If you're anything like me, you've been suffering for the last few weeks from NSA fatigue. You know you ought to follow everything that Glenn Greenwald and Julian Sanchez link to, but you have a job, a wife, a dog, you try to sleep every night, and there's just not enough hours in the day to stay on top of everything.
So you miss a few stories. But here's one that's truly remarkable:
The NSA, which still has a few rules that ban it from collecting every email message in America, has figured out how to evade the rules by collecting the messages overseas.
This means that government officials very likely can collect your domestic messages, because Google and Yahoo back up their data and email messages on servers across four continents, according to this Washington Post story.
The Post story says that Google and Yahoo pay big bucks to transfer the data on supposedly private cables and that Google makes a considerable effort to encrypt their customers' data. Oh, well:
They had reason to think, insiders said, that their private, internal networks were safe from prying eyes.
In an NSA presentation slide on “Google Cloud Exploitation,” however, a sketch shows where the “Public Internet” meets the internal “Google Cloud” where their data resides. In hand-printed letters, the drawing notes that encryption is “added and removed here!” The artist adds a smiley face, a cheeky celebration of victory over Google security.
Two engineers with close ties to Google exploded in profanity when they saw the drawing. “I hope you publish this,” one of them said.
This sort of thing is sparking a backlash from the cypherpunk crowd. Slate reports that an automatic email encryption system is being developed that will make it easy for folks to keep their messages private.
In my experience, the chief obstacle to adoption of PGP is not that it's difficult to use, but that it's difficult to get people to use it. Even many libertarians who are more than computer literate simply won't bother. If the Dark Mail Alliance can make a dent in that, it would be a real breakthrough.