Call me crazy, but I think it is safe to assume at this point that the NSA is basically gobbling up any piece of data that it can from the Internet, our devices, and any other source that it can. New revelations may give us more specifics, but the only folks out there who haven’t heard, or shouldn’t be drawing the same conclusions are probably so unconnected that they don’t have anything to worry about in the first place. Yes, it’s a bad thing that the NSA and other snooping agencies are doing this. But by now we should all know that. When we start seeing individuals start changing their behavior, then we’ll have the next phase of this saga.
All of that said, today’s hot story about the NSA comes from the Guardian about a NSA program called Dishfire which supposedly has been collecting upwards of 200 million text messages a day, and of course storing them for later retrieval. The Guardian and its partner in this particular investigation, the UK’s Channel 4 News, are also stating that the database as been queried to extract information on individuals under no suspicion of doing anything wrong. Of course that’s what gets the hackles up for most concerned about this story, despite government protests to the contrary.
The Guardian article mentions another tool, Prefer, that can pull together reports based on the information gleaned from the database. Apparently, messages from US citizens are dropped out of the system more quickly than those from other countries.
I certainly don’t mean to make light of this revelation or any of the stories about these issues that have created a giant trust gap. There are many moving parts that include ordinary citizens, governments, and the software and hardware makers who provide us with the gadgets and services we employ and from a user perspective it is hard to have trust in what any of the government or corporate entities say in their respective defenses. It really is no laughing matter, and quite frankly, I don’t think we’ve even begun to get to some of the real stories about government and corporate cooperation in these matters.
For example, this story concerns text or SMS messages, among other communications. The Global average cost of a text message is $0.11 and this messaging business is worth quite a few billion dollars a year. Who knows how this data is obtained by the NSA. But now that we know they are obtaining it, perhaps the Telecos should bill the NSA for those messages. Let’s see 200 million messages a day at $0.11? That’s about $22,000,000 a day. But then, who says the Telcos themselves aren’t in on the entire scheme.
This Guardian report comes the day before US President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver a major speech on the NSA surveillance activities. Some are looking for an announcement of sweeping changes. Most are not. Regardless of the words, we’ll see how the trust factor comes into play following that speech.