The U.S. government has been looking and often gathering and collecting data on almost every phone call, website visited, and credit card transaction we make. In case you want to get caught up one this issue which hit the news world hard yesterday, this article on the National Security Agency (NSA) program called Prism is a good quick start. Here's a juicy quote of a quote from the article:
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.
The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who know about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.
While it's hard to feel happy about this, could it be necessary to prevent another 9/11? If it did prevent something like a nuclear device being detonated in Chicago killing a million people, would it be worth it? Does this revelation give the bad guys notice that they need a new way to stay in touch?
Obviously, a government needs some secrecy, but how much is too much?
@ Rocky john,
I have been to China - in fact I have traveled most of the world. I believe you are a tad younger than me, and your world has been connected electronically for most of your life. Mine hasn't. I am probably more cynical than you, in that I don't believe secrets can be kept indefinitely nor that conspiracies abound, and I am used to living in the UK where we have camera surveillance everywhere, which has turned out to be a good thing.
The problem with Big Secret theories is that it's unlikely anything can be kept secret for long. I certainly agree with you there.
I live in the uk now also and the camera's are not an issue. They are only really in town centers and problem area's . Places i would expect lots of people so no real expectation of not being watched. What they are doing with Prism is more like if the UK wanted to put cameras in peoples houses.
Ande i am not talking about conspiracy here. just simple pragmatism from the fact that serveilence like this can be used for great evil.( Just look what has happened in a number of countries.) and the fact that the whole world is heading for some seriously tough times with overpopulation, polution, global warming and not to mention it seems like we have run out of cheap oil . I dont know about you but i have no clue what is in our near future and so i think such wide spread government serveilence will be a dangerous liability as evidenced by china or iran. Now maybe nothing bad will ever come of this but i feel it is just too attempting to be abused in one way or another.
just to point out. i am not worried about this staying secret forever. i am worried that now it is in the open we will simply accept it because of big bad terrorists. I promise you that in places like china or iran they make no secret of their internet serveilence of the population.
Are you talking about telephone conversations? There isn't enough memory in the world nor ever will be store it on a permanent basis. Perhaps hang onto it for some months. But it looks as if I missed my opportunity to invest in memory manufacturers!
Also, there can be no manageable way to actually process all that data even as it passes by, except for perhaps using voice recognition and pattern recognition to detect some key words or phrases and flagging those conversations to save for a while as possibly significant. Keeping them forever doesn't seem very practical.
I dont think it was to be stored forever . Just the impression i got was that if the metadata software picked out anything suspicious they could then get a court order from fisa and then listen to it.
That actually sounds pretty reasonable.
This is what I have gleaned.
Are you talking about telephone conversations? There isn't enough memory in the world nor ever will be store it on a permanent basis.
Sure there is. There are 3 billion voice calls per day in the USA, with an average length of 4 minutes per call. Telephone quality speech requires an 8 kbps sample rate.
3,000,000,000 calls x 4 minutes x 8 kbps = 5,760,000,000,000 kbps
That's 670 terabytes per day. Using FLAC or some other compression codec you could cut that in half to 335 TB.
One StorageTek T10000 5 TB magnetic tape cartridge costs $250, so the NSA would need 67 tapes every day. That's $16,750 daily and $6,113,750 annually: peanuts for the NSA.
Also, there can be no manageable way to actually process all that data even as it passes by, except for perhaps using voice recognition and pattern recognition to detect some key words or phrases and flagging those conversations to save for a while as possibly significant.
I used to work for the American division of the company that invented SCSI and digital signal processing: the equipment that processes voice recognition in real time.
Believe me, the kind of technology we're talking about can handle thousands or even millions of channels at once: it does it every day after all. It can tell an Arab accent from a Swedish accent from an English accent. It can recognize the word "bomb". It can even recognize when you have a cold. Those are the facts. And all of that was 17 years ago.
Now comes the conjecture. (Not that any of this next part is anything but extremely easy to do from a technical stand point.) When it recognizes a red flag, it'll go and listen to all of your other calls-- past, present and future-- for red flags as well. Then for good measure it'll go and listen to all of the calls that all of the people you called have made as well. Once a certain 'red flag threshold' is reached an analyst gets a little report of all the red flags you tripped, a recording of all the pertinent calls, and (maybe) a prodding to seek out a warrant (or not).
Keeping them forever doesn't seem very practical.
If you have the power, funding, access, secrecy, know-how, and ability to shut everyone up (under threat of going to prison if they don't) you can make 'practical' into just about anything you want it to be.
I'm not afraid of terrorism. The government has more impact on my life than any terrorists do. I am afraid of what the government is doing and what it may become. It makes me sad. I have Cassondra's curse. I wish the Bill of Rights were more than a historical document. I wish we lived in an open, transparent society with a functioning representative democracy. Le sigh.
I've been trying to decide if I should leave America for somewhere (where?) with more liberty and opportunity...or if I would be better off attempting to find a niche within our present system (if possible). I would rather not be a foreigner in another country when wars begin to flare up over food, water, etc. shortages in the coming decades. I don't want to end up miserably oppressed in my homeland either. In the end, I'm not a fighter; I'm a follower. The occupy movement showed me that. I just want to live life at a moderately decent standard...I am willing to compromise my ideals for that. I guess we all are--that is why we are where we are, instead of out in the streets raising hell.
Well it seemslike the whistleblower has come forward and had no intention of hiding
It also seems like there are more documents to come forward in the upcoming days
I wanted to be more impressed.
He talks a lot about what an analysts could do, but not about what the NSA employees did do specifically and illegally that he witnessed. This interview seems bogus, like he wrote the questions himself. A true whistle blower must have evidence, and not run off and talk smack from Hong Kong.
A true whistle blower must have evidence, and not run off and talk smack from Hong Kong.
It's not just smack talk, RP. He has hard evidence as well: top secret documents.