So the NSA fills up a huge database with all the meta-data of all the potential terrorists in the United States, right? By the NSA’s own admission, all the potential terrorists are all the people who are “3 hops” away from contacting somebody who lives in a “suspect” country. In our last conversation, The NSA: Looking for a Needle in a Needle Stack, we showed how that is basically, everybody. Now the question is: how do you make sense out of all this babbling meta-data?
After all, didn’t President Obama go on MainStreamMedia (MSM) TV to explain to us all that we had nothing to worry about, because it was “only” meta-data, and not the content of our emails that was swept up?
Luckily for our understanding, a team at the MIT Media Lab (http://immersion.media.mit.edu) has taken the trouble of illustrating for us what information comes out of meta-data. This is one look at how metadata can be used. The picture at the top of this post is the result of running my Gmail account through the MIT team’s software algorithms. The size of the dots represents how often I contact a particular person. The lines represent people who also contact each other. The actual results will include the names of the people as labels on those dots. Most people will have a family grouping, a friends grouping, and a common interests grouping. By examining this set of patterns, revealing “who talks to whom,” the NSA has built a database of your relationships, by order of frequency.
Now, let’s say, as an example, your local Town Councilman gets involved in a scandal. Maybe the scandal is justified, maybe it’s not. He’s accused, not convicted yet. He could have been accused by his political opponents, but we don’t know that, because he hasn’t gone to trial. He is charged with racketeering, which means maybe he didn’t do the act, but he is accused of hiring or influencing others to do it. To figure this out, the FBI gets to investigate all his associates.
Well, with this meta-data in that database, if you ever called or emailed the Town Councilman, or even if you talked to a neighbor who called or emailed the Town Councilman, you are a dot in that pattern, and the FBI can legally get whatever documents it needs to open an investigation into you. Get it? You don’t need to be a terrorist to get caught in this web. Meta-data, all by itself, can snatch you right up.
“But I have nothing to hide,” you protest.
And I answer: Having nothing to hide is not the same as having nothing to fear.
In the small town of Copper Hollow, this is what the residents believed. They had nothing to hide. But they did not understand how the web around them could snatch its prey.
Some Truths can only be told through fiction.
- This is what NSA can do with Verizon Meta Data (benlevitan.wordpress.com)
- You Do Too Have Something To Hide (wmbriggs.com)
- It’s not just metadata – the NSA is getting everything (rubbingalcoholic.com)