Now we know the price American telecom companies put on their users’ privacy. The Washington Post has revealed that the National Security Agency is paying telecom companies hundreds of millions of dollars every year for access to their networks, which it uses for “filtering vast traffic flows for foreign targets in a process that also sweeps in large volumes of American telephone calls, e-mails and instant messages.” The telecom companies get paid through the NSA’s Corporate Partner Access Project that ensures access to “high volume circuit and packet-switched networks” in exchange for cash.
The Post says that the program projects to spend $278 million this year, although this is actually down from the $394 million that the program spent in 2011. The publication also notes that while telecom companies have long been “required to comply with lawful surveillance orders, privacy advocates say the multimillion-dollar payments could create a profit motive to offer more than the required assistance.”
Verizon, AT&T and other major telcos all declined comment on the Post’s report.