Warning! Encrypted Files Won't Escape NSA Scrutiny
BY Em Maier
Even if you're an American citizen, the NSA can peer into your files if you're using encryption software such as Tor. Here's what you should know.
Encrypting data with Tor networks may invite more NSA attention than leaving it open, contrary to something reported earlier on Inc.
You could temporarily lose your status as an American citizen, along with your Fourth Ammendment protections against unreasonable searches, according to papers obtained by The Washington Post and other news outlets including The Guardian.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court papers outline the procedures and circumstances in which this might happen. Any data collection must cease if the person is in the U.S., however, when the NSA encounters encrypted data "the gloves can come off," writes Information Week, quoting the document, "with analysts being allowed to retain 'communications that are enciphered or reasonably believed to contain secret meaning' for any period of time."
Encryption networks can mask not only a person's identity but their physical location. So "without a positive identification based on name, address, electronic communication addresses or geographic location, encryption users may because classified--at least temporarily--as non-U.S. residents by NSA analysts," warns Information Week.
Granted, the NSA is required to report its actions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice, which is then charged with notifying FISA. But the NSA can retain communications "that don't contain 'foreign intelligence information' but that are 'reasonably believed to contain evidence of a crime that has been, is being, or is about to be committed," writes Information Week. Plus, they may show it to the FBI.
As Inc. reporter Eric Markowitz has noted, it isn't surprising that your personal data finds its way to the NSA. But how much are you comfortable sharing?