The increase in the flow of information between nations has proven to be a critical part of the developing international community. Deficiencies in this field have lead to the ill-preparation by the United States during the Bombing of Pearl Harbor and the attacks on the World Trade Center in September 2001. In both cases, critical data was received from surveillance instruments but was not acted upon expediently enough to avoid disaster. With the transition from a state-based threat to non-state terrorist organizations, the need for more thorough scrutiny then before has become paramount to the national security of the United States.

When the term "global surveillance" is mentioned, it is usually referring to what has been deemed "signals intelligence." This is the analysis of the target's communication signals and it consists of four distinct parts: collection, processing, analysis and dissemination. In 1952, President Truman established the National Security Agency (NSA) with the dual responsibilities of providing information security for the U. S. government as well as organizing and obtaining intelligence information. Most recently, a global communications cooperative between the U.

S. and the U. K. known as ECHELON, has been implemented to collect national security intelligence and spread critical information to its members. This program monitors commercial communications both over phones lines as well as the internet.

In 1978, the U. S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was passed which limited the wiretapping of "U. S. persons" for national security purposes.

This legislation developed out of concerns that the United States was abusing its power to unjustly listen to citizens's conversations. In order to avoid the dissemination of personal as well as national information, cryptography can be implemented to specifically keep unwanted viewers from tampering with internet and mail transactions. Over the past few decades, public awareness has grown in regard to the security activities of the state. As a result, technology that makes it more difficult for the government to monitor the actions of those people both inside and outside of its borders has become more difficult.