Mozilla, maker of the Web browser Firefox has mounted a campaign against Internet surveillance activities on people by United States federal agencies.
The move follows an admission by James Clapper, director of U.S. National Intelligence, that federal investigation and intelligence agencies have been ordering phone companies and Internet service providers to release metadata on online and phone communications as part of the agencies’ anti-terrorist activities. Clapper said the surveillance was not aimed at American citizens in the U.S. but at people living in other countries whose communications and online interactions pass through the servers of U.S.-based ISPs.
“The revelations, which confirm many of our worst fears, raise serious questions about individual privacy protections, checks on government power and court orders impacting some of the most popular Web services,” Alex Fowler, privacy and public policy lead for Mozilla, wrote in a blog this week. “…Whenever we share information online, there’s an intuitive risk of exposure that someone we didn’t intend to share with might access it. That’s part of using an open, highly distributed, worldwide communications medium.”
Fowler, however pointed out, exposure that result from government sponsored surveillance often occur exclusive of an individual’s knowledge of and consent to being monitored as well as awareness of what Internet sites “say they will or will not do” with users’ data.
“That’s because, at least in the U.S., these companies are required to respect a court order to share our information with the government, whether they like it or not,” Fowler said. “Mozilla hasn’t received any such order to date, but it could happen to us as we build new server bases in the future.”