Computer surveillance

Official seal of the Information Awareness Office -- a U.S. agency which developed technologies for mass surveillance.

The vast majority of computer surveillance involves the monitoring of data and traffic on the Internet.[4] In the United States for example, under the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act, all phone calls and broadband Internet traffic (emails, web traffic, instant messaging, etc.) are required to be available for unimpeded real-time monitoring by Federal law enforcement agencies.[5][6][7]

There is far too much data on the Internet for human investigators to manually search through all of it. So automated Internet surveillance computers sift through the vast amount of intercepted Internet traffic and identify and report to human investigators traffic considered interesting by using certain "trigger" words or phrases, visiting certain types of web sites, or communicating via email or chat with suspicious individuals or groups.[8] Billions of dollars per year are spent, by agencies such as the Information Awareness Office, NSA, and the FBI, to develop, purchase, implement, and operate systems such as Carnivore, NarusInsight, and ECHELON to intercept and analyze all of this data, and extract only the information which is useful to law enforcement and intelligence agencies.[9]

Computers are also a surveillance target because of the personal data stored on them. If someone is able to install software (either physically or remotely), such as the FBI's "Magic Lantern" and CIPAV, on a computer system, they can easily gain unauthorized access to this data.[10]

Another form of computer surveillance, known as TEMPEST, involves reading electromagnetic emanations from computing devices in order to extract data from them at distances of hundreds of meters.[11][12][13]

The NSA also runs a database known as "Pinwale", which stores and indexes large numbers of emails of both American citizens and foreigners.[14][15]