Monday, February 08, 2010

Spooks impeded?

According to the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder:

About 80 percent of the world's telecom traffic was handled by routers based in the United States before 2001. After the [illegal National Security Agency listening] program was revealed by the New York Times in 2005 and the government tacitly acknowledged that it had set up special technology to monitor the routers, the percentage of worldwide telecom traffic that the U.S. had immediate access to dropped dramatically, according to a technology expert who informally advises the government said today.

Kim Taipale, the executive director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology Policy, told an audience at the University of Texas Law Review today that he estimated about 20 percent of worldwide traffic is now routed through the U.S.

Why? As soon as countries realized the extent to which the U.S. essentially controlled the traffic flow, they and their contractees built facilities overseas. Even U.S. telecoms, seeking to avoid surveillance requests from the U.S. government and potential lawsuits from consumers, began to move their capacity outside the U.S.

That is, when Congress, finally, gingerly, stepped in and set some weak limits on how our spooks could collect every electronic communication they could physically get their hands on, world commerce decided to go elsewhere.

I think it very unlikely that any of this actually prevents the NSA from capturing all electronic communications -- go online and the NSA is in bed with you; I assume everyone knows that. It's not clear that any legal privacy regimen can prevent abuses in this area.

But it is sort of pleasant to realize that known U.S. abuse has undercut U.S. market domination in telecommunications. Breaking even uncodified international rules has consequences ...

1 comment:

Kay Dennison said...

Sigh. Why am I sooooooo NOT surprised? I truly believe that Orwell just got the year wrong.

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