The report that US government agencies have collected large amounts of metadata on online and phone use by ordinary people prompted widespread reactions in Estonia, which is both closely allied with the US and boasts a well-organized electronic freedom community.
In the leading article in ERR's opinion section today, "They're Spying on All of Us," Rain Kooli reflected on similarities between FOX's "Person of Interest," which also airs on a Estonian TV station, and yesterday's real-life story about the US National Security Agency's data gathering project, first reported by the Guardian newspaper based on a tip from a whistle-blower.
Kooli wrote: "The latest news is that the intelligence services of the US and countries considered friendly to the US can access the content of smartphones and tablets as well as mobile telephone calls and telephone location data. Even if it has the best intentions, the EU would find it extremely difficult to undertake anything to protect its citizens. Information is after all being shared from the servers of American companies with the local secret services."
"Basically what happened was something that could have been supposed by simple logic. With the explosive rise of social media, we all let a Trojan horse into our homes. We opened a direct link to a data protection hell. And there is nothing to be done, not as long as we want to use these user-friendly and favorite free services."
Electronic Freedom Organization Expresses Outrage
The Estonian Internet Community, one of the loudest electronic freedom voices, expressed concern in a statement that information on Estonian citizens' use may have also been vacuumed up in the PRISM project.
The Guardian said that the data gathered in PRISM was also shared with allies - although to this point it has only been confirmed that data was shared with the UK special service GCHQ.
"If it turns out that US special services have gathered private personal data and shared Estonians' correspondence with their allies in Estonia as well, this is certainly a violation of the constitutional rights of Estonian citizens," said Saskia Kiisel, chairman of the board of the organization.
"Estonian counterintelligence is also required to obtain a court order to procure information through the violation of the secrecy of messages. This requirement must under no circumstance be evaded," she said.
Estonian Constitution and Roles of Skype Developers
Elver Loho, deputy chairman of the Internet Community, said Parliament should determine whether Estonian special services have gathered information on Estonians, using PRISM or some other international special services scheme that complies with the letter but not the spirit of the law, thus sidestepping the guarantees provided by the Constitution, which says that an Estonian judge must give approval for any breach of privacy.
He expressed concern that even if there was sufficient constitutional oversight in the US, as officials have claimed, the US Constitution does not protect Estonian citizens.
Loho also said he saw a problem with the activities of the Estonian citizens who developed Skype. "Should it turn out that Estonian Skype developers took part in creating a backdoor or knew about it, they could have been compliant with US law, but guilty of a crime in Estonia. This should be investigated by the Estonian police."