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Friday, June 7, 2013

US govt looking at your FB, Skype, Gmail data

The world woke up on Friday morning to news that the US government's surveillance of people is much wider than initially thought and extends beyond America. 

    For the last six years, the US National Security Agency (NSA) has been able to access emails, videos, pictures, social networking details, and connection logs from the servers of 
Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Apple, Facebook, Skype and other leading US tech companies. 
    According to classified do
cuments leaked by an insider in the government, a top-secret electronic surveillance US programme named PRISM allows targeting of customers of major US tech companies outside the US. This pretty much means the entire world, since most of the world's Internet infrastructure is based in the US and most electronic communications also pass through the US. 
    While companies named in the leaks have denied the existence of PRISM or their cooperation with the programme, Indian users would have no way to defend themselves if US agencies were to compel the firms to allow access to their data.
'Indian users don't have protection' 
    Each message you send through Gmail or your iPhone in India, each call you make from Skype, each post you make on Facebook can be stored and monitored because they are routed through servers in the US. 
    Pavan Duggal, a cyber law specialist, said, "Indian users don't have protection against US authorities seeking data from US companies. If a company is based in the US, it can be made to share its data with the US authorities even if the data belongs to a non-US user who doesn't stay in the US." 
    Facebook has over 78 million monthly active users in India while YouTube has more than 30 million users here. Gmail is the most popular email service in the country. In all, India is estimated to have 150 million internet users. Tech companies operating here have to comply with local laws. In response to queries from TOI, both Google and Facebook said they used the "mutual legal assistance treaty" to handle international data requests. The treaty between the US and India enables the nations to provide each other assistance to probe, prosecute and prevent crime. But such surveillance would clearly fall outside the scope of any arrangement and would run contrary to a range of international legal instruments.


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