It’s the sort of thing you would have expected if George Orwell and Jules Verne had been contemporaries and collaborated on a novel. The Department of Defense creates a vast Hypertext Transfer Protocol Network and allows the private sector to take it over and expand it worldwide. Rather than passing through the pesky step of securing private data through the system’s service providers, the government simply taps into the data as it passes through the undersea fiber optic cables stretching from one continent to another. Suddenly the World Wide Web is one vast party line, at least from the NSA’s perspective.
That’s the theory presently being promulgated by investigative reporters with the New York Times. According to The Times‘ article, NSA May Have Hit Internet Companies at a Weak Spot , the data centers belonging to companies like Yahoo and Google are “are locked down with full-time security and state-of-the-art surveillance, including heat sensors and iris scanners.” If anything, it’s easier for government spies to tap the Level 3 Communications Infrastructure, the so-called backbone of the World Wide Web, made up of high capacity optic fiber cables owned by companies like Verizon, the BT Group, and the Vodafone Group.
Nearly everything you and I do online passes through this backbone in route to its final destination. I guess you can say that the NSA has taken up global spinal tapping: sampling the flow of information for infectious or inflammatory elements.
In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Vernes wrote “The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe… It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides.”
This statement is perhaps more true now than ever before. The sea is a very busy place indeed. And the NSA is one very busy body.