In 2001 European MP’s published a report on the US spy network: Echelon. This wasn’t the first time somebody has blown the whistle on Echelon. In 1972 a former NSA analyst reveled how the NSA collects and uses data (U.S. Electronic Espionage: A Memoir is a fascinating read). There’s been multiple revelations in the time between then and now. And lest we not forget the Snowden leak in 2015 that confirmed it’s existence.
The operation is a surveillance program involving 5 countries: USA, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. They’re called “The Five Eyes”. The head bases are located in Forte Meade in Maryland, and GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham, United Kingdom.
Originally Echelon was developed during the 1960’s cold war as a way for the USA to monitor military and political communications from Soviet Russia and it’s allies.
Today it’s a global spy network. In the 2001 European report investigations revealed Echelon was monitoring and recording millions of conversations, emails, text messages etc. between ordinary people.
Here’s a detailed map from 2003 showing how Echelon works (image too large to embed): https://www.think.cz/images/stories/echelon14_01.jpg
Privacy and Human Rights
The concern in 2001 was Echelon could negatively impact the right to privacy and that the UK in particular could be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Below is a screenshot of a section of an article taken from a Guardian article in 2001 regarding Echelon and how to keep yourself protected from it:
TLDR; It’s very hard to protect yourself from Echelon. The best thing to do is to avoid communicating over the phone, or via email.
More Access To Data
Today we’re in 2019 where almost everything is connected to the Internet 24/7 such as: mobile phones, smart televisions, CCTV, Alexa, Google Home, watches, cars etc. This gives Echelon a lot more data than it originally had access to in 2001.
Echelon still exists today. Make no mistake about that. It’s alive and kicking. And now it has far more ways to record and monitor you and I. Very few people know of it’s existence, and if they do they don’t care much about their privacy or security. In reality what can you do to protect yourself completely except take yourself “off the grid”?
In Layman Terms
It’s difficult trying to explain this to a layman. They don’t understand. They assume because they’re doing nothing wrong then it doesn’t matter what data others have on them.
There is no guy sitting at the end of the computer listening to your phone conversation or scrolling your Facebook news feed. It’s worse than that. It’s an intelligent computer network that profiles and maps every part of your life and activities automatically. It knows more about you than you probably know about yourself.
The dependence on the convenience of smart phones, applications and social media has made Echelon’s job much easier. Users are literally feeding the beast without realizing.
It sounds like something from a movie, but this is real life here and now.
The Mark of The Beast
Although I’m not religious I remember the pastor at church back in the late 90’s preaching about the “mark of the beast”. He said it will be a microchip under the skin. He was wrong. The microchip is sitting in most people’s pockets and is with them at all times. The smartphone. The beast is the Governments.
Privacy Is Dead
There is no privacy. There never was. Echelon has been listening all along.