Friday, February 7, 2014

Hoarders: NSA edition

Good news fellow USAnians: the NSA isn't collecting that much of our phone data.
The National Security Agency is collecting less than 30 percent of all Americans’ call records because of an inability to keep pace with the explosion in cellphone use, according to current and former U.S. officials.
The disclosure contradicts popular perceptions that the government is sweeping up virtually all domestic phone data. It is also likely to raise questions about the efficacy of a program that is premised on its breadth and depth, on collecting as close to a complete universe of data as possible in order to make sure that clues aren’t missed in counterterrorism investigations.
30% isn't enough? Apparently not. But good news. The hoareers at the NSA are renting new storage units so they can collect more and more data.
 The government is taking steps to restore the collection — which does not include the content of conversations — closer to previous levels. The NSA is preparing to seek court orders to compel wireless companies that currently do not hand over records to the government to do so, said the current and former officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Does this make sense? No. But no matter.

Edward Felten, a Princeton University computer scientist who has studied the program from a technological perspective, said the revelation “calls into question whether the rationale offered for the program is consistent with the way the program has been operating.”
But collection of even a quarter of the records is valuable, officials say.
“It’s better than zero,” said the NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett in an interview Thursday, without describing the program’s exact scope. “If it’s zero, there’s no chance.”
I have heard hoarders say the same thing. Collecting and retaining as much as you can, even if to all the world it looks like worthless garbage, means that there is a non-zero chance that your hoard will include something of value.

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