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Allegations that America’s National Security Agency (NSA) has been gaining access to customer activity on the internet are being denied by the companies concerned, which include Google, Apple, Yahoo.

It comes on the back of a report in UK paper and website the Guardian, stating security agencies have collected data about telecoms company Verizon’s customers using a secret court order.

The legality of that court order is being questioned.

Marc Rotenberg, President of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre said:

“This order is directed toward US customers of Verizon engaged in telephone communications with other people in the United States. There is no reference to a foreign intelligence investigation, no reference to foreign governments. It is an open ended type of warrant that I think is illegal.”

Verizon allegedly gave information to the NSA about the domestic and international landline and mobile phone calls of millions of people on an “ongoing, daily basis”.

On the streets of America, customer opinion is divided.

One customer, Erin Young, told reporters:
“The idea, you know, they are collecting metadata which means they probably know where I am all the time and that bothers me. And I think that’s a distinct, I think they’ve revoked my privacy rights by doing that.”

Another customer, Greg Debski, offered a different view:
“If it prevents me from getting blown up, then I’m all for the government, you know more or less, doing what they reasonably should do,” he said.

These revelations are bound to add fuel to the fire raging in the US over the balance to be struck between individual rights and national security.

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