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The lunacy of trying to avoid NSA spying by moving e-mail and cloud out of the US

Some people are ao much in a panic about the NSA spying on them that they're going to move their e-mail and cloud services out of the US entirely to "safer" foreign companies.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation recently claimed that thanks to the National Security Agency (NSA) spying programs, US cloud providers would lose at least 10 percent of its foreign market, $21.5 billion, to European or Asian competitors. Others are considering abandoning American Internet companies and e-mail providers in favor of European providers.


But if I were the NSA, I could only say, "Yes! Please move out of the US so we don't need to deal with the he Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)!"

Why would the NSA want you to move your data to cloud and e-mail providers in other countries?

Because, in the United States, the NSA and friends need to jump through the FISC hoops to listen in to your e-mail, cloud data transfers, phone calls, whatever. If you're doing any of the above to someone or some site outside of the US, any of your communications are pretty much fair game.

Now, you can certainly argue that the "no such agency" is doing way too much domestic spying anyway. Or, that the entire domestic eavesdropping thing has been vastly overblown. Or, you can believe that FISC is little more than a rubber stamp. And, last but not least, that way too many people like Edward Snowden have way too much access to the data the NSA does collect.

Six ways to protect yourself from the NSA and other eavesdroppers

But, here's the important part, outside of the US, the NSA doesn't need to worry about the FISC. Sure the European Union (EU) has strong data protection laws. So what?

The NSA has to follow a different set of laws for tracking data outside the US: The  Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as amended by the 2001 Patriot Act. In the latest update to the Patriot Act, H.R. 6304, the American Civil Liberty Unions (ACLU) found that the revised bill allowed the NSA to "conduct mass, untargeted surveillance of all communications coming into and out of the United States, without any individualized review, and without any finding of wrongdoing." 

Starting to get the picture now? 

Let's step back for a moment. What is the NSA's job? Since Harry Truman set it up back in 1952 the NSA's job is to monitor foreign communications, whether it is electronic intelligence (ELINT) or signal intelligence (SIGINT). Update it to 2013 and the NSA's job is still tracking foreign communications. These can be either from one country to another, say Russia to China, or from someone in the US to another country.

It's always been this way. The NSA is a foreign intelligence agency. This is what they do for a living. Always have, always will.

There is nothing really new in what Snowden revealed to anyone who'd bothered to read the books of James Bamford. Bamford spelling all this out starting with his first book in 1983, The Puzzle Palace. The NSA is doing exactly what its mission has always been.

So, if you think for one second that moving your data out of the US, or keeping it out of the US will somehow make your information safer, think again. By doing so you actually make it more likely that the NSA will have access to it.

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