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NSA collects email and instant messaging contacts to strengthen security

by CAROLINE GAVURA Section Editor

The National Security Agency have been collecting contacts from personal email and instant messaging accounts to get data that is crucial for national security.

The Washington Post reported the agency is collecting the data from overseas points, and most of the contacts belong to Americans. The Post got its information from top-secret documents, including a PowerPoint presentation created by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Many of the contacts came from Yahoo and Hotmail accounts, but data was also collected from Facebook, Google, and other providers.  The contacts amount to a large portion of the whole world’s email and instant messaging accounts.

“You need the haystack to find the needle,” said General Keith B. Alexander, NSA director, in defense of the collection.

Senior intelligence officials said such collection would be illegal if done from facilities in the United States; however, the NSA avoided that problem by collecting the contacts in locations all over the world.

“It’s really shady that the NSA got away with collecting personal contacts overseas so it would be legal, even if it is for the greater good,” said junior Olivia Fasano.

Large technology companies use data centers around the world to ease the loads on their servers on the United States, but claim they did not know about the NSA’s collection.

“We have neither knowledge of nor participation in this mass collection of webmail addresses or chat lists by the government,” said a Google spokesperson.

A Microsoft representative said the company does not provide the government with such data.

Yahoo made a similar statement, saying, “We are not aware of nor have we participated in the alleged mass collection of user data by the government.”

A Facebook spokesman said the company did not know of or assist with the alleged collection of contacts.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the program was a breach of Americans’ rights.

“Today’s revelation further confirms that the NSA has relied on the pretense of ‘foreign intelligence gathering’ to sweep up an extraordinary amount of information about everyday Americans”, said Alex Abdo, staff attorney of the ACLU National Security Project. “The NSA’s indiscriminate collection of information about innocent people can’t be justified on security grounds, and it presents a serious threat to civil liberties.”

The revelations add to consumer concerns with online privacy. Antivirus companies ESET and AVG both said customer interest in privacy tools have been on the rise since the Snowden disclosures began.

“It’s really weird that the government is collecting all of these contacts  from our email and instant message accounts. It’s kind of an invasion of privacy, but if it helps prevent acts of terrorism then I guess it’s a good thing,” said junior Bree Mckenna.

With news coming out about the government looking into personal information of its citizens online, Americans are changing their behavior on the internet. Online services are doing a better job of respecting consumer privacy, and consumers are taking more responsibility for their own data that they put online.

How do you feel about the NSA collecting personal contacts to protect American citizens?

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