Friday, June 7, 2013

So What is NSA Really Doing With All Our Communications?


Our online privacy, padlock image via Naomi Ibuki on flickr


As you've seen in the headlines lately, it's been reported that the NSA was tapping into Verizon Wireless networks, all in the name of justice and looking to prevent the next big terrorist attack.

Folks are in an uproar.  Me, not so much.

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Now the news is out!  The NSA (and probably a myriad of other agencies, just not mentioned) has been tapping into our Verizon Wireless conversations.  But to be honest, they've been tapping into everything internet-y.  (Yep, just made that word up.)  But they've also been doing this to bigger names such as Google, Facebook and to be honest, I suspect every other entity connected to the internet.

People are freaking out over the government's "intervention with our private lives" and their freedom to do such without being monitored.  There's even news on how the U.S. Justice Department seized phone records from calls in and out of the Associated Press while they tried to fervently try to identify an anonymous source for an article.

That might be going a bit too far.

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To be honest, the feds don't necessarily need the permissions they've been getting to peruse such aspects of our lives such as our search history, our emails, file transfers and live chats.

It's all out there anyway.  When you send a simple email to someone, that email goes from where you are sitting, through internet connections (servers) to your email host's servers, who then send your email to the end destination.  And that transit can cover multiple server routes before getting where it's going.

For example, when I bring up a 'cmd' window on my machine and run the process called tracert, it reports all the IP addresses the test goes through to get from me to say, Amazon.com.

I counted 16 different IP's for that internet path.

I am working a mile or two from Facebook.  Running tracert still managed to show my inquiry pass through 23 different IP addresses.

And pretty much every server has the potential to record and log all activity it does.  That's a lot of records for some who just did a web search for 'debbie does...', well, you get the joke.


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When you think you're hunkered down in your home office doing things, what you're doing is not as private as you can imagine.

I know folks who adamentaly avoid social networks like Facebook and Google+, but what they aren't really taking into account is that they're already part of the process when they use email.  The original social networking process!

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I know folks are a bit freaked out about the feds looking over their shoulders, all in the name if justice and criminal prevention.

But they're also using farming techniques/software to review all the data.  It's complicated, but they try to filter through the hundreds of millions of bits of bytes every minute, looking for clues or key words, phrases or patterns that might alert them to something nefarious that's developing.

I know that some folks say, hey, then how come they didn't prevent this, that or the other thing.  But what they don't know is that in the background, unbeknownst to most, they are stopping folks from carrying out various deeds or actions.

Should I even go into how the web, aka, Google, Facebook and every single entity on the web puts, leaves, reads and tracks files called cookies on your computers/phones to see what you do?  How do you think those pesky ads seem to pimp out things you might actually consider looking at?  But that's for another post.


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I feel creeped out about someone being able to point to 9-11 as an excuse to peruse my entire digital life.  But logistically speaking, I can't imagine some single clerk stuffed away in a digital closet and going over my every move on the internet.  Cripes... good luck with that one!

There are (estimated) over a billion folks connected to the internet, and over 30% of them hit the internet every day.  (Wild estimates, because most public companies have a tough time nailing down various facets of these details, but it's a good starting point for this exercise.)

And to be honest, if some government intervention keeps me from becoming a statistic and getting blown up for some aholes "cause," I just might be in favor of it.

I lost several friends on 9-11.  It'd be nice if the families of some 3,000 victims from that day had their spouses, kids, loved ones still around because there was some nefarious little process going on, tracking us all, while trying to prevent things.

At least, I suspect, there are at least several thousand folks thinking that.

But then, on the other hand, while chatting with a buddy of mine, he thinks there's a level of acceptable losses he'd be willing to suffer, to have his sense of freedom.

Hey, we all have our take on the issue.  It's a tricky line to tamper with.  My take is a bit confused, but I lean towards the big brother aspect and not getting blown up.  My family would appreciate me not getting blown up...  I think.



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Hi - sorry for the confirmation but I need to weed out the noise from the well intended comments. Thanks for leaving a note... - Bruce