Have you ever wondered why, when you’re surfing the web, your screen produces an advertisement that matches your recent searches?

No, it’s not a coincidence.

Internet and phone companies amass vast troves of user information—information that is often used for advertising. But that’s not its only use.

On 6 October, the ABC’s ‘Four Corners’ program ‘Privacy Lost’ revealed how US intelligence agencies mine this information—both via agreements with search engine and social networking companies and by backdoor routes. The result is that these agencies possess extensive data streams containing information about private citizens, their contacts, thoughts and interests.

The extent of this surveillance was revealed when whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked secret government documents to the press and set off a heated international debate about privacy and security. (http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2014/10/06/4099165.htm)

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Just two days after the Four Corners report, The Australian revealed that social networking site Twitter was taking legal action for the right to reveal the extent of government surveillance. The company initiated a lawsuit against the FBI and US Department of Justice for the right to provide information about the information it is required to hand over to the government. (The Australian, 08.10.14.)

Revelations about the extent of US government data-mining come at the very time the Australian government is expanding the amount of digital data that intelligence agencies can access. Under proposed new laws, internet and phone companies will be required to retain data for two years and make it available to police and security agencies. The program has special significance in the wake of new government legislation in the process of being passed in Australia. Those laws will demand that web and mobile data be kept for two years so it can, if needed, be seized by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The changes to law also mean that journalists can be jailed for publishing stories detailing what are called ‘special intelligence operations’. www.abc.net.au/4corners/ stories/2014/10/06/4099165.htmhat will require mandatory collection of mobile and internet data for two years.

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On 6 October, the ABC’s ‘Four Corners’ program ’Privacy Lost’ explored how intelligence agencies mine internet information: http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2014/10/06/4099165.htm

About The Author – Lyn McLean is a consumer advocate, author and educator and has been monitoring and writing on the subject of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) for over 20 years. She is the director of EMR Australia.

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