Analytics/Big Data

Another Day, Another Domestic Spying Revelation

I'm trying to take the advice of our unflappable editor-in-chief, Ray Le Maistre, and not be shocked by any new reports on the extent of the NSA's Internet surveillance programs. (See: Prism in a Big Data World.)

Given that state of mind, the latest on this scandal -- a Wall Street Journal report (subscription required) that suggests the NSA collected data from US Internet hubs, including emails between US citizens within US borders, and can reach 75 percent of US Internet traffic -- rates about a two out five on my shock-o-meter.

To the jaded among us, this is merely the next very predictable undulation in a slow unfurling of spying revelations that is probably not done yet.

We hardened types can muster only a few chuckles, primarily at the code names given to the NSA traffic filtering programs: Blarney, Fairview, Oakstar, Lithium, and Stormbrew. Was Blarney picked because that's what the government would call allegations that it's spying on US citizens? Did Lithium seem appropriate because that's what we need to take to balance ourselves against paranoia? And Stormbrew? Come on now -- is the NSA mocking us, or is it really that unimaginative? Why not just call it SpyOnU?

As for the network operators that have complied with these data collection programs, if the government remains the uninvited guest who won't leave, maybe they can at least get the feds to kick in a few dollars toward their datacenter opex. Also, how quickly do these operators bow to the government's data demands? And do they now profile job applicants to avoid hiring an Edward Snowden type?

Some less worldly souls might wonder if there will ever be some churn away from these operators by customers appalled that their emails might be getting turned over to the government, but who would they turn to that isn't already involved? It's starting to seem like, if you wanted to protest these programs or avoid spying, you would have to quit the Internet altogether.

No one wants to do that. It would be like violating our own basic rights.

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

DOShea 10/29/2013 | 3:45:14 PM
Domestic vs. International Well, two months later, whatever outrage there was about domestic spying by the US government has been replaced by outrage about spying on our allies, like Germany and Spain.
mendyk 8/22/2013 | 8:59:57 AM
Big Dada Help me out here -- If we're supposed to be outraged at the government for snooping into our personal communications, why are we extolling the virtues of big data and analytics?
KBode 8/21/2013 | 4:26:41 PM
Press seems to not have paid attention to previous whistleblowers I think it's a bit interesting how many in the press (not you, of course) seem to have not paid attention to previous statements by both AT&T and NSA whistleblowers. This part in the Journal story in particular caught my eye:
  • The programs, code-named Blarney, Fairview, Oakstar, Lithium and Stormbrew, among others, filter and gather information at major telecommunications companies. Blarney, for instance, was established with AT&T former officials say. AT&T declined to comment. This filtering takes place at more than a dozen locations at major Internet junctions in the U.S., officials say. Previously, any NSA filtering of this kind was largely believed to be happening near points where undersea or other foreign cables enter the country.

Except if the Journal had paid attention to claims by AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein back in 2007, they would have known that these interception points exist right there on the ISP network at their offices. I don't know anybody who was paying attention that claimed these interception points were solely "where undersea or other foreign cables enter the country."


While we shouldn't be surprised, we really should be angry.

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