> He mentioned some Russian journalists that he had talked to who don't talk on the telephone because they believe it to be bugged. They also only use Gmail over HTTPS, "which is fine if you trust Google", but they switched to using Yahoo Messenger "because they heard good things about it"unfortunately Messenger isn't encrypted. O'Brien said that the reason they didn't know that it "is less secure is because their desktop isn't telling them".
In the USA the standards for evidence the government can use to legally justify spying on you is different for content you surrender to Google vs content you manage your self. This is something you need to keep in mind if your engaging in sensitive correspondence that may be of political interest to somebody in government.
The rules are complicated and difficult to understand. For example if you have not edited a document in 180 days it's easier for the government to force Google to surrender it to them then if it's something you've worked with recently.
Another thing to be aware of:
President Obama is also pushing hard to expand the ability for the FBI and other government agencies to gain unfettered access to metadata on your communications and reduce judicial oversight.
The FBI for years has used what is called "National Security Letters"
These letters, when sent to corporations, were designed as a way to gain access to very small and very limited amounts of information about a 'subject of interest'. At the time the FBI needed a certain amount of facts to be able to justify that a character was probably a spy or a terrorist or something like that in order to legally write the letter.
With the Patriot Act this was expanded greatly by removing the level of justification. Now there is no requirements for facts or proof, but it depends entirely on a judgement call by the FBI to issue these sort of 'limited judgeless warrants' for information.
However the amount and types of information was still very specific. (who owns the account, how long they have owned the account, what is their address, etc) (The FBI actually went beyond that and actually got their hands slapped by George Bushes' legal council)
However, this is something that very recently Obama is trying to fix. The way he is trying to fix it is by greatly expanding the type of information the FBI can request.
Obama is pushing for the ability to have _any_ transactional data for any electronic communications to be eligible for a request using NSLs and to have NSLs be used on anybody in the course of a terror investigation even if they are not actually anybody that is suspected of being a terrorist or even directly involved.
So basically... any website you visited, web searches you've done, information on who you've been emailing, information on everybody that visited a suspected website, cell phone GPS tracking data, etc etc.
So they are saying that while they need judge to help them get access to your email they should be able to request the headers of your email with no justification.
What is on top of this there are gag orders involved with NSLs.
If the government gets a warrant to wiretap your phones they are legally required end up revealing the wiretap to you after it's over.
However the NSLs if the FBI sends a request to Google for your metadata then it's illegal for Google to tell you about it. So it makes judicial oversight and journalist investigations impossible. Nobody can practically challenge a NSL because nobody is allowed to know about it.
So... yeah. It's going to be very difficult in the future to trust any corporation with your data if your involved in anything politically disruptive or unpopular with whatever president is in power. They will be able to use the FBI to require corporations to spy on you with utmost secrecy. Anybody who know the history of the FBI know much of the time it's used as a political tool by whoever is in charge of the executive branch at the time..