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View Diary: I Doubt the NSA Knows What Data It Has, Where It Came from, Who Has Accessed It and If It Was Stolen (158 comments)

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  •  Well, no, the packets don't stick around (3+ / 0-)
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    DeadHead, Onomastic, marksb

    unless they're copied (and we don't know if they're copied).

    Here's an analogy. Let's say I mail a regular letter through the postal service to my Aunt Sylvia. On the outside of the envelope is my name (Dbug) and my address and the name and address of my aunt. Plus there's a stamp that's postmarked with the date.

    The outside of the envelope is the metadata (Dbug sent something to Sylvia on July 1). If someone photocopies that envelope, they know that I sent her something. But in between the sending and the receipt, let's say a dozen people handle the envelope (or the bag containing the envelope). There's the guy who picks up the mail from the mailbox, the guy who sorts the outgoing mail, maybe a couple of truck drivers or airplane pilots, and so on. At any point along the line, one of those people could open the envelope and look inside (and make a copy). But they probably don't.


    Emails are similar. If I send an email to Sylvia (who lives on the other side of the country), all that matters is her email address. So my email goes to my local ISP, then bounces around to a few other computers, and eventually it ends up in her email inbox. The message is attached (so it's easier to look inside to see the message), but the idea is the same. At some point along the way, some computer could record the information that Dbug sent a message to Sylvia.


    Cell phone companies have to keep detailed records of metadata. They can't just say that you went over your limit of 400 minutes without explaining every single minute (6 minutes to order pizza from Antonio's, 10 minutes to Aunt Sylvia, 45 minutes to your brother, etc.). The cell phone companies don't record your conversations. They just keep track of who you called or who called you (metadata).

    "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

    by Dbug on Mon Jul 01, 2013 at 10:28:31 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  This is correct (1+ / 0-)
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      In the Good Old Days you sent the packet stream for your message (or web communication or any other data transaction) and once it was received, it went into the Bit Bucket (deleted). Metadata, content, everything. It's like you took the mail from Aunt Marge and after reading it, put it into the fireplace, note and envelope, and warmed your hands as it all burned.

      Nobody stored the content or metadata because, frankly, hard drives to store the data were too expensive. That's why your email client used to ask you "are you sure you want to delete this message?" after you clicked delete. (The exception that you point out on cell phone metadata is a good one.)

      But the world of cheap drives and massive security budgets has changed that equation. Today's Tech allows the wholesale sweep of all network traffic. I'm guessing that much of the swept-up data is dumped if it doesn't fit any search criteria (key words, known suspect addresses, etc), but it could be stored, all of it.

      •  Yes (0+ / 0-)

        You're right. They can sweep up all the details. And they could hire a million people to read all the emails (or listen to all the phone messages). Although I think it might take more like 5 million or 10 million. Or more.

        Imagine some teenager in Little Rock is sending text messages about homework to another teenager. Yeah, the message might be stored in some computer underneath a mountain, but nobody is ever going to listen to (or read) that message. And somebody is calling some store, asking what time do you close? And somebody is calling a drugstore for a refill. And someone is leaving a message that says "I might want  to buy your truck." Someone is calling social security about something and they're on hold for 20 minutes. Someone's calling their credit card company to complain about a late fee.

        No one is ever gonna know (or care about) the mundane details of your life unless you're considered to be a terrorist or a criminal.

        Suppose I walk into a 7-11 and buy a candy bar and walk out and I get videotaped. Nobody cares about some guy who bought something. But if I walk in and pull out a gun and rob them, my face is on the videotape. That's useful information for the cops. I don't worry about cameras taping me in convenience stores. Or at ATMs.

        And, you know what? In the old days (before video cameras and computers), your neighbors across the street or the people in church would tell your parents or your wife what they heard you were doing. They used to call it "gossip." Which was an invasion of privacy.

        "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

        by Dbug on Wed Jul 03, 2013 at 12:14:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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