For those who have heard some of what’s been going on but got a bit lost in the storm of media coverage, I thought I’d do a nice quick(ish) summary.
The Guardian and Washington Post broke a story last week about the extent to which the US National Security Agency spies on people. This is the US equivalent of GCHQ – a spy agency specialising in digital communication. The reports basically said that the NSA had been saving huge quantities of data in partnership with companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Skype (not Twitter, oddly enough). They have also been recording phone call information from the large US carrier Verizon.
The targets of such digital surveillance have been mostly foreign to the US, although the system they use only has a 51 per cent confidence measure, which means that pretty much anyone could be on the list. Other governments have also been implicated, including the UK.