Government Surveillance Programs That Rival The NSA

Photo courtesy of Frederic Bisson via Flickr.

The United States isn’t the only country that likes to spy on its citizens. In fact, most countries are involved in spying on their people, the UN says, due to advances in surveillance technology that make it quite easy.

The NSA’s reach is pervasive, to be sure, but they aren’t the only ones snooping in the name of national security. And though they may be the most powerful, they aren’t the most unethical.

Here are just some of the other countries with surveillance programs that rival that of the NSA.

Singapore’s TIA

Singapore has been an advanced surveillance state for years, a fact that citizens both know and generally accept. Online services are at the mercy of the government, who can legally gain access to text messages, emails, call logs and web history without court orders.

In 2002, the Total Information Awareness (TIA) system was introduced to prevent and counter terrorism, but since then, it has swelled, using data collection as a means of making economic forecasts, developing education plans, planning budgets and more.

Australia’s ASIO

The land down under is, apparently, as down with undercover snooping as the U.S. In 2002, Australia allegedly issued 75 percent more wiretap warrants than the U.S., at an amount 26 times greater on a per capita basis.

More recently, Australia is expanding its surveillance system, as the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) hopes to pass new national security legislation that is broad enough to grant them warrantless access to any computer on the Internet.

[contextly_auto_sidebar id=”MZL3Qql6RZKiOPI5uMuBO2Y8vMct1WeN”] India’s C-DOT

The Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) in India was named by Reporters Without Borders as one of three major enemies of the Internet. C-DOT’s Central Monitoring System (CMS) specifically was launched in 2009 following Mumbai terrorist attacks the previous year.

With CMS, the government can listen to citizens phone calls, track user location, read personal emails and texts, and even access unencrypted usernames and passwords, according to the NY Times–and with very little accountability or regulation.

Russia’s SORM

As we’ve written about previously, despite Vladimir Putin’s claims that Russia has no NSA equivalent, the existence of a network called the System of Operative-Investigative Measures (SORM) strongly suggests otherwise.

Through SORM-1, SORM-2, and SORM-3, the Russian Intelligence Bureau (FSB) can respectively capture telephone and mobile communications, intercept Internet traffic, and collect all communication data for long term storage. The system is growing: the number of phone and email conversations intercepted increased from 265,937 in 2007 to  539,864 in 2012.


The United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was also named by Reporters Without Borders a major enemy of the Internet, along with India’s C-DOT and, you guessed it, the NSA.

The GCHQ’s Tempora program was, in 2013, revealed by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden to be attempting to collect all online and phone data in the UK.  A list of the agency’s Internet-hacking spy tools were also leaked in a document, many of which are thought to be illegal.

China’s Golden Shield Project

It’s well known that China is a mass surveillance state, but the extent is a bit astounding. The country is estimated to have 20-30 million spy cameras in taxis, outside homes, even in classrooms to discourage cheating.

China also has the world’s most sophisticated web censorship system, called the Golden Shield Project or Great Firewall of China. Individuals must rent or buy broadband access from the government or government-controlled companies, meaning there is little to no online — or physical — privacy.

We measure success by the understanding we deliver. If you could express it as a percentage, how much fresh understanding did we provide?
Jennifer Markert