The National Security Agency (NSA), a subsidiary of the State Department, and the U.S. Justice Department are being sued by the ACLU on behalf of a group of organizations (most notably Wikimedia) who are claiming injury as a result of the federal government’s bulk-data collection. The lawsuit particularly challenges the interception and subsequent copy of user-data as it heads “upstream” to a particular website, as illustrated in the following chart:
What Wikimedia and others are claiming is that ever since the public learned of the government’s data collection practices in 2013, individuals are hesitant to share controversial or “sensitive” information over electronic systems. This can be detrimental to an open-source based website model like Wikipedia, which relies on user-input data to create content.
Here’s a more detailed explanation of how the NSA retrieves a user’s online communications, according to an ACLU lawyer involved in the case:
“…the NSA systematically taps into Internet message traffic between U.S. and overseas users as it moves in and out of the United States over fiber-optic cables…then…sweeps through a vast amount of content for anything related to specific individuals or groups considered…to be intelligence targets.”
Some experts consider the case to be a tough sell for the plaintiffs, because they must show legal standing before they can even start presenting their arguments. The crux of their case, if they can get that far, will be that these data collection practices of the federal government violate the constitutional protections afforded by the First and Fourth amendments.