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Experts Say Nsa Rules Leave Privacy Vulnerable

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The emblem of the U.S. National Security Agency.

Experts in cybersecurity are not convinced U.S. President Barack Obama can keep the National Security Agency from spying on the communications of ordinary Americans.

Credit: U.S. National Security Agency

Cybersecurity experts doubt whether U.S. President Barack Obama can follow through on his assurance the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is not spying on ordinary Americans' communications, given the existence of loopholes that, in combination with intelligence agencies' capabilities and rules, still imperil privacy.

For example, Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation cybersecurity fellow Jonathan Mayer conducted research showing that 5 to 10 percent of all visits to popular U.S.-based websites bounce off foreign servers, and this technicality could be exploited by agencies to legally collect personal data. "If you define almost nothing as breaking the rules, it becomes easy to say, 'Don't worry, we never break the rules,'" Mayer warns.

Disclosures from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and others reveal ambiguous regulations that NSA and other intelligence gatherers adhere to. For example, NSA is permitted to store encrypted domestic or foreign communications at least until analysts can descramble it to see whether it contains data relating to national security. This could include an immense volume of domestic communications because popular services such as Facebook are adding encryption.

Meanwhile, domestic communications with foreign targets can be collected without a warrant if the point of collection is outside the United States.

From Associated Press
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