July 11, 2013 1:30:28 am
How much are your private conversations worth to the US government? Turns out,it can be a lot,depending on the technology.
In the era of intense government surveillance and secret court orders,a murky multimillion-dollar market has emerged. Paid for by US tax dollars,but with little public scrutiny,surveillance fees charged in secret by technology and phone companies can vary wildly.
AT&T,for example,imposes a $325 activation fee for each wiretap and $10 a day to maintain it. But snoop on a Verizon customer? That costs the government $775 for the first month and $500 each month after that,according to industry disclosures made last year to Congressman Edward Markey.
Meanwhile,email records like those amassed by the NSA probably were collected for free or very cheaply. Facebook says it doesnt charge the government for access. And while Microsoft,Yahoo and Google wont say how much they charge,the American Civil Liberties Union found that email records can be turned over for as little as $25.
Industry says it doesnt profit from thousands of government eavesdropping requests it receives each year,and civil liberties groups want businesses to charge. They worry that government surveillance will become too cheap as companies automate their responses.
But privacy advocates also want companies to be upfront about what they charge and alert customers after an investigation has concluded that their communications were monitored. What we dont want is surveillance to become a profit centre, said Christopher Soghoian,the ACLUs principal technologist.
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