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NSA data mining

  1. Dec 24, 2005 #1
    New York Times 12/24

    The other thread was misleading. The issue is now not secret, warrantless wiretaps; it's now systematic data mining of either the entirety of domestic telecommunications, or a large percentage of it.

    Happy Holidays to you all.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 24, 2005 #2


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    This is getting to be pretty funny. Does anyone here even want to pretend they have a clue as to what entities such as the NSA, CIA, Echelon, etc. did before Bush came to office (and no, wikipedia won't tell you the whole story)? Does anyone here think that national security barely became an issue and all these security agencies just all of a sudden started to exist after on 9/12/01? It was public knowledge in the 1990's that Echelon conducted data-mining and taps.... i mean hell, they had shows on tv all about it.

    Does anyone even know how to spell national security anymore or does everything have to go through anti-Bush filtering so that everything ever done can be turned into something you can blame on him?
  4. Dec 24, 2005 #3


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    You're right, of course. The government has conducted electronic surveillance (wiretaps and so on) since WWII. Naturally, society only starts to fully address the issue after the issue exists.

    In one sense, your point is very valid. This isn't a 'Bush' problem - it's a problem about how to deal with a 'new' government capability. I agree this isn't just another issue to slam Bush on and doing so really doesn't add much to the discussion.

    In another sense, your point is about as valid as saying cancer isn't a problem since it's existed forever. The issue of what limits should be set on domestic surveillance is a very valid issue.

    In general, any capability possessed by 'hackers' or professional companies to monitor your computer activity or to intrude into your computer is almost certainly possessed by the government, as well. We haven't even fully addressed how to handle intrusion by private sources, let alone government sources.

    While we've addressed private entities ability to monitor communications transmissions and the government's ability to target individuals for electronic surveillance, we haven't come close to addressing something like bulk monitoring to pick out patterns that lead to more specific, targeted surveillance of individuals. Technically, it's definitely intrusion and surveillance of US citizens without a warrant, but does it meet the intent of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches?

    While I'm not completely sure how I feel about the issue, I think the assumption has to be that this kind of surveillance should be prohibited until the constitutional issues are resolved.
  5. Dec 24, 2005 #4


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    Just an opinion, but I disagree - I think that any public communication (not sure that's the best word, but I mean a medium that the participants themselves don't own) anywhere, any time, through any medium should be considered public domain unless positive steps are taken by the participants to make it secret - such as encrypting it yourself or sealing it in an envelope.

    edit: I should probably also say, just so no one makes any assumptions, that this would still include existing limits such as doctor-patient priveledge and the illegality of photographing kids without their parents' permission.

    I think a lot of the problem people have with this issue comes from unrealistic - even naive - beliefs about what is or isn't private in a practical sense, especially when it comes to data mining. Ie, the thread we had a while back about data mining of consumer information for marketing purposes. With face recognition technology getting close, it is only a matter of time before you walk into your local grocery store and the building greets you by name, then automatically increases the price of your favorite ice cream because it knows you'll pay just about anything for it. Online retailers raise prices for repeat buyers (helpful hint: delete your cookies before shopping online) and how is being recognized by a building fundamentally different than being recognized by the bartender at my favorite bar?
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2005
  6. Dec 24, 2005 #5
    So... The guy who had my job before me stole a lot of money from the company but was not charged with anything.... does that make it OK for me to do it and on top of that, do it more and to a much greater extent?
  7. Dec 24, 2005 #6
    It is fundamentally different Russ because a bartender can only serve one at a time and only remember and process so much information unless he is like Rainman. A computer on the other hand can keep and access a database in seconds that holds anything imaginable on anyone imaginable and use it to the owners advantage.
  8. Dec 24, 2005 #7


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    What would be your opinion about something like this? FBI software cracks encryption wall

    I admit there's two parts of this. There's the right or wrong of the issue. Then, there's the priority of the issue. I don't let my kids install software on my computer, but that has as much to do with computer performance as it does with privacy (I learned that lesson, thanks to my kids installing Kazaa). I use some common sense regarding credit card numbers, etc on the web. Couldn't care less about encrypting my E-mails. I still would not be happy about having an outsider install software on my computer remotely or reading my E-mails, just out of principle.

    There's a real grey area, here. Is this like random checkpoints for drunk drivers? On the surface, it would seem to be unreasonable search to stop people on the highway at random, but that's seen as acceptable.

    Obviously, increased security for air travel is accepted, but how far is reasonable? Is this an acceptable screening procedure? Air travelers stripped bare with X-ray machine Technically, as long there's a curtain around the screen and the security person, only the security person sees the 'virtual nudity', so it's not like your privacy is violated in public.
  9. Dec 24, 2005 #8
    Magic lantern is a keylogger. There's tons of free keyloggers that anyone can get for free. Most keyloggers are nasty and extremely undetectable. It's definitely curious to see how the FBI would gain control of a suspect's computer, my guess is they would:

    1. Physically sneak in the house of the suspect and install it
    2. Send the suspect a virus through e-mail, but if the suspect has anti-virus then this won't be too effective

    As far as Carnivore goes which is essentially a packet sniffer, they renamed it the 'Echelon' perhaps to make it sound less threatening to regular folks. I believe what they'll do and probably done already is install blackboxes right beside your ISP's servers and check any communication/inspect packets coming to and from your computer with certain keywords/specific data elements they're looking for.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2005
  10. Dec 24, 2005 #9


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    I believe Echelon has been pretty much reading every piece of domestic traffic (and i believe possibly international) it can get its hands on. I'm utterly convinced that this is some washington power grab by some democrat senators since i don't see how these programs weren't common knowledge by now. I don't see how the programs could have been made anymore intrusive as they have been from the start is what i'm really trying to say here.

    It also makes you wonder how much security this country does infact need. If you think about say, Russia, they have a hard time keeping order when it comes to Chechnya and terrorism and their citizens lack a lot of the privacy benefits we have. Now think about the US... supposedly half the world hates us and a lot of these groups who hate us are well funded and would surely take violent actions against us if they could. You finally have to ask yourself how good of a job this country is actually doing to protect us. When we do have an attack, people act like a family member just died and remember it for a long time like what happened on 9/11. Now combine this with the fact that one of the main issues being touted by these people who complain about privacy is something as minor as library books... and I would say that the government does and has been doing for many many years a good job of protecting the country while minimizing privacy invasions based on how much of a threat is probably facing the US.

    I think no one wants to keep that in mind and keep their arguments logical as it pertains to other related issues.
  11. Dec 25, 2005 #10
    Italy successfully used data mining on CIA

    CIA agents blundered in an Italy rendition. I certainly hope that we haven't merely created a massive version of the same intelligence operations that failed to communicated with each other and failed to stop 9/11. The incident below indicates that we aren't getting much bang for our buck.

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