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Multimedia journalist Andy Park hovers the SBS drone over the day’s news. Follow @andy_park
Stellar Wind: The data ‘eye of Sauron’ almost online
17 September 2012 | 16:06 | Source: AP
Earlier this month, a move to retain two year’s worth of Australian’s internet data was endorsed by Attorney General Nicola Roxon, and was met with wide-spread opposition from privacy groups.
The “proposed reform is to allow law enforcement agencies to continue investigating crime in light of new technologies,” she said.
But let’s take a trip to Bluffdale Utah. Pop 7,743, the forefront of global data eavesdropping.
In this small hamlet, thirty minutes drive south of the Mormon capital of Salt Lake City, cranes have almost finished construction of a nondescript government building.
Slated for completion within months, this 25,0000 square-foot building is said to house the most sophisticated and expansive data retention facility on the planet.
It will have the capacity to hold 100 years of the entire internet, or in nerdspeak, a yottabyte or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.
The National Security Agency’s (NSA) $US2 billion data centre was first mentioned in 2009 , but it’s capabilities were not known until a senior NSA crypto-mathematician turned whistleblower Bill Binney went public on his brainchild data software that the NSA’s Stellar Wind project is rumoured to use.
Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker and journalist Laura Poitras profiles William Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency in an excellent, if terrifying documentary:
Wired magazine’s James Bamford who broke the story, says the facility would be able to record and process vast oceans of financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential emails and social media updates.
And if you are one of those that mask you IP or use TOR or other encryption services – this new facility is supposed to raid password-protected information or fire-walled information on the “deep web”. .
And that’s not all – James Bamford says that there is another facility in Savannah, Georgia said to hold 4,000 personnel who use the recent five-year extension to the controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008, together with the Patriot Act, to surveil email and phone calls of foreigners and US citizens without warrant.
What does all this mean for your data and the data of Australians?
Your data is your identity, in the same way that Australian data is our data sovereignty.
But you are most likely unaware of how much of your life (data) is digitised.
The proposed flip on existing privacy laws, with respect to automatic data retention, paves the way for more and more unmerited powers for government agencies to collect and store your information.
And if the US is anything to go by with respect to the breadth of powers that can be found at the intersection of legislation and technology, the potential of government or even corporate data surveillance is only just beginning to be realised.