You’re So Vain

So you think the NSA has time to bug the likes of you? Please. You’re not that important, unless you’re doing things to make yourself stand out, like trying to use encryption and anonymizers for all your Internet traffic. Just think about it…

There are hundreds of millions of Internet users in the USA alone. If you’re in the USA, you’re one of them. That means your traffic is aggregated with all other traffic and dumped somewhere. There is no one person that will single out your traffic to hold up and mock: if you aren’t doing anything exceptional, you’re just part of the vast flow of sludge that passes through the Internet pipes. Even if what you’re doing isn’t particularly sludgeworthy, your traffic is in the mix, so you might as well know what’s flowing alongside your ones and zeroes.

We can start with the 166 million Facebook pages for USA users. Imagine wading through 166 million Facebook pages every day. The number of game spam updates alone would drive a mortal into madness. Then there are the people that post things Facebook has to take down, due to the content being explicitly sexual, overly violent, or slightly critical of the Turkish government’s treatment of its Kurdish population. All that goes to the NSA before it gets taken down by a Facebook drone in Morocco or Vietnam. Those guys usually lose their minds after only a few weeks of doing content review grunt work: there’s no way the NSA wants to expose its staff to that kind of attrition. Let a computer filter it and then file away the report where nobody sees it.

It’s not like the NSA is actually doing anything with that data. How many times do Americans get to see the making of a terrorist/murderer on his Facebook page after the fact? You’d think the proactive chaps at the NSA would swoop in on something as obvious as some of the stuff that these guys put out. The reason why they don’t is that they’re not looking at individual numbers. They’re looking at patterns formed by masses of users.

If you’re doing something unusual like using Arabic in Greenland, that’s going to get on the NSA’s list of things to monitor today. If you’re merely indulging in your favorite sins on the Internet, nobody in a spook lab is giving a flying flip about you. The Facebook traffic is just the start: think of how many times “Friday” or “Oppa Gangnam Style” wound up on an NSA traffic haul. Yeah. Just carry on, citizens, because there’s so much stuff going on that there’s no way you’ll get noticed unless you’re as unique as someone who gets noticed.

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