Revelations about the US government’s mass surveillance efforts truly piled up during this past week. According to documents released by NBC and journalist Glenn Greenwald, the British government showed its US counterparts a program that enables the extraction of user data through real-time monitoring of social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
Then, the New York Times and ProPublica reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) and its British partner Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) gather personal data through smartphone applications. The agencies can access information about a user’s location, age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and education. Finally, Edward Snowden said in an interview on German television that the NSA participates in industrial sabotage, gathering information from foreign companies that could be advantageous to US interests beyond national security.
This outpouring of discoveries about the the scope of the American surveillance state and its partnerships abroad comes on the heels of an independent oversight board’s strong rejection of the NSA’s data collection program. On January 23, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) concluded that the bulk data collection program is illegal and should end. PCLOB further highlighted that the program has not identified terrorist threats to the United States or played a role in terror investigations.