This is not a U.S. specific problem. In fact, India is worst situated than U.S. as in India we do not need a court warrant to do phone tapping and e-surveillance. We have no dedicated privacy laws in India and phone tapping is done in an unconstitutional and illegal manner. A lawful and constitutional interception law in India must be formulated as soon as possible.
United Nations finally broke its silence on civil liberties violations that are happening at global level. However, U.N must do much more than showing its displeasure regarding the contemporary e-surveillance practices adopted by nations around the world.
Meanwhile, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence agency (NSA), has maintained that the PRISM project is both legal and vital to national security. He concurred that NSA has been using PRISM to gather digital information and data of targeted foreign citizens using the Internet outside the U.S.
He also maintains that PRISM is overseen by a secret court under laws approved by the US Congress. However, targeting of U.S. citizens cannot be ruled out in these circumstances.
The basic argument of Clapper is that PRISM is an internal government computer system to facilitate the government’s statutorily authorised collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision.
If this is the purpose and scope of PRISM project, there is not much to protest as it is the law that has to be protested against. Blaming Internet companies complying with court orders is also unjustified in these circumstances. But if NSA or any other law enforcement agency indulges in warrant less phone tapping or e-surveillance or if NSLs are use din an abusing manner it is a grate cause of concern for U.S. citizens.
Stung by these disclosures, White House has been considering whether a criminal investigation must be initiated against those found guilty as per U.S. laws for putting U.S. national security in danger.
Meanwhile, Internet companies have denied their involvement in the e-surveillance project and have maintained that they have not provided any direct access to their servers to the NSA or any other authority. These companies maintain that they are providing user data to governments only in accordance with the law.
What these companies must be doing is providing a secure and dedicated access to NSA and other agencies through a web portal where the requested information can be posted by the concerned company and accessed by the NSA/FBI.
However, the real question is whether such information is provided only after a court warrant in each and every case or on the mere asking of the NSA/FBI. In the former case, it may be legal and constitutional whereas in the latter case it is illegal and unconstitutional.
But there is no doubt about the proposition that the accused Internet companies are sharing information about their respective users with NSA and FBI and if they claim they are not aware of such sharing through a dedicated portal, they are simply lying. Now the question is how much foreign citizens can trust these companies for their personal and sensitive information?