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There's plenty of news and pundit noise being extruded on the PRISM break, i.e., on reports originating with Glenn Greenwald of the U.K.'s Guardian about massive, broad NSA surveillance of phone and internet activity.

The thing that's burning me up about the story is not so much that the government is spying on us. As many are pointing out, this is not news, even if the smoking gun is very newsworthy corroboration of hints and suspicions that many -- and many who have never in their lives worn tinfoil headgear -- have been describing, inferring, and warning about for years.

The thing that's burning me up is the misinformation being promulgated by President Obama, Senator Feinstein, the Wall Street Journal, and others asserting that mere data mining of "metadata" is minor and unimportant and non-invasive. This is a lie. We should make an effort to understand why. And we should also understand that social media 'miracles' and conveniences coming out of Silicon Valley and elsewhere have let a very powerful genie out of its bottle. We need to have a national and international conversation about what that really means.

It's not necessarily easy, especially for people who aren't data nerds, to understand what is even meant by "metadata" ... let alone to assess the degree to which its exposure compromises privacy and (when it is stored indefinitely, and perhaps abused by a government -- whether today's or some future administration), security.

As someone who has a day job as a data nerd, I'm going to give the topic a shot.

The truth about pervasive domestic spying, revealed

From Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian article that started it all, NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily:

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

And it ain't just metadata about phone calls. It's all you and I do on the intertubes as well. Again, the Guardian's Greenwald in NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others:
The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.\


Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.

And from the Washington Post, U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program, where you can see slides from the PowerPoint presentation that has made apparent the scope of government snooping:
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.

The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.

Those are rich troves of intelligence about you. And you. And you. And me.

Smoke and mirrors: misdirection about metadata

In response to this inconvenient little infoleak? We're assured by our leaders in politics and business that the collection and analysis of "metadata" is nothing to be worried about.

(What is metadata? Data about data, in a word. In the case of those phone calls, it's the caller's number, the number called, the time the call started, and the call's duration -- for every call routed by Verizon.)

No names. No credit card numbers. And therefore, our political leaders tell us, there's no real problem.

Nothing to see here. Everybody just move along...

From Elspeth Reeve in The Atlantic Wire, Washington Is Trapped in Its Own Prism of Data-Mining Self-Defense:

At a press briefing ostensibly about his health-care program and its success on Friday afternoon, President Obama defended the specificity of the NSA program that has become "the most prolific contributor" to his daily intelligence briefings. Don't worry, the president said, "No one is listening to your phone calls," and the NSA is not looking at names or their content. But metadata reveals the phone numbers, and the time, length, and location of calls. "The program does not allow the Government to listen in on anyone's phone calls," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (right) wrote in his two-page response to The Guardian article on Thursday night, which President Obama largely echoed on Friday. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein assured reporters on Thursday, "As you know, this is just metadata. There is no content involved. In other words, no content of a communication." The Wall Street Journal's editorial board is sure there's nothing to be worried about. "We bow to no one in our desire to limit government power, but data-mining is less intrusive on individuals than routine airport security," the Journal says, in an editorial titled "Thank You for Data-Mining."
These assertions are not only ridiculous, they're clumsy.

On May 31st, Quentin Hardy of the NY Times hosted plenary sessions on the second day of the 2nd annual DataEdge Conference on the UC Berkeley campus, which is where I happen to work. Also, as it happens, I had the good fortune to attend DataEdge. It was eye-opening couple of days, but not all in a good way.

Following the conference, the NY Times' Hardy wrote about the single most damning point (in my reckoning, anyway) made in the two days attendees spent geeking out at Sutardja Dai Hall. That point applies directly to the revelations published by the Guardian less than a week later, and goes right to the heart of the question of the innocuousness of "metadata."

Hardy's article is titled Why Big Data Is Not Truth. In it, he covers Kate Crawford's scintillating keynote address, The Raw and the Cooked: Mythologies of Big Data. (I'm told that video of the conference sessions will eventually be published on the web site of Berkeley's School of Information, which organized and hosted DataEdge; if you'd like to stay tuned, I'll circle back and link to it in the comments when I see the video come on-line.) Here's Hardy's rendering of Kate Crawford's myth #5:

Myth 5: Big Data Is Anonymous

A study published in Nature last March looked at 1.5 million phone records that had personally identifying information removed. It found that just four data points of when and where a call was made could identify 95 percent of individuals. "With just two, you can identify 50 percent of them," Ms. Crawford said. "With a fingerprint, you need 12 data points to identify somebody." Likewise, smart grids can spot when your friends come over. Search engine queries can yield health data that would be protected if it came up in a doctor’s office.

And here's the abstract of the study in Nature referenced by Crawford, Unique in the Crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility:
We study fifteen months of human mobility data for one and a half million individuals and find that human mobility traces are highly unique. In fact, in a dataset where the location of an individual is specified hourly, and with a spatial resolution equal to that given by the carrier's antennas, four spatio-temporal points are enough to uniquely identify 95% of the individuals. We coarsen the data spatially and temporally to find a formula for the uniqueness of human mobility traces given their resolution and the available outside information. This formula shows that the uniqueness of mobility traces decays approximately as the 1/10 power of their resolution. Hence, even coarse datasets provide little anonymity. These findings represent fundamental constraints to an individual's privacy and have important implications for the design of frameworks and institutions dedicated to protect the privacy of individuals.
In a soundbyte? A little metadata goes a long way. Perhaps a lot further than somebody whose activity is described by the metadata might like.

Four spatio-temporal points (where you were when); a few "Likes" on Facebook; lingustic analysis of your tweets; a social-network analysis of the people with whom you exchange e-mail... If the "metadata" from all these can be resolved to a person, like a fingerprint, then "isolated" activities one might not worry about putting in the public record add up, in the aggregate, to a very great deal that can be known about who you are, what you do, with whom you do it, what you believe ... perhaps how you vote? Where you bank? With whom you had a "confidential" consultation or a "secret" affair (if, say, you both carried your cell phones into the same location on multiple occasions)?

The cult of social media and the generation of trackable data

George Packer wrote a fascinating article for the 27 May 2013 issue of The New Yorker, titled Change The World. His main thesis is that social media moguls in Silicon Valley are beginning to engage in politics to a degree they have not done before. (He also opens a window onto the changes Silicon Valley has undergone in the past 35 years, a nostalgic romp for me: Packer and I attended the same high school, he graduated a year after I did, and the bike route he described taking to school was the same route I rode.)

But more striking than the signs of incipient political engagement by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, or nostalgia about 1970s Palo Alto, is Packer's portrayal of the overwhelming hubris of those driving some of the most powerful culture-inflecting companies of the 21st century. From the article:

A few years ago, when Barack Obama visited one Silicon Valley campus, an employee of the company told a colleague that he wasn't going to take time from his work to go hear the President's remarks, explaining, "I'm making more of a difference than anybody in government could possibly make." In 2006, Google started its philanthropic arm,, but other tech giants did not follow its lead. At places like Facebook, it was felt that making the world a more open and connected place could do far more good than working on any charitable cause. Two of the key words in industry jargon are "impactful" and "scalable" -- rapid growth and human progress are seen as virtually indistinguishable. One of the mottoes posted on the walls at Facebook is "Move fast and break things." Government is considered slow, staffed by mediocrities, ridden with obsolete rules and inefficiencies.
Itamar Rosen of Facebook -- who manages the company's Data Science team and was interviewed at the DataEdge conference I attended late last week -- admitted that breaking things is in fact fading as a Facebook ethos. By the time you've got a billion users, Rosen explained, keeping things working starts to matter.

And as we're seeing this week, Facebook and its most successful social media peers are rather more deeply embedded with certain segments of government than Silicon Valley's freewheeling, libertarian ethos suggests.

The thing is, all the groovy connectedness social media enables leaves a trackable spoor of metadata that is in actual fact the monetizable lifeblood of the corporate entities that permit us to like, friend, share, tweet, post, and tumbl (tumbl?).

That trackable spoor of metadata is how these corporations learn enough about us to enable targeted advertising that they turn around and sell to advertisers. And, as we learned this week, that they turn over to the NSA so that the NSA too can target us for ... whatever they want, now and in the future.

By way of contextualizing the Facebook CEO's evolution into a more politically sophisticated animal, Packer describes an interview with Mark Zuckerberg five years ago:

In a 2008 interview, Mark Zuckerberg recounted how young Lebanese Muslims who might have been tempted by extremism broadened their views after going on Facebook and friending people "who have gone to Europe." He suggested that the social network could help solve the problem of terrorism. "It's not out of a deep hatred of anyone," Zuckerberg offered. "It comes from a lack of connectedness, a lack of communication, a lack of empathy, and a lack of understanding." Successive U.S. Administrations had failed to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; perhaps the answer was to get as many people as possible on Facebook.
Ouch. That last bit may have been a little heavy-handed, you can just about see the smoke coming out of the author's ears. But Packer's point about breathless glorification of some inherent good in mere "connectedness" is made more carefully at two later points in his article:
Technology can be an answer to incompetence and inefficiency. But it has little to say about larger issues of justice and fairness, unless you think that political problems are bugs that can be fixed by engineering rather than fundamental conflicts of interest and value.
And, a few pages later:
The idea of a frictionless world, in which technology is a force for progress as well as a source of wealth, leaves out the fact that politics inevitably means clashing interests, with winners and losers.
Indeed. In real life, it's complicated.

And connectedness has consequences.


Quentin Hardy further quotes from Kate Crawford's DataEdge keynote in a finish to his article, words that aptly warn against the news that leaked out of NSA a few days after Crawford spoke them:

Before Big Data disappears into the background as another fact of life, Ms. Crawford said, "We need to think about how we will navigate these systems. Not just individually, but as a society.""
I would say that now might be a very fine time to think about just exactly that.

This diary is cross-posted from the author's blog, One Finger Typing.

Mon Jun 24, 2013 at 2:05 PM PT: I noted in this diary that I'd provide a link to videos of DataEdge conference sessions (at UC Berkeley) referenced in the diary. These have recently become available at:

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (209+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hyperstation, SpecialKinFlag, jazzence, sceptical observer, Susan from 29, Zorge, Valar Morghulis, One Pissed Off Liberal, Smoh, Another Grizzle, DeadHead, Joieau, palantir, Free Jazz at High Noon, gooderservice, ctsteve, deepsouthdoug, triv33, YucatanMan, jadt65, catfishbob, Celtic Merlin, Therapy, Alexandre, dradams, Kentucky Kid, basquebob, Flying Goat, bobswern, lotlizard, also mom of 5, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, Born in NOLA, JekyllnHyde, redviper, Lost and Found, Nowhere Man, zerelda, cybersaur, FG, Matt Z, Jim P, Alumbrados, greengemini, WisVoter, Samulayo, zmom, stone clearing, SlightKC, chantedor, linkage, catilinus, jamess, eeff, SueM1121, blueoasis, bluicebank, jamesia, WheninRome, riverlover, McGahee220, out of left field, socal altvibe, outragedinSF, Shockwave, serendipityisabitch, Seneca Doane, DRo, Rosaura, MetalGod65, cosmic debris, WFBMM, run around, PBCliberal, Williston Barrett, Dianna, Indiana Bob, temptxan, artisan, dadadata, sb, Kristina40, leeleedee, lostinamerica, daveygodigaditch, Teiresias70, StrayCat, Involuntary Exile, HudsonValleyMark, Jarrayy, k9disc, eastsidedemocrat, allenjo, jeffbot, Wisdumb, Ironic Chef, on the cusp, Chi, gypsytoo, rmonroe, Shotput8, shigeru, politik, TealTerror, MrJayTee, cslewis, BroadwayBaby1, kck, shopkeeper, white blitz, detroitmechworks, arendt, nervousnellie, profh, conniptionfit, SD Goat, quagmiremonkey, gulfgal98, Duncan Idaho, suejazz, PeterHug, Gustogirl, think blue, quill, RubDMC, Dobber, joanneleon, Thinking Fella, ItsSimpleSimon, CT Hank, orestes1963, JDWolverton, emal, Deep Harm, semiot, Anthony Page aka SecondComing, onemadson, poe, asym, zerone, zbob, Burned, rofodem, SanFernandoValleyMom, Executive Odor, Sybil Liberty, No one gets out alive, ZhenRen, tegrat, jm214, greycat, Dragon5616, rhutcheson, expatjourno, Stentorian Tone, enhydra lutris, tacet, CitizenOfEarth, pileta, pat of butter in a sea of grits, Timaeus, BigOkie, ninkasi23, Rick Aucoin, Marko the Werelynx, Mr Robert, beverlywoods, flitedocnm, bula, Catte Nappe, Ozymandius, BusyinCA, poligirl, pimutant, aliasalias, NearlyNormal, radical simplicity, liberaldemdave, nhox42, peacestpete, Oh Mary Oh, Turbonerd, jay23, kurious, Trendar, foresterbob, renbear, barbwires, DebtorsPrison, sisterkenney, KenBee, side pocket, ffour, dksbook, Meteor Blades, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, WI Deadhead, jabbausaf, pgm 01, sometv, caul, grollen, lavorare, J M F, blue91, maryabein, figbash, Eric Nelson, Liberal Thinking
  •  Data mining has come a long ways. (16+ / 0-)

    I just live a few miles from Acxiom, data-miner extraordinaire. I can't even imagine what the NSA could do in comparison, if they were allowed.

    I suspect they've done it, allowed or not. It might remain in-house as part of an ongoing experiment but I think it exists and they'll be ready if given the go ahead. If they haven't already.

    "The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice." Richard K. Morgan

    by sceptical observer on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 07:58:58 PM PDT

    •  Thanks. Should have prefaced my comment. n/t (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      YucatanMan, basquebob, blueoasis, emal, DRo

      "The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice." Richard K. Morgan

      by sceptical observer on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 08:22:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  False positive rate is extremely high. (8+ / 0-)

      And that's not actually solvable, when you're looking for low-frequency events.

      If you're looking for high-frequency events, the false negative rate is extremely high.

      •  Exactly (7+ / 0-)

        How accurate is the data?  How often are mistakes made in analysis?  And with secret programs, people can be targeted with no due process, no ability to face their accusers.  

        What if an incidental connection gets you caught up in a terrorist dragnet?

        Suppose your pizza man is a terrorist and he has gotten lost coming to your house several times because there are two streets with very similar names in your town and you live on one of them. What if he took the pizza to the house across the street because someone wrote down the wrong number (has happened to me three times) and he called your number to straighten it out.

        That counts as meta data.  It could put you on some kind of suspicion list.  Now suppose in the process of sifting through your data, they discover evidence of another crime, maybe something as simple as marijuana?

        Or take it in a different direction and imagine that an inaccuracy of data or a mistake gets you caught up in a dragnet?  

        Big institutions make big mistakes all the time.  There have been cases where big banks foreclosed on the wrong house and wrecked it.  I think Wells Fargo did it twice to the same man!  

        "Justice is a commodity"

        by joanneleon on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 09:24:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  emptywheel posted a great article on 'false (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          joanneleon, sceptical observer

          positives' on three people for buying beauty products.

          So let’s consider what may have happened to three probable false positives who had their lives thoroughly investigated in 2009 after being — wrongly, apparently — tied to Najibullah Zazi’s plot to bomb the NYC subway.

          We first learned of these three people when they appeared in the detention motion the FBI used to keep him in custody in Brooklyn. As part of the proof offered that Zazi was a real threat, FBI described 3 people in Aurora, CO, who bought large amounts of beauty supplies.

          Evidence that “individuals associated with Zazi purchased unusual quantities of hydrogen and acetone products in July, August, and September 2009 from three different beauty supply stores in and around Aurora;” these purchases include:
          Person one: a one-gallon container of a product containing 20% hydrogen peroxide and an 8-oz bottle of acetone
          Person two: an acetone product
          Person three: 32-oz bottles of Ion Sensitive Scalp Developer three different times

          Unlike just about everything else cited in the detention motion, there was no obvious means by which these individuals were identified.

          During the debate on PATRIOT Act reauthorization later that fall, Dianne Feinstein used the Zazi investigation to insist that Section 215 retain its broad “relevant to” standard. Given her insistence Section 215 had been important to the investigation, and given that the identification of these beauty supply buying subjects appeared to work backwards from their purchase of beauty supplies, I guessed at the time that the FBI used Section 215 to cross reference all the people who had bought these beauty supplies in Aurora, CO — which are precursors for the TATP explosive Zazi made — with possible associations with Zazi.

          Just days later, as part of the debate, Ben Cardin discussed using National Security Letters to track people who buy “cleaning products that could be used to make explosive device.” And John Kyl discussed wanting to “know about Joe Blow buying hydogen peroxide.” Acetone and hydrogen peroxide, the same precursors used to implicate these three people.

          In February 2011, Robert Mueller confirmed explicitly that Section 215 had been used to collect “records relating to the purchase of hydrogen peroxide.”

          That seems to suggest that the government used Section 215 or NSLs to search on all the people who bought acetone and hydrogen peroxide in Aurora (by all public reporting, Zazi kept to himself the entire time he lived in CO).

          But here’s the thing: these three people never appeared again in the legal case against Zazi and his co-conspirators. The only one from CO ever implicated in the plot was Zazi’s father, who had lied to protect his son.


          They were three known associates buying dangerous explosives precursors one day, and apparently became either cleared innocents or recruited confidential informants the next day.

          In other words, they appear to be false positives identified by the Section 215 dragnet celebrated by Obama and DiFi and everyone else implicated in it now as a great way to prevent terrorism (Zazi, remember, was discovered through legal FISA intercepts obtained after we got a tip from Pakistan).

          (all emphasis mine)

          without the ants the rainforest dies

          by aliasalias on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 02:49:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Buttle, Tuttle, what's in a name? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          •  Judging by all the mistaken identities (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            radical simplicity, KenBee

            we've heard about with the no-fly list, let's just say my confidence level is not high.

            They are also pulling in other government data into the counterterrorism center data base, for instance, like DOV data.  Some of this data (most?) is old, was entered manually by humans.  I mean, anyone who works with computer systems and data bases knows what happens to data over time.   And the enormity of the data set... they may have conquered the techonological challenges in capturing, scanning and storing it but it would be impossible to maintain the integrity of it. Nobody has solved that problem and probably never will, though a lot of devices and technology have improved the issue of accuracy of data.

            "Justice is a commodity"

            by joanneleon on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 04:12:36 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Data mining is the big big thing in business. Not (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nchristine, sceptical observer, emal

      just for spying anymore!

    •  I'm going to guess (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sceptical observer

      That the NSA's budget allows them to buy commercial databases - so they have cell phone numbers and locations, plus credit card purchase data, plus information about what was purchased, etc. They can not only know exactly where you are and with whom, but what you're doing at any moment of the day.

      Some days, I really appreciate living in a place with no cell reception (I type into a public internet site).

  •  So many people say how great... (9+ / 0-)

    all this technology is. They cannot be bothered to follow signs and directions or read a road map. Or to be "disconnected" for a moment, no matter where. Or to take pictures of anything and everything, as if that what makes the moment, not the moment itself. All in the view of the Government.

    This is just another means by which to chill expression in order to obtain security. There must be less sweeping measures to protect rights for when the leader is not so beneficent.

  •  Excellent. Thank you for this post. /nt (11+ / 0-)

    Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.
    ~ Jerry Garcia

    by DeadHead on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 08:02:12 PM PDT

  •  Dear Mom (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azubia, blueoasis

    Hi, how are you doing? Why don't you and Dear 'ole Dad ever visit? We've lived here 6-years and you've never come to see us. Is it because we don't have kids? Is that why you tell me about visiting my cousins (with kids) all the time?

    You always call me to say you miss and love me and even want to meet me nearby, but you never come to see our big historical home. Is it because I said how my FIL was the father I never had during my FILs funeral, during emergency leave during my deployment?

    Is it because dear 'ole Dad is a paranoid Conservative who is threatened by my very liberal, empowered wife?

    Anyways, I miss having people come visit us, but apparently the NSA knows where we live and what we're talking about, so have a good life with Dad...we're moving to a Blue state where we at least feel welcomed while the NSA spies on us.


    I'm fucked up. You're fucked up. They're definitely fucked up. So we're all just screwed.

    by Therapy on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 08:46:09 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this post (7+ / 0-)

    If you want to see where this leads, read Marcy Wheeler's excellent post about the false positives created due to beauty supply purchases that seems to have been created by this dragnet. Wish I could get everyone to read it:

    I think people also forget to mention -- the EU and Japan have very strict privacy and data protections regimes (although the obsession with CCTV is a black mark). We can choose to legislate our shared views of privacy and anonymity. We can't internalize that technology has invalidated privacy. It's not only a social construct, it's a legal one and we can choose our laws. That's why these tech companies are getting in the game. They need to be "on top of" those potential changes. Hopefully this sparks a wider debate about not only governmental but also corporate tracking.

  •  I wouldn't call phone numbers and the (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DeadHead, Chi, white blitz, Mr Robert

    numbers they called "metadata".  Regardless, it's just one step from a phone number to a person, in most cases.

    While I suppose it's not quite as revealing as the actual contents of phone calls, doing fishing expeditions on all calls made from/to the US is a huge violation of privacy.  I don't oppose targeting particular numbers with a warrant, but to just take everything...Ick.

  •  Not a fan of Facebook (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rick Aucoin

    ...but connection leading to understanding was the great hope we liberals had for the consequences of integrating schools. Frankly, I still harbor that hope.

    •  "Connection" in physical, tangible, life (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, RubDMC

      and "Connection" in electronic blips are the same word, but different things.

      Actual Democrats is the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats

      by Jim P on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 10:08:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Correct, Jim. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jim P, joanneleon, jm214

        The connections on FB are often catty and tribal. And the fact that there is no pressing of flesh and body language to read, the trust and connection of physical touch and presence never come along.

        That's not helpful, IMO.

        Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

        by k9disc on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 06:01:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  My Facebook use does not bother me (0+ / 0-)

      like the monitoring of phone calls and emails.  On Facebook, I take pictures of family events, the garden, the cobbled I baked last week.  I complain about the weather, make jokes with family, and share my liberal views, which I am more than happy to do verbally as well.

      But I run an environmental nonprofit.  We are suing the State of California, and will be suing the Federal Government sooner than later.  I do not need them monitoring my work emails or phone calls.

      "Since when did obeying corporate power become patriotic." Going the Distance

      by Going the Distance on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 10:51:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this diary. I especially appreciate (8+ / 0-)

    your explanation about data points and how few of them can identify a person with 95% accuracy. I've hotlisted  this so I can put my hands on it again.

    •  And 95% right means (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DRo, Mr Robert, BusyinCA, foresterbob

      5% wrong, but I fear they won't take that into account. Think of some of the weird ads you get because of the pages you visit. After reading one of Noddy's diaries about environmental impact of paper vs cloth diapers I was HOUNDED by ads for adult diapers.

      In the early days of Amazon, I ordered a Baywatch DVD for my husband. It turned out to be a Playboy publication. Combine that with a few searches for books on screw theory (a very useful type of algebra for my work) and Amazon had an the wrong idea about my tastes.

      I have dabbled in hydroponics for food, but it is heavily associated with pot. Police have gotten warrants for people who based on their purchases and electricity usage, but they were just growing orchids.

      The funniest correlation is the ad I get on these diaries stating "2 People are spying on you." Only 2?

  •  cell phone records include your location over time (7+ / 0-)

    Your phone constantly talks to nearby towers.  And communicates your location information so it can pick the best tower.

    If you have problems with a dead spot, call customer service and tell them the approximate time and location.

    Then they can look up whether your phone was able to communicate at that time and what location information was being sent.

    Yup, your phone records include minute by minute location data.  Your phone bill doesn't.  But the NSA gets a copy of your records, not your bills.

  •  So-called Patriot Act should never been passed. (17+ / 0-)

    If you grew up in 1960's and 1970's you remember the Church Committe and all the revelations of domestic spying. If you were involved in a peace group the local police infiltrated you and knew all your names.

    We thought this stopped in the 1970's but after 9/11 gov't was give free rein again.

    So predictable after Congress passes a law called THE PATRIOT ACT establishing the HOMELAND SECURITY AGENCY.

    None of us want another 9/11 or Boston Bombing but there has to be a better way.

    Fighting Liberal at
    “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” --Gandhi:

    by smokey545 on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 09:52:24 PM PDT

  •  My friend, thanks for illustrating in a clear (6+ / 0-)

    manner the nature of this egregarious lie.

    tipped & Rec'ced.

    The Americas greatest political dynasty...the Kaan

    by catilinus on Fri Jun 07, 2013 at 10:59:51 PM PDT

  •  Excellent (4+ / 0-)

    very important that people realize the amount of data they "generate" every day, and how much of that (ALL!) is saved on secret government hard drives.  

    The NSA can now know everything, about everybody.  The US Constitution, and all the civil liberties "protected" in it, is so "quaint" and "old fashioned" now.  

  •  "Less intrusive than airport security" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    deep info, white blitz

    If it weren't the WSJ, one would suspect snark.  Just compare what the NSA and their corporate colleagues does to most americans without their knowledge or consent with the absurdly intrusive 'security' procedures at airports, as if we didn't carve out a special rights-free zone as a 'compromise' in exchange for the privilege air travel.  Even when they try to lie, the truth slips out in ironic and disturbing ways.  We might even infer by analogy that these programs are more like crony-capitalist scams packed with corner-cut competence and inflated numbers.  More of a clown show and micromarketer wet dream than a coordinated and capable encroachment on our mythical privacy.

    This is not to question the professionalism, competence or patriotism the NSA and its contractors, who toil in obscurity to keep us safe. Thanks guys.

  •  DATA ABOUT DATA? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Williston Barrett, k9disc, Mr Robert

    Are we sure we know all that that entails?  It's easy to make the leap to thinking that that's all they keep because perhaps that's all we can imagine them having THE DISK SPACE to keep, but that may be underestimating the growth in the power of heuristic AI programs to analyze the actual content of phone calls.

    For instance, phone calls that contain certain key words, like say, "jihad," or, say, "occupy wall street," could be (and I'm not saying it is, but it's something that it seems possible they would LIKE to do) could be added to the metadata as tags.  If I were a super-paranoid police state, and some computer jock came around and told me we could scan for words like that in the actual conversation the way Google spiders webpages and then save that in the metadata, I'd be thriilled.  More data to play with, more connections to draw, more patterns to search for.

    If this is presently out of the realm of feasibility given the number of phone calls to be processed, it will eventually be feasible, and soon.  Moore's law, doubling computing power every 18 months, and better and more targeted AI speech recognition algorithms... tada.  We've actually had long dialogues on dailykos and other forums about this in the past, so this isn't impossible or unlikely.  

    The only thing to prevent it is the will of the people, and at this time, that seems to be a thwarted will.  If they aren't trying to do this right now (that would surprise me), they will soon.

    So... Metadata?  

  •  Very good diary, thanks (0+ / 0-)

    To the NSA douchebag who is reading this: You and anyone associated with this illegal program can all go strait to hell!

    by Indiana Bob on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 04:28:09 AM PDT

  •  I'm not sure what people expect (5+ / 0-)

    These are networked activities whose parameters (metadata) are inherently recorded for billing and analytical purposes by the providers.  I'm not sure why I am supposed to be more upset that the government uses that data to detect my criminal proclivities more than some company using it to sell me products.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 04:43:01 AM PDT

    •  I really hate to say this but you do have a point (0+ / 0-)


      I mean in order for that stuff to work those records have to exist, right?

      What's the difference between AT&T having it and teh Government?

      But then there's the idea that government is supposed to be protecting it's citizens, which means that we should have some  kind of legislation locking down this data and ensuring that it's not being used in a nefarious or exploitative manner.

      Hah, did you laugh out loud too?

      Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

      by k9disc on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 06:07:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If you can't tell the difference between (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chi, quagmiremonkey, Mr Robert, aliasalias

      a company and the government or why one shouldn't have unlimited access to the other's data on the public and vice-versa, then you might want to rethink your understanding of the Bill of Rights--as it were.

      No one's disputing a telcom's right and need to keep a record of the calls you placed or received, when, for how long and to or from whom. They need this data to bill you properly, and you have a right to it yourself. And few people are even disputing their right to keep a record of where you were when you had these calls, via GPS location and tower triangulation, to know where they might need to increase call capacity, and also in case authorities armed with court warrants need it for criminal purposes. What is being disputed here is government's right to have free, complete and direct access to such data without such warrants and not upon probably cause.

      Sheesh, do you actually need this explained at this point?!?

      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

      by kovie on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 06:28:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's different when it's not the providers (7+ / 0-)

      Sure, your phone company needs to bill you. If you've got a capped number of minutes, you want to see their record of your spent minutes before you pay the bill for overages. And so on. Maybe you want them to keep those records for a number of months so you can go back and 'audit' your own usage pattern or their billing patterns.

      But what we're talking about here are entities -- and you are right that the perps are both corporations and government agencies -- who aggregate usage data from multiple places you do business (and that business might simply be read and comment on diaries), then mine that data to build a holistic picture of who you are, what you do, who you know, what you believe, what you might buy if offered an incentive ... maybe what you might believe if offered certain disinformation?

      In that latter case, the 'business' of the aggregator is not business in which you've agreed to participate (as you did agree to participate in a business relationship with your cell phone provider: monthly fee for ability to make phone calls and play Angry Birds). The aggregator's business is to gather information so that it has a profile of you with which it can gain advantage in pursuing its goals without your agreement, and even without your (full) knowledge.


      •  There should also be contempt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mr Robert

        for those companies that buy and sell our data to the highest bidder (over and over)  usually without our knowledge —  companies that most people rarely even know exist.

        Why are people upset with the government but not the companies that collect and sell our personal data?

        I worked briefly during the Census and came across many who did not want to answer the question, (big, bad government!) and I have never understood how the same folks could be so passive about sharing all their personal information on the web.  I personally fear the corporations equally with the government.

        Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

        by DRo on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 11:38:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Does America Need a Digital Bill of Rights? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Steve Masover
          Strangely missing from this discussion is how much we’re taking our chances and trusting, not the government, but corporations. The concern is with government getting this data; data that corporations already have. We ask whether we can trust the government not to act against our civil liberties in using this data—meanwhile, we ask little about whether we can trust corporations not to act against us, even though we have no civil liberties to protect us from corporations. We ask what the right balance is in the supposed “trade off” between rights to privacy and the public good, and yet that privacy has long been gone in our relationship to corporations, and it hasn’t even been traded for a public good, but for merely private profits

          Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

          by DRo on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 03:15:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Facebook doesn't have armed employees (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, KenBee

      who can drag you to jail.

      It's safer if the people with more power have to get warrants.

      Freedom isn't free. Patriots pay taxes.

      by Dogs are fuzzy on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 10:23:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not just metadata, but actual data (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yella dawg, nchristine

    If you put it in the "cloud", I think it's fair to assume that it's not safe, unless you use extremely strong encryption with a really good passkey.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 06:21:00 AM PDT

  •  George W. Obama (4+ / 0-)

    "Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do..... Go back to your command, and try to think what are we going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do." Grant

    by shigeru on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 06:46:09 AM PDT

  •  From one IT man to another - great job! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, foresterbob

    One other point worth noting is that this was predicted back in the 90's when the hype about the internet first kicked off. The most amazing thing today is how much information folks provide the providers directly and for free. Never mind the metadata, just look at Facebook, Instagram, Hipster, StreamZoo and others.

    In fact there is a newer service which is more and more popular with younger people because it claims to keep images, text, opinions for a shorter period. Yeah. Right. Once it gets to the server it is forever. May not be visible to you or any of your friends, but rest assured it will be used by marketeers and govt at some point. How else to make money?

    "Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do..... Go back to your command, and try to think what are we going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do." Grant

    by shigeru on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 06:59:33 AM PDT

    •  Snapchat ... but it doesn't really forget! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joanneleon, shigeru, foresterbob, KenBee

      Thanks, shigeru ....

      I think the "newer service" you're referring to is "Snapchat." This too was mentioned by Kate Crawford at the DataEdge conference I attended. She pointed out the advertised attraction, as you did, after someone asked a question about the "right to be forgotten" -- something that's gotten a lot of airing in Europe.

      Crawford pointed to the fact that Snapchat's supposed advantage was, well, not exactly as advertised -- also as you expected. Here's a Salon article explaining that those 'discarded' images and whatnot can actually be recovered: Snapchat images can be recovered.

      •  Nothing forgets. Even the Kos servers. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DRo, KenBee

        "Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do..... Go back to your command, and try to think what are we going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do." Grant

        by shigeru on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 10:30:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  elfling said last night comments only are searchab (0+ / 0-)

          searchable for a year...maybe someone asked her if diaries over a year old have the comments attached..and I believe they that's a form of search, a tag for example on a subject could bring up the diaries on the subject and the contents..but I haven't tried it recently..

          This machine kills Fascists.

          by KenBee on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 08:50:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent illumination even (0+ / 0-)

    for a tech clod such as I.

    When Sen. Feinstein made her ignorant/dishonest statement about the lack of real intrusion, I first tried to imagine why in hell the government wanted such information, how, for example my, calls possibly could be relevant to anything and how the hell the limited information was not an intrusion however slight (how grateful I am for your explication!).  Then I reread several times the Fourth Amendment.

    A direct outgrowth of the Church Commission was the "new fangled warrant" system to facilitate the presumed urgent need of government self protection.  Subsequently(?) there was added the provision that in exigent circumstances information could be obtained so long as a "warrant" were obtained within x days post facto.  Obviously even these frail rubber band constraints were too severe for the previous administration.

    Now we're presented with a situation in which an absurdly broad order was issued by the secret court, and many breathe in relief that the postage stamp over the elephant's backside was obtained.  How mightily we have fallen.

    An argument at the time of the "Patriot Act" was that none of the provisions (perhaps that should've been "few if any," but...) would have had an effect upon the attack that occurred on Sept. 11, 01.  Now the same argument must again be made, and someone should be made to answer what probable cause exists to support the 'warrant' issued and the further sweep of the internet.  Perhaps mere existence during "perilous times" is the new world concept sought for "probable cause."   If so, the quotations about good people doing nothing and sacrificing liberty for security should be carved on every public building.

  •  anyone familiar with SIGINT (signals intelligence) (6+ / 0-)

    knows that a great deal of useful information can be extracted solely through "traffic analysis" (watching who talks to whom under what circumstances) even if the actual content of the signal is encrypted and totally unreadable.

    NSA is essentially doing "traffic analysis" on the entire US population.

  •  Anybody want to bet good money (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, aliasalias

    Anybody want to bet good money DiFi has been enabling the spying abuses since the Bush administration?  How about betting on Pelosi and Hoyer doing the same?  

    Small wonder impeachment was taken off the table.  

    Hell, change that "want to bet good money" to "want to bet on a sure thing".  

  •  The NSA is eavesdropping since the 1990s! (0+ / 0-)

    They have a huge "station" (office) in England. European journalists were curious to know what they do there - back then.

    Now it is like... ooh nooo.. this is a police state! Stop playing stupid. The big phone corporations are doing the same, everyday. The FOX news crazy will be so happy now.

  •  Great Diary. (0+ / 0-)

    ***Be Excellent To One Another***

    by potatohead on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 07:46:02 AM PDT

  •  Very good & vital kind of educational material. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    emal, foresterbob

    My expertise is at the intersection of science, technology, health care, and insurance and can say that the public understands almost nothing of the vastness, the existing mosaic of mines of data and access.

    The implications of the President's recent Open Data proclamation leaving security in the hands of each source attests to the irrelevancy of useful local security.

    As you know one source's meta is another's search key.

    I expect an attempt before October to bring together the NSA leaks with the ACA implementation to malign the roll out of the health care exchanges with security fears of "signing up." Just like ginning up outrage over Americans getting ID "numbers" or gun "registries".

  •  I knew all of this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Real Change

    but what's the nature of the privacy interest in not being identified? Of course I'm the one calling my office from a cell phone in my apartment.  that's for the call logs, but Prism works much more narrowly and requires an individualized showing and confidence of a communication oversees to track, in other words more like the warrants for phone calls that FISA has approved going back to its creation.  If people communicate on the Internet more than by phone, enforcement has to keep up.  The key difference is over when data are "in use," and the piece and nature of those regulations,  I don't know wht Silicon Valley delusions have to do with either.  The problem with "hype" or "anti hype" is in asking imprecise questions.  Ultimately, Obama so far seems to be interpreting a broadly written law quite firmly and reasonably, and I'm not sure rewriting the law will result in it being more protective.  Reasonable expectation of privacy is an evolving standard, no people quite reasonably have one set of standards for direct interaction and another for impersonal electronic communication.

    Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

    by Loge on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 08:03:31 AM PDT

  •  Google flatly denies PRISM involvement (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dragon5616, KenBee

    They say the following:

    "We have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government – or any other government – direct access to our servers.

    "Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centres. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.

    "Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ Internet activity on such a scale is completely false.

    "We provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process.

    "Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period."

    Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

    by mahakali overdrive on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 09:03:36 AM PDT

  •  Scary, sad, disturbing, outrageous, chilling... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, foresterbob

    ...all seem inadequate.

    Top notch piece. Many thanks (though maybe I'd have been happier with willful ignorance?).

    "FK the deficit. People got no jobs. People got no money." Charlie Pierce

    by RubDMC on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 09:09:42 AM PDT

  •  the We Need Entire Haystack Fallacy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    One other utterly disappointing myth propounded in support of this continued invasion/erosion of our rights is the supposed need for the entire haystack, in order to find that one hidden needle.

    As Barrett Mononen put it on the RSA blogs - Stop climbing through the haystack to find the needle: Use a magnet.

    The present means of trawling through all internet traffic is dumb, brute force, unimaginative and (not forgetting) a fairly clear invasion of privacy on many levels.

    Also - I don't believe them when told this will only impact transmittals to and from foreign sites / recipients. Not, that is until they show their proof. When this subject was first made public, prior to PRISM, it had all traffic being split off into a secret room, open only to the NSA, housed at AT&T's San Francisco facilities. The new laws made to quell the ensuing uproar gave cover for PRISM and other efforts, there is no evidence that it has constrained the reach of these efforts one whit.

  •  Good diary (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Steve Masover, DRo, foresterbob, KenBee

    One think that has not been addressed, however, is the fact that surveillance programs have access to many databases that are public or easily accessed.

    The metadata collected for your telephone call may not have your name or credit card number attached, but that metadata can easily be connected to data in other databases--for example, a credit bureau database, an online reverse number search, or Google maps.

    It's quite diabolical, actually, in terms of skirting legal boundaries, because there's no need to create a paper dossier that combines information.  A screen display of information from multiple databases is ephemeral, but just as effective in drawing conclusions about the details of people's lives.

    For years, non-intel agencies have treated databases as an end run around FOIA and other laws, and I would expect the problem to be more extreme in the intelligence sphere.

  •  I'm Part of the Problem (5+ / 0-)

    I work for an agency that participates in the activities described in the diary. I would like to address a couple of items:

    1. From the above diary:

    The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.
    My emphasis added.

    The US Government cannot access the internet content of US citizens without a warrant naming an individual or individuals. The USG can, legally, gather information about foreign targets. It just so happens that just about all the world's internet traffic passes through the US, a lot of it here in the state of Virginia. It's not like there's a tube carrying USPERS data, and a tube that carries info on foreign targets. It's all mixed together. So, in order to harvest the twitter, facebook, and other social media data (called OSINT, for Open Source Intelligence), the various intel agencies have to extract this information from the data streams that also contain USPERS data. Only foreign target OSINT data is retained.

    2. USPERS (short for US Persons) includes citizens and resident aliens. Phone numbers are a type of USPERS data. Other obvious examples include a person's name, SSN, physical description. This data cannot be shared by the obtaining agency (e.g., the NSA) unless there is a compelling reason, meaning the NSA cannot routinely turn this info over to the FBI, DHS, etc. What's a compelling reason? That a phone number in the US is calling a suspected terrorist. Then the info could be handed over the FBI and a FISA warrant obtained to monitor call content.

    Also, by law, all USPERS data must be destroyed within 90 days unless there's a compelling reason like the one described above. So there is not some humongous data base that's captured all our phone records for the last seven years.

    As to the study that says "four spatio-temporal points are enough to uniquely identify 95% of the individuals," don't doubt it for a minute. It's irrelevant to our effort. Again, if a phone number is calling a suspected terrorist, a warrant can be obtained that will provide 100% certainty as to the individual's identity.

    Finally, let me try to offer some assurance that we take the laws regarding the protection of USPERS data very seriously. For example, there was one instance where my agency received, in error, some data marked ORCON (Originator Controlled) containing USPERS info. There was nothing malicious about the transgression, kinda like someone who mistakenly puts classified data on an unclassified net. However, the breach was taken very seriously. The data feed providing the info was immediately blocked and reopened only when we were assured that the "source" had identified and fixed the problem.

    I know this is not going to assuage everyone's fears. To that I say: Good! Because the second the folks at DKOS stop asking questions is when I'll really start to worry.

    •  We will see how many people actually pay (0+ / 0-)

      attention to your comment. It did actually make me feel a bit better. Lol

    •  content collected then.. (0+ / 0-)
      The US Government cannot access the internet content of US citizens without a warrant naming an individual or individuals.
      which then you refer to as data...but you did say content.
      Not metadata .....

      Interesting comment, I believe you when you say you take this all very seriously.

      Thanks for commenting.

      This machine kills Fascists.

      by KenBee on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 10:13:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm sorry, but this post makes me angry. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The thing that's burning me up is the misinformation being promulgated by President Obama, Senator Feinstein, the Wall Street Journal, and others asserting that mere data mining of "metadata" is minor and unimportant and non-invasive. This is a lie.
    But you didn't explain why it's a lie.  

    You can be upset that the government stole your diary.  But stealing your diary is not the same thing as reading your diary.  Do you actually see the difference?  Now imagine that they didn't just steal your diary. but ten million diaries where it's a certainty that some of them contain important information for the protection of our national security.  They need a warrant based on probable cause to read any one of them.  Now explain what you are upset about?

    A right answer to the wrong question is a wrong answer.

    by legalarray on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 10:41:25 AM PDT

    •  Did you read the part (5+ / 0-)

      ... below the fold about the information-richness of "metadata"? Or the comments on SIGINT, traffic monitoring, and call records?

      I believe I did explain, and so did many of the commenters.

      •  Rhetorical, but yes. But . . . (0+ / 0-)

        They can't read your email or listen to your phone call or analyze your data for your behavior patterns without a warrant.  I didn't read that part because it wasn't there.

        A right answer to the wrong question is a wrong answer.

        by legalarray on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 12:03:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Here is Obama's non-truth on this point (6+ / 0-)

        I'll say "non-truth " because people get excited when you say "lie".

        Obama talking point: We (the govt) are not Voyeurs. No one is listening to the content of your phone calls or reading your emails.

        The truth: Computer programs are listening and reading. They are looking for keywords and patterns. If your communication fits the pattern, it gets red flagged for a human to check it out.

        This was confirmed by William Binney, NSA Whistleblower.

        No longer Hoping for Change. Now Praying for a Miracle.

        by CitizenOfEarth on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 12:39:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That was a good video (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Thanks for sharing it.

          •  Yup. That's the one that opened my eyes n/t (1+ / 0-)

            No longer Hoping for Change. Now Praying for a Miracle.

            by CitizenOfEarth on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 12:50:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Listen carefully to that video. (0+ / 0-)

            One speaker talked about the meaning of the term "intercept" as opposed to "reading."  To some, there is no difference in principle.  I'm not arguing with anyone about what the government ought to be able to do.  I'm arguing with those who don't see the issue clearly or who are mischaracterizing the issue.

            There is a difference between me having your personal information in a box in my vault and me opening that box and reading and interpreting that data and using it against you.  For some, it's the "same thing."  In other words, my putting myself in a position harm you is the same thing as harming you.  We could make them both crimes.  We could even make them the "same" crime.  But nobody can make them the "same thing."

            There has never been a law against gathering the mass data, and it's always been done with impunity.  Since 1973 there have been laws against mining that mass data or targeting individuals' data without a warrant.  Since 2002 there have been significant relaxation of the warrant requirements.

            Now somebody is yelling "Hey!  Everybody!  They are collecting mass data!  Sky is falling!!!"  Ho hum.

            A right answer to the wrong question is a wrong answer.

            by legalarray on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 03:19:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's illegal to wiretap without a warrant (0+ / 0-)

              Two words -- 4th Amendment. Look it up.

              No longer Hoping for Change. Now Praying for a Miracle.

              by CitizenOfEarth on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 03:48:10 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  "Wiretap?!!" Did you say "wiretap?!!!" (0+ / 0-)

                A wiretap is a term that generally describes the activity of listening in on someone's phone conversation. Nobody. Nobody, thinks you don't need a warrant for a "wiretap." You could go blind arguing with yourself like that.  

                I'm a lawyer.  I have read the Fourth Amendment.  I know what it says.  I have also read all of the important court decisions interpreting it.  I have litigated may cases involving it's application over 43 years. Sometimes I win and sometimes the judge says "That's not a wiretap you idiot."

                If the government wants raw data to find out how many telephone calls were made from the U.S to Indonesia on January 15, I say they don't need a warrant to get it --  or a warrant should be issued on fairly general principles.

                If the government wants to mine that data to find out if Joe in Los Angeles called Hussein in Jakarta, I think they need a warrant.

                Neither one of them is a "wiretap."  

                Is there a problem with a rogue or overzealous government mining the data without a warrant?  Absolutely. But we want the cop to walk his beat and observe what's going on.  

                A right answer to the wrong question is a wrong answer.

                by legalarray on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 09:22:58 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  software reading and listening to content (0+ / 0-)

            not humans...they get called to get a warrant if the Soft Machine says so, then the human, the body listens, legally...besides, to much content for slow humans to get thru...

            so 'no-body listening/reading' is strictly accurate..

   doesn't say 'no machine is reading/listening'....

            Any bets on whether a Patriot Act or FISA secret court ruling says law agencies/LEOs can break these rules if terrists?

            This machine kills Fascists.

            by KenBee on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 10:20:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Best I've read on the issue. (0+ / 0-)

    Bookmarked and looking forward to more.

    Thanks, Steve Masover!

    "Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. And don't be attached to the results." -- Angeles Arrien

    by Sybil Liberty on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 12:20:39 PM PDT

  •  Here are some non-Terrorist uses for PRISM (4+ / 0-)

    All congress has to do is open PRISM up to the Police and anyone else who will throw a few bucks at a politician.

    Do you socialize with:
    Pot smokers?
    Hard drug users?
    Convicted felons?
    Anit-war organizations? (now classified as anti-American by the MIC)
    Eco-terrorists? (like Green Peace)
    Muslims? (or any ethnic group they feel like targeting)
    The list goes on, and it's scary.

    No longer Hoping for Change. Now Praying for a Miracle.

    by CitizenOfEarth on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 12:33:28 PM PDT

  •  The private sector (3+ / 0-)

    has been doing this for a very long time, as I'm sure you know as a data person. Probably 15 years ago now I worked on a project that considered using purchasable data files (from Claritas) to generate socioeconomic information to link with individual data for research purposes.

    More recently,
    Facebook now linking with in store purchases
    Supermarkets creating consumer profiles
    Health insurance companies looking at grocery purchases
    etc. etc.

    We do need to think more clearly about how we want our individual data to be used. A lot of this stuff has flown under the radar for quite a while.

    •  But now the NSA is an aggregator (5+ / 0-)

      of data from all those commercial sources.

      The NSA can now tie your (and your friends) phone transactions, to your emails, to facebook posts, to tweets, to bank transactions, to store purchases, to your location data -- all in a timeline to show relationships between those data points. No one commercial company can do all that. It the holy grail of data acquisition and graph mapping.

      No longer Hoping for Change. Now Praying for a Miracle.

      by CitizenOfEarth on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 12:48:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why do you (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CitizenOfEarth, foresterbob

        think no one company can do that? Given what I know about these kinds of data sets (I do have some familiarity with them, I am a data analyst, have done large data set linkages) I am not sure that it isn't being done to a large extent already. There are several private companies doing these data set linkages out there that probably include many or all of the above (and more) in varying permutations.

        Here's just one random recent example which is small but I thought it was telling. The other day I got a postcard ad in the mail from our local hardware store (which is part of a chain). The card was addressed, however, to my cousin (but at my home address). He has never lived in my town and in fact hasn't even ever visited me at this house. Somehow through an errant data linkage the company linked my address with his name. But in what data set would I ever be linked with him? We haven't ever lived in the same town and we don't communicate much; we might have talked on the phone a handful of times, that's about it. Somebody out there (well, not somebody, I'm sure it was via an algorithm rather than an individual) managed to link us together.

  •  Is anybody else having trouble recommending (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noisy Democrat

    comments in this diary? When I click on "Recommend" it momentarily shows selected and immediately goes back to unselected.

    Hello, NSA? Is that you?

    The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

    by Mr Robert on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 01:37:57 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this in-depth report, including ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    first-hand info.
    It seems as tho this spying on American citizens has been going on for ages & keeps getting worse as technology improves.

    I share a birthday with John Lennon and Bo Obama.

    by peacestpete on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 04:45:16 PM PDT

  •  "US government invokes special privilege... (0+ / 0-)

    US government invokes special privilege...

    Officials use little-known 'military and state secrets privilege' as civil liberties lawyers try to hold administration to account..

    If it's all no BFD, they why is the govt. working so hard to avoid any scrutiny?  

    the Pentagon is attempting to expand its worldwide communications network, known as the Global Information Grid, to handle yottabytes...of data. (A yottabyte is a septillion bytes—so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.)

    That's a whole lot of phone logs (& other misc. info...)  Yes, we know...

    "...the NSA secretly and illegally bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was supposed to oversee and authorize highly targeted domestic eavesdropping; how the program allowed wholesale monitoring of millions of American phone calls and email..."


    "...What wasn’t revealed until now, however, was the enormity of this ongoing domestic spying program....

    If it's no BFD, why are they so determined not to have a conversation about how with All the Infrastructure a Tyrant Would Need being put into place, we should consider if...

    ...we're allowing ourselves to become a nation of men, not laws...
    and if so are we...
    "...counting on having angels in office and making ourselves vulnerable to devils." ?  
  •  Big data (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    can also be very inaccurate.  Without knowing the motivations behind what people look at, all sorts of unwarranted assumptions may be drawn about individuals.

    Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

    by barbwires on Sat Jun 08, 2013 at 07:41:16 PM PDT

  •  I think Congress needs a demo (0+ / 0-)

    I'm wondering if some data nerd who believes in the Constitution will demonstrate the lack of anonymity in "meta data" by calculating and publishing the daily schedule of some of our congressional leaders? I think Congress won't take the threat to privacy seriously unless and until it hits home...  

    "The universe is made of stories, not atoms." -Muriel Rukeyser

    by tubacat on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 12:28:46 AM PDT

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