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Echelon collects huge amounts of communications data and sorts the interesting stuff using keywords. It's surveillance on a massive scale.

Echelon (bless you!)

Echelon is the biggest electronic surveillance operation in the world. Not surprisingly, it's hard to get details, but it's so big and intrusive that European government representatives have protested about it. Echelon is run by the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The US National Security Agency (NSA) is the key player.

In each country there are listening stations, including Britain's famous GCHQ. They scan the airwaves for all kinds of electronic communications, especially via satellite. The big deal about Echelon is that it tries to collect huge amounts of almost random data and sort out the interesting stuff using keywords. This is quite different to most surveillance operations, which are specifically targeted. Since there are so few details available, Echelon can inspire paranoia. But you can be sure it exists, just not sure how big it is.

Here are links to Echelon information:

ZDNet tells pretty much the whole story.

Wired News - 1 - reporting rationally.

Wired News - 2 - proof?

Paul Wolf pages - out of date but some good links to articles.

Echelon Watch - over-dramatized.

FireNet NZ - further details.

Hermetic Systems - a bit off the wall, but the best links page.

Articles on Echelon have appeared in the New York Times and on the BBC. It's not something that's been dreamed up by the more impressionable of the world's citizens.

There's a European Parliament report called "An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control" that discusses Echelon. Though the original isn't on the Internet, you can see a copy here on Paul Wolf's site.

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