Imagine if every email you sent, every telephone call you made and every document you faxed were being secretly intercepted, analysed and filed. Then imagine this information being covertly used against you! There is evidence that a global satellite spy system called Echelon is doing just that.
This much is known about Echelon and is in the public arena...
Echelon is controlled by America's National Security Agency, which in turn "shares" the information gathered with Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand. Australia helps the network with listening stations in Geraldton in Western Australia which are aimed primarily at Asia.
Echelon works by positioning receiving stations all over the world to pickup all satellite, microwave, mobile telephone and optic-fibre traffic of anyone on earth. The system is said to be capable of "listening" to billions of messages a day.
Computers then process the information looking for "key words". Anyone using one of these keywords in a telephone call, email or any other form of electronic communication, invites scrutiny by the system.
One of the few times the Echelon system came to public notice was an informative discussion found, of all places, in The Advertiser, Saturday, Feb. 26th 2000 pg 54. The Advertiser is a South Australian daily newspaper and the article refers to a report to the European Union on the threat this system posed to people's privacy.
For a draft copy of the report to the European Union see: www.cryptome.org/
For more information go to the American Civil Liberties Union and do a search on the word "Echelon".
What Wikipedia has to say http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECHELON