In the current moment much of the concern about privacy online and otherwise has been overwhelmed by Trump, inequality, racism and other matters. The NSA and other spies, government and corporate, are not taking a vacation. I wrote earlier about this in “The Uses of Metadata – an experiment you can conduct with your own life’s metadata” in July, 2013.
Recently I revisited Immersion: a people-centric view of your email life, the MIT project to visualize a tiny portion of the metadata of our lives, our emails.
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With the recent revelations of the NSA vacuum cleaner collecting metadata about every aspect of our lives we have been subjected to calming incantations, “We are only collecting metadata, we aren’t looking at the content”. As I (and many others) have pointed out earlier, this is complete nonsense.
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NSA’s gathering of Meta Data Compared to Corporate Use of Information
In the current discussions of the government’s wholesale seizure of the meta data of our personal digital lives there is regular comparison to the acquisition and use of information about our digital lives by corporations. At the moment corporate use of individual information results in targeted advertising and increasingly location aware targeted advertising through our smart phones. The implicit, sometimes explicit, notion is that we mare so used to corporations gathering information that the NSA is just another corporation, nothing but just a bit more of the same old.
Comparisons Between Corporate Data Gathering and the Government Vacuum Cleaner Are Wrong Headed and Misleading
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There are those, in response to the recent revelations of the US government vacuum cleaning our lives through the NSA and other secret programs, who take the line that the innocent have nothing to fear from the government. Here is an example of why no one should take such a naive approach to the powers of government.
credit: Ruby Washington/New York Times photographer – borrowed w/o permission
The New York Times reported recently (“Player in Leaks Case, Out From Behind Camera” ) on the role of Laura Poitras in the revelations by Edward Snowden about domestic surveillance by NSA et al..
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There has rightfully been considerable outrage over this week’s revelations that the Federal government has been sucking up information on virtually every aspect of our lives, email, telephones calls, pictures, credit card and banking transactions, and so on. Unfortunately almost all of this discussion is taking place without a useful sense of the scope, scale, and trajectory of the government’s war on terror.
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The current New York Review of Books has an article by James Bamford, “Who’s in Big Brother’s Database” that reviews the new book by Mathew M. Aid, The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency . I have gotten in line at my local library to read this book and will make further comments after that.
Meanwhile, the Bamford article mentions the construction boom at NSA (National Security Agency) with a doubling of its headquarters and million sq. feet of data storage in the Utah desert costing some $2 billion. This to store the data from all of NSA’s spying that by 2015 will be spoken of in terms of yottabytes.
Now, before you think that Bamford is mainlining old Star Wars characters, a yotta- is the largest large number prefix officially recognized in the scientific lexicon. At our house we are approaching 1/2 Terabyte (1012) in our total digital stores, mostly photos. Really large corporate databases are measured in Petabytes (1015). A Yotta is 1024.
Are you feeling safer?
Do you really think that any email sent or telephone conversation you have had since 2002 or 2003 is not logged in the vast secret Security State Apparatus??
I guess that a National Security State (Empire) that has had over 800 military bases throughout the world (see an earlier posting on this topic) to assure our influence elsewhere can not resist the opportunity the state of so-called war we have been in since 2001 to penetrate into every American’s life.
November 1, 2008
So, here I am having coffee and my favorite lunch, a toasted bagel with peanut butter thinking about the approaching election. Finally this will conclude what has been an overly long campaign, but one with enormous pleasures. Assuming that Obama is not just a curiosity to all those throngs at his campaign events, we will have a President who seems bright, competent, and level-headed with an adequate level if toughness. I don’t expect the kinds of policy directions I would like to see. But, after the last eight years, really the last eleven years, just having a competent President not mired in malevolent Millennial daydreams will be a step forward.
Though I am concerned that the present problems facing us may be beyond the present political system to navigate let alone solve.
Just to mention one. Our overseas empire with almost 800 military bases (see the Base Structure Report from the Pentagon for the data) on every continent proves Eisenhower’s point about the military industrial complex, though in truth this confirms what he is said to have wanted to say, “the military-industrial-Congressional complex”. This monster that consumes almost a trillion $s every year (my calculation includes the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, Energy, and other secret intelligence/military enterprises along with the budgets for the War on Drugs and Homeland Security) continues to grow with no evidence that our security is actually improving. To the contrary, it appears that in some quarters our security may be significantly diminished.