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Special Reports
 
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Special Report: Who's Watching You Part I

Updated: Tuesday, November 12 2013, 02:38 PM EST

Making a call, texting a friend or emailing on the web, communication often sold as private.  Most internet users feel safe making almost any transaction. 


"I mean I can deposit checks with my phone.  So, I do want to make sure I've got a good safe pipeline to the bank when I do that," said Renee Hopkins.

But documents leaked by former NSA contractor  Edward Snowden have lifted the lid off Washington's internet snooping.  


Art Mandler is co-owner of Skyrunner Wireless, a local internet provider.

"We actually broadcast internet connections.  We put up a little radio on your house or your business that connects you to the internet," said Art Mandler.

Mandler says no one really knows what the secret organization is doing.  But their ability to hijack information off the web is real. 

"I don't think anybody expected the extent of the surveillance to be as wide, as broad, as deep as it has turned out to be," said Mandler. 

The threat is so real, the president of Brazil lambasted the U.S. for spying on her country in a speech to the United Nations in September. 

"Meddling in such a matter in the life and affairs of another country is a breach of international law and as such an affrontment," said Dilma Rousseff.

"The kind of encryption used on the internet has a key code," said Mandler. 

Experts believe the NSA has unsuccessfully been trying to crack the code on complex encrypted data for years.  "They're very complex keys and it's not the kind of thing that can be easily broken even with a very powerful computer," said Mandler.

Encryption is often used by financial institutions uses a key that scrambles data.  The information sent across the web is protected by the code and gets unscrambled by the encryption key when it reaches its destination. 


"They've worked at developing tools to crack these kinds of keys," according to Mandler. 

What Snowden revealed was the NSA found another back door to unlock the encryption. 

"So what they've made an effort instead to get as we said to get kind of back door access to some of this data, to convince the big providers, like Microsoft and Google, Verizon to provide them with access to encoded data through some other means other than them having to to sniff it and crack it," said Mandler.

While the government admits to collecting the data, it says it only looks or listens to information allowed under a court order. 


"I think most people I know my age grew up with the assumption we're living in 1984," said Internet user Sarah Rhodes.


For many who've grown up in this age of information technology, real privacy may be a thing of the past.

By Frank Fraboni

Special Report: Who's Watching You Part I


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