. Using sophisticated means, hackers from all across the globe are targeting businesses and private citizens with ransomware.

Such attacks, like the one that was likely perpetrated by North Korea, continue to plague our nation and threat trends for the year ahead indicate that ransomware, firmware and other malicious software will dog us if we don’t do something to stop it.

It’s times like these when we would be smart to take a cue from our Commander-in-Chief and protect ourselves against privacy infringement, censorship and more. In November of last year, Trump paved the way during his visit to China.

By using a virtual private network (VPN), the president was able to circumvent the “Great Firewall” and access Twitter which is banned in Beijing, where the president was staying, and everywhere else across the country.

VPNs are WANs (Wide Area Networks) that use dedicated connections and advanced encryption protocols to generate P2P connections. They “spoof” your IP address by replacing it with one of their own VPN providers.

Most VPNs have multiple servers in most every major country, meaning that you can protect your privacy even if you are traveling. Some of the best VPNs on the market feature intrusion detection and prevention, DNK leakage protection, signature protocols, IPSec (an extra layer of security), split tunneling and unique authentication.

VPN solutions like ExpressVPN deliver fast speeds, 24/7 customer support and mobile apps so that you can stop the snoops from snooping when you’re texting your friends or doing business on your iPhone or Android device.

A word of warning, however, for my more frugal readers. Yes, there are free VPNs available online, but as with your ISP, these free services are only offered for free because, unlike subscription-based solutions, they keep logs of all your sessions and can sell your data to third parties.

Some of the less reputable VPNs, such as HideMyAss, have been served with subpoenas and shared their customers’ log sections with law enforcement officials. For this reason, it’s important to use a VPN that stands by its “no logs” policy.

By using reliable web hosting and military-grade encryption, we can effectively anonymize our online activity and keep cybercriminals from gaining purchase to our PCs. Privacy and security are right at our fingertips, just where they rightfully belong.

As Justice William R. Day famously said of our Fourth Amendment, “The efforts of the courts and their officials to bring the guilty to punishment, praiseworthy as they are, are not to be aided by the sacrifice of those great principles established by years of endeavor and suffering which have resulted in their embodiment in the fundamental law of the land.”