Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

What Can You Find Out From Metadata?

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the reading-between-the-lines dept.

Privacy 341

cervesaebraciator writes "In the wake of recent revelations from Edward Snowden, apologists for the state security apparatus are predictably hitting the airwaves. Some are even 'glad' the NSA has been doing this. A major point they emphasize is that the content of calls have remained private and it is only the metadata that they're interested in. But given how much one can tell from interpersonal connections, does the surveillance only represent a 'modest encroachments on privacy?' It is easy enough to imagine how metadata on phone calls made to and from a medical specialist could be more revealing than we'd like. But social network analysis can reveal far more. Duke sociologist Kieran Healy, in a light-hearted but telling article, shows how one father of the American Revolution could have been identified using the simplest tools of social network analysis and only a limited dataset."

cancel ×

341 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Bend over and submit citizen (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966435)

Unequal application of government power and laws is directly akin to removal or destruction of a person or organization's citizenship and rights. It is directly equivalent to the acts of a Slaver.

Slavery, or the forced removal/infringement of a person's civil rights for the pleasure or profit of another is considered to be an act of Hostis Humani Generis, or in other words, an Enemy Of All Mankind.

Everyone involved in this atrocity should be hanged after trial.

Re:Bend over and submit citizen (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966483)

Don't like it? Move to China.

Re:Bend over and submit citizen (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43966589)

Don't like it? Move to China.

That's a great comeback -- don't like something about your country? Well pack up, get out, and move someplace worse because america is perfect the way it is so you either need to accept that or get out - we don't need your changes!

Re:Bend over and submit citizen (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#43966629)

Don't like it? Move to China.

That's a great comeback -- don't like something about your country? Well pack up, get out, and move someplace worse because america is perfect the way it is so you either need to accept that or get out - we don't need your changes!

Hence the reason I typically refer to such offal as "The Idiot's Adage"

Re:Bend over and submit citizen (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43966823)

My hat is off to you good sir, that is by far the most elegant way I've heard said: "Don't feed the trolls".

The U.S. government is extremely corrupt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43967151)

The U.S. government is extremely corrupt. The government helped Wall Street steal $2 trillion. No one was prosecuted. There are many, many other examples, like endless war, which is very profitable for many, and very destructive for the average citizen.

Re:Bend over and submit citizen (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#43966711)

Don't like it? Move to China.

That's a great comeback -- don't like something about your country? Well pack up, get out, and move someplace worse because america is perfect the way it is so you either need to accept that or get out - we don't need your changes!

But the base post in the threat makes sense? I think that is over generous by quite a stretch.

Re:Bend over and submit citizen (4, Interesting)

ArcherB (796902) | about a year ago | (#43966949)

Don't like it? Move to China.

That's a great comeback -- don't like something about your country? Well pack up, get out, and move someplace worse because america is perfect the way it is so you either need to accept that or get out - we don't need your changes!

A couple of points here. First, Snowden ironically fled to Hong Kong, which is China. I think the GP was making a joke. Here's your whoosh!

But in response to your post, there is some logic behind the "Love it or Leave it" argument. For example, there are many in America who want to make America like Europe, and work hard to transform it to that. It makes sense to ask these people, "Why don't you just move to Europe?" Here is why the logic works: If they were to move to Europe, they could line under a government that is exactly what they want. They'll be happy there. As a bonus, those of us who like things in America the way they are get to stay and live in under a government that is exactly what we want. It's a win-win! We all get what we want. On the other hand, when they stay and fight to transform America, they make themselves miserable living in a country they don't like and make the rest of us miserable fighting to keep them from changing America into a country we won't want.

Why try to change the place you live into someplace else when you could simply move to that someplace else?

Please forgive the off-topicness

Re:Bend over and submit citizen (3, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43967061)

Don't like it? Move to China.

That's a great comeback -- don't like something about your country? Well pack up, get out, and move someplace worse because america is perfect the way it is so you either need to accept that or get out - we don't need your changes!

A couple of points here. First, Snowden ironically fled to Hong Kong, which is China. I think the GP was making a joke. Here's your whoosh!

When an AC says something that could be trolling or could be some wry insightful sarcasm, I always err on the side of Trolling

But in response to your post, there is some logic behind the "Love it or Leave it" argument. For example, there are many in America who want to make America like Europe, and work hard to transform it to that. It makes sense to ask these people, "Why don't you just move to Europe?" Here is why the logic works: If they were to move to Europe, they could line under a government that is exactly what they want. They'll be happy there. As a bonus, those of us who like things in America the way they are get to stay and live in under a government that is exactly what we want. It's a win-win! We all get what we want. On the other hand, when they stay and fight to transform America, they make themselves miserable living in a country they don't like and make the rest of us miserable fighting to keep them from changing America into a country we won't want.

Why try to change the place you live into someplace else when you could simply move to that someplace else?

Please forgive the off-topicness

I think you just answered that - because it's the place I live... my family, my friends, my home, my job, etc are all here in the USA so why would I want to pack up and leave? And if I really feel that what I'm advocating is an improvement, why wouldn't I want to share it with everyone?

Re:Bend over and submit citizen (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43967107)

Isn't the whole point of democracy is that the people get a say in what they want?

Re:Bend over and submit citizen (2, Funny)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#43966867)

Thank goodness this post is being modded up. I was worried that thoughtful discussion was going to break out. "Bend over" indeed.

I'll know it is modest when (5, Interesting)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year ago | (#43966477)

I'll know it is modest if the general public can get a dump of the meta data for every elected office holder as well as their staff members, and all judges. If they have nothing to hide then this shouldn't be a problem. If not then the NSA can fuck off.

Re:I'll know it is modest when (1)

ProZachar (410739) | about a year ago | (#43966503)

And every cop.

Re:I'll know it is modest when (1, Insightful)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#43966639)

I'll know it is modest if the general public can get a dump of the meta data for every elected office holder as well as their staff members, and all judges.

Fine then. Will that also be the standard for:
- All future search warrants (Your honor, its only fair to give the suspect your data too.)
- A prerequisite for submitting tax forms ( Give me your data tax examiner and I'll give you mine?)
- Answering census forms (So, census taker, do you have your data along with the Commissioners?)
- Permit requests (If you want me to open this business here, where is the data for the town council?)

Every elected office holder? And staff? And all judges?

Oh yeah, that is well grounded. I suggest you get a grip.

Re:I'll know it is modest when (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966753)

maybe, you don't consider it so bad to have a government computer find out who my friends
are, what I bought, and where I traveled.

whats happening already though is your aggregate information is being used to profile you based
on whether or not you cluster with normal acceptable people. what happens if you get labelled
an outlier by some heuristics the govenment used..well, of course you get increased surveillance.

ok. but what happens when that profile, much like a credit check is already being used today,
restricts your ability to fly on an airplane, or get a government or other job. or travel outside
the country. what happens if you get stopped by the police for a headlight being out, and because you have a yellow star
in your file they decide to detain you for enhanced questioning techniques.

you're just a tiny hair away from having the government make a value judgement totally opaque to you about
your entire life, without you having broken any laws. deciding whether you are probably a good guy or
possibly a bad guy.

you still think thats ok

Re:I'll know it is modest when (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43966881)

So far in human history good people to the government have been those that agree with them and bad people those that don't.

Re:I'll know it is modest when (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966943)

yes exactly. maybe the criteria today are 'likely to set of a bomb in a public place'
and maybe in 5 years they've shifted to 'generally a pain in the ass'

Re:I'll know it is modest when (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43967153)

No, today the criteria is 'you have a phone'.

Re:I'll know it is modest when (1)

BSAtHome (455370) | about a year ago | (#43966779)

So you can map the corruption of the politicians. That would be a positive way to use computing power.

It may be a good exercise for every so-called democratic country to do this not only at the political level, but also at the departmental level.

Journalists, please contact your nearby university's math-department and publish the results.

Re:I'll know it is modest when (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43966853)

You don't in the name of "National Security" and anti-terrorism.

Re:I'll know it is modest when (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966921)

They've had some data dumps of cell tower connection logs from German telcos in the past. You can triangulate the phone easily and get a clear map of who the person is - where they live, where they work, where they eat, where they go to church, what theaters they go to, what clubs they go to, how fast they drive, if they go to the liquor store often, etc etc etc.

Cell phones are personal tracking devices with telephones attached.

http://www.yro.slashdot.org/story/11/03/26/179257/German-Politician-Demonstrates-Extent-of-Cellphone-Location-Tracking

It's probably not modest, or just meta data (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966925)

I think you have to be aware of the fact all this "metadata" talk is quite possibly just to focus the vast majority of the conversation around metadata. Why anyone would actually believe that at this point is beyond me. First everyone was like "we've never heard of this", then you have officials saying "okay yes, but you don't need to worry about it because...".

Re:It's probably not modest, or just meta data (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#43967023)

Exactly.

Its far from just Metadata. Its all of it. Every email, tweet, and phone conversation.

Re:I'll know it is modest when (2, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#43967017)

I'll know it is modest if the general public can get a dump of the meta data for every elected office holder as well as their staff members, and all judges.

There you go again, buying into the lie that it was JUST META DATA.

There isn't a single security professional that believes that. Even Obama knew he was lying thru his teeth when he said that.
But that shoe won't be allowed to drop now that they are on guard, at least not for another few months.

Its not JUST metadata.

Re:I'll know it is modest when (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43967171)

Meta data gets you far more information that just the content of the phone conversations. Who, where, when, how long all paint a much more thorough & accurate picture than just 'he said'.

Re:I'll know it is modest when (4, Informative)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43967141)

That would get them to scream about it.

Imagine if we could actually hold our public officials accountable for their actions.

See here for what it actually looks like for one politician in Germany.

http://www.zeit.de/datenschutz/malte-spitz-data-retention [www.zeit.de]

"Green party politician Malte Spitz sued to have German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom hand over six months of his phone data that he then made available to ZEIT ONLINE. We combined this geolocation data with information relating to his life as a politician, such as Twitter feeds, blog entries and websites, all of which is all freely available on the internet."

Re:I'll know it is modest when (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#43967177)

I'll know it is modest if the general public can get a dump of the meta data for every elected office holder as well as their staff members, and all judges. If they have nothing to hide then this shouldn't be a problem. If not then the NSA can fuck off.

Technically, meta data was always obtainable. After all, you need a warrant in order to tap a phone line, but you don't if you just want to hook up a DNR (dialed-number-recorder) to the line. The DNR basically just records down when you picked up the phone, what number you dialed, and how long until you hung up - basically all the information the phone company needs anyways. They can't capture the conversation itself (because the phone company doesn't need it for its tasks), but all the stuff around it, legally and without warrant.

Or like how police can request logs from servers - but only of data the server would've gotten anyways, not of content. So IP address, time and date, maybe even transfer statistics that the OS has. All that can be had without a warrant.

Apologists Be Damned (5, Interesting)

Phoenix666 (184391) | about a year ago | (#43966523)

I voted for Obama twice.

Anyone who serves as apologist for the NSA, the Whitehouse, and Congress on this proves himself an enemy of the Constitution and the American people. There is no justification for this. There is no gentle dismantling of the Constitution. It stands above this or any government in Washington, D.C. Anyone in Washington D.C. who assaults it like this means the destruction of our Republic and the subjugation of its people.

Obama must be impeached. The Congressmen and Senators who support his actions must be impeached. The courts who OK this must be removed. Washington D.C. must be burned to the ground and rebuilt if there are none there who will honor their oaths to defend and uphold the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Re:Apologists Be Damned (4, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#43966553)

I voted for Obama twice.

Then you have no one to blame but yourself. Obama openly supported warrantless wiretaps before his election in 2004.

Re:Apologists Be Damned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966907)

Keep in mind, however, that the other major party candidates have not been any better in context of national security.
And Obama did talk in ways quite different from his since-then actions; not so with Romney (or to lesser degree, McCain), who never even implied he'd see anything wrong in doing "whatever it takes" to go after terrorists, damn the torpedoes.

And then Ron Paul... while in this area he was solid, he unfortunately has boatloads of other issues wrt ideology. At least from perspective of most who would vote for Obama.

Re:Apologists Be Damned (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#43966977)

Keep in mind, however, that the other major party candidates have not been any better in context of national security.

It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.
Eugene Debs

I found your problem! (2)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#43966599)

I voted for Obama twice.

Well, I found your problem.

Now, I can understand why some people would vote for him the first time, after all, his rhetoric wasn't bad! Ending the wars and closing Guantanamo Bay were good ideas, however, it should be clear by the end of his first term that he was nothing more than Bush part II.

Re:Apologists Be Damned (0, Offtopic)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about a year ago | (#43966607)

Obama must be impeached. The Congressmen and Senators who support his actions must be impeached. The courts who OK this must be removed.

The Bush government should also be impeached for torture and violation of the rules of warfare ("enemy combatants" are not humans, starting illegal wars).

Re:Apologists Be Damned (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about a year ago | (#43966709)

Arguably. But they're not running the country right now.

Re:Apologists Be Damned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966851)

Ok. Both of them but can we take the administration that is currently abusing this law out of their position of power or are you just going to be a partisan fuck who aids this kind of bullshit? Face facts, if Americans had the nut sack to stop voting for the two party scam then this kind of shit would be a lot less likely to go on.

Re:Apologists Be Damned (1)

Bodhammer (559311) | about a year ago | (#43966611)

"How's that hopey, changey thing working out for you?"

Re:Apologists Be Damned (1)

Holi (250190) | about a year ago | (#43966669)

Not well, but I can't imagine it would have been any better with the other choices.

Re:Apologists Be Damned (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#43966751)

Few things are more common among humanity than a failure of imagination.

Re:Apologists Be Damned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966831)

We often see "at least [x] is honest about [violations]" used as a successful retort on Slashdot (e.g. articles about human/civil rights in China). Maybe that can work here! Let's try:

"Well, at least Republicans are honest about taking away your rights"

Re:Apologists Be Damned (1)

ArcherB (796902) | about a year ago | (#43966993)

Not well, but I can't imagine it would have been any better with the other choices.

I know! States rights must suck. I'd hate having to deal with the responsibility of knowing that my vote counts more towards the way my government works. Double that because of the effort I'd have to put into voting in state elections.

The horror!

Re:Apologists Be Damned (1)

Bodhammer (559311) | about a year ago | (#43967025)

Try this, imagine Government officials and every one else who swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the US, actually did so and that people voted on that basis rather than on soaring rhetoric, lies, and propaganda. Oh yea, and they actually had some experience and track record of doing so.

Re:Apologists Be Damned (5, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#43966693)

"How's that hopey, changey thing working out for you?"

One would think, if for no other reason, he'd have done a better job just to prove that stupid bitch wrong.

*Sigh* You know the situation is royally fuckt when Sarah Palin quotes start to sound so much as half-assed intelligent...

Why bother? (5, Insightful)

MrEricSir (398214) | about a year ago | (#43966613)

Obama must be impeached. The Congressmen and Senators who support his actions must be impeached. The courts who OK this must be removed. Washington D.C. must be burned to the ground and rebuilt if there are none there who will honor their oaths to defend and uphold the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

We could do all that, but we'd be right back where we started. The fundamental problem is the American people, who have time and time again said that they simply don't care. The government listening to our calls? We don't care. Reading our emails? We don't care. Hiding disturbing truths about our perpetual wars? We couldn't care less.

Blame government officials all you want, but remember this: as a democracy we get the government we deserve.

Re:Why bother? (1)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#43966933)

That's a non-sequitur.

Voting only makes a difference if you have a real choice. The Dems and Reps are flip sides of the same coin. As long as they can keep the bread and circuses going, and keep laws and rules in place which prevent third parties from gaining any real power, they're both in good position to build and maintain power.

This wouldn't have been any different if the opposite party were in power. We don't have a democracy - the rules are set up to give massive benefits in the process to the two parties, and to exclude others. The only difference in democracy between the US and the cold-war Soviet Union is that we have 2 choices where they had 1. (and we laughed and criticized their claim of "democracy"!)

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43967039)

Obama must be impeached. The Congressmen and Senators who support his actions must be impeached. The courts who OK this must be removed. Washington D.C. must be burned to the ground and rebuilt if there are none there who will honor their oaths to defend and uphold the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

We could do all that, but we'd be right back where we started. The fundamental problem is the American people, who have time and time again said that they simply don't care. The government listening to our calls? We don't care. Reading our emails? We don't care. Hiding disturbing truths about our perpetual wars? We couldn't care less.

Blame government officials all you want, but remember this: as a democracy we get the government we deserve.

I got a question? How is the American people (I'm a legal resident but I got no voting rights) going to do something about it? Call their congress people and complain? That seems to never work, because they have their own (whoever pays them) agenda. Scream "Impeach! Impeach!" ? The next voted in place (Republican or Democrat [or Libertarian - Oh crap]) will just keep it up, because it is "for the safety of the country to know our enemies. Both in and outside of the country" (or so says their advisers.) Revolution? Nah. We don't have time for that.

Re:Why bother? (1, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#43967055)

A democracy and a free society are incompatible because a democracy is simply the tyranny of a majority and leads to the exact same abuses as with a dictatorship or an oligarchy.

Re:Apologists Be Damned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966633)

I voted for Obama twice.

So, what have we learned?

Obama sure told a bunch of tall tales to get elected. Stuff he didn't do but promised to do are answered with a shrug and "but but but Congress!" yet Obama never put a veto on anything to let the record show he was opposed to it, nevermind he's was the Democratic Party Nominee for President, and the Democratic controlled congress for the first two years of his presidency pushed through the majority of the abuses, or, rather, inaction on abuses.

So the Republican nominees promise to do evil and, when elected, do exactly that. The Democratic nominees promise to do good and, when elected, just do evil.

Again, what have we learned?

This story hit the news in 2006 ! - It's old news! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966543)

Why is it suddenly a big deal now?

NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls

Updated 5/11/2006 10:38 AM ET

By Leslie Cauley, USA TODAY

"The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans â" most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews."

http://yahoo.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-05-10-nsa_x.htm [usatoday.com]

Re:This story hit the news in 2006 ! - It's old ne (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966625)

Why is it suddenly a big deal now?

Straw. Camel's back.

Re:This story hit the news in 2006 ! - It's old ne (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966645)

But Obama wasn't president then, so big brother was okay.

Re:This story hit the news in 2006 ! - It's old ne (1)

poity (465672) | about a year ago | (#43966901)

Yeah man, this so typical of these conservatard hypocrites like Glenn Greenwa ..oh.

Re:This story hit the news in 2006 ! - It's old ne (2)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#43966661)

Because it is more than just phone calls now, its e-mails, Facebook, and all sorts of web traffic. Very little of my communication is done by cell phone voice, other than at work and the occasional call to a tech-challenged friend most of my communication is through e-mails, skype, IM, and various sites. There's a huge difference between simply logging phone numbers and intercepting communications online.

Re:This story hit the news in 2006 ! - It's old ne (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966699)

Why is it suddenly a big deal now?

NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls

Updated 5/11/2006 10:38 AM ET

By Leslie Cauley, USA TODAY

I'm just glad it's out at all. This is the same guy who, during his 1st presidential campaign, spoke of opposition to warrantless wiretaps, yet three days into his presidency decides it's ok after all. Obama Sides With Bush in Spy Case [wired.com]

Action in violation of the oath of office, and inaction to stop ongoing violations of the oath of office, is impeachable.

Analogue analogue (5, Interesting)

GODISNOWHERE (2741453) | about a year ago | (#43966549)

Its as if someone from the government physically followed you wherever you went and wrote down the places where you made a cell phone call and how long you talked on the phone. The also record when and where you send a text message. Almost everyone would find this unbelievably creepy.

Of course, no human actually does this for regular citizens, and no human looks at it — unless you are being investigated, which the government don't need probable cause to do (according to their interpretation of Section 215 of the PATRIOT act.) Then it really is as if someone had followed you and recorded all of this information.

Re:Analogue analogue (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43966657)

Of course, no human actually does this for regular citizens, and no human looks at it — unless you are being investigated, which the government don't need probable cause to do (according to their interpretation of Section 215 of the PATRIOT act.) Then it really is as if someone had followed you and recorded all of this information.

I doubt you need to be under active investigation to come under scrutiny by an analyst, all you need to do is have similar call patterns as a suspected terrorist and come up in an automated data mining search "Hey, terrorist XYZ made calls to a bunch of Home Depots, Radio Shacks, and truck rental places before he built his bomb. And look, Joe Public called nearly the same set of places. Let's take a look at his email to see what he's been up to". I bet they'd be able to subpoena your email with a single click from the analyst's search app if Amazon hadn't gotten that one-click-shopping patent.

Re:Analogue analogue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43967073)

I doubt you need to be under active investigation to come under scrutiny by an analyst, all you need to do is have similar call patterns as a suspected terrorist

Or come to the analyst's attention some other way. Girl he wants to stalk. Old high school enemy he still holds a grudge against. Politician of the wrong party. Ex-spouse. Guy who flipped him off on the freeway (or at least, the registered owner of the plate number).

Sure, that stuff is probably against the rules ... but they're already breaking the rules.

If it were a "modest" encroachment, ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966569)

...why keep the system so hush-hush?

Re:If it were a "modest" encroachment, ... (2)

Applekid (993327) | about a year ago | (#43966585)

...why keep the system so hush-hush?

And if the metadata so meaningless, why collect it?

Kieran Healy's article linked from TFS is really really great.

Re:If it were a "modest" encroachment, ... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#43966737)

...why keep the system so hush-hush?

And if the metadata so meaningless, why collect it?

... And if the reasoning behind it is as innocuous as they want us to think, why the desire to crucify Snowden for publicly disclosing the data collection?

Kieran Healy's article linked from TFS is really really great.

+5 Hell Yea

Re:If it were a "modest" encroachment, ... (1)

geekanarchy (769840) | about a year ago | (#43967187)

You have to read between the lines a bit. Their system is to store all metadata AND to record all phone calls. They can then go to a judge and get a warrant for calls that took place in the past, and (having previously recorded them) pull them up at will.

And metadata is a very broad term that encompases all data excluding the original. For example, "metadata" for a phone call would include electronically generated transcripts of the phone call. In theory (and probably practice) some algorithm scans these transcripts for keywords; on a match, they get a rubber stamp from a in-house judge, and then pass the records on to a human to do the real work.

Basically, someone figured out that you can use computers to wiretap the whole nation, and then did it. The whole constitution, legal framework, and morality be damned.

Where is the outrage? (5, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#43966571)

Where is the outrage over this? It's amazing, Clinton gets a blow job from an intern and he gets impeached by the House! But yet this happens and... nothing. Oh, sure, the media is -talking- about it, people are -talking- about it, but where are the protests? Where is the action? Revolutions have been fought over less than this!

Re:Where is the outrage? (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year ago | (#43966665)

Because the population is too busy sucking off the government dick^Wteat to care. Because that's what they voted for, to keep the children safe.

Re:Where is the outrage? (1)

jimbouse (2425428) | about a year ago | (#43966675)

Where is the outrage over this? It's amazing, Clinton gets a blow job from an intern and he gets impeached by the House! But yet this happens and... nothing. Oh, sure, the media is -talking- about it, people are -talking- about it, but where are the protests? Where is the action? Revolutions have been fought over less than this!

Clinton was impeached because he lied under oath. The blowjob was not the reason.

Study history before spouting off.

Re:Where is the outrage? (2)

sconeu (64226) | about a year ago | (#43966843)

And the Senate has violated its oath to protect the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic

And the President too, he swears to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Period.

Re:Where is the outrage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966865)

Except he wasn't impeached, only had an impeachment hearing which failed to reach the required vote to impeach him out of office.

Re:Where is the outrage? (1)

bored_engineer (951004) | about a year ago | (#43966965)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impeach#United_States

He was impeached by the house, but not tried by the senate.

Re:Where is the outrage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966927)

Ummh. Yeah, RIGHT. It REALLY was only about lying; not about political opponents ganging up because they hated the guy, and then used lying as the main pretext.

Then again, BJ was not the main thing either; but it sold better in context of public opinion, and then the "he lied to congress" was the legal sales point.
Different context, different sales; and both were pretty meager reasoning from actual Right or Wrong perspective.

Re:Where is the outrage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43967019)

The american people are waiting for the middle-east to come and meddle with your politics and give you an American "Spring"
Your elected officials are pissing on the Constitution and The declaration of Independence (which clearly states you have not only the right but the duty to overthrow such government).

Oh well, nothing to see here, just another day in the American Police State. Move along. Nothing happend.
Anybody want some mcdonalds? I just posted a nice pic on facebook! /sarcasm

Re:Where is the outrage? (1)

tukang (1209392) | about a year ago | (#43967131)

“In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” Mark Twain

Re:Where is the outrage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43967181)

Protests on July 4th, 2013. Do your own research and find a group of people in your area. Join them.

one thing seemingly missed (3, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | about a year ago | (#43966603)

I hear over and over in this discussion the salve "only the metadata has been recorded".

I'm guessing that's simply a function of limited technology, i.e., "today" that's just too much data to store. But in keeping with technologies amazing storage capacity growth, it's only a matter of time before the content is also recorded and archived. It's just too tempting not to.

Re:one thing seemingly missed (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#43966809)

I hear over and over in this discussion the salve "only the metadata has been recorded".

I'm guessing that's simply a function of limited technology,

I am sure that is part of it, but historically the US has had much less legal protection for "meta-data" than content. Before the use of the term meta-data, we called it a pen register. [wikipedia.org] Indiviaul pen registers did not require warrants and that makes the whole pen-register for everybody easier for these people to rationalize.

What about old fashioned snail mail (3, Interesting)

Dareth (47614) | about a year ago | (#43966819)

Does the post office or other government branch keep records of from to on regular old snail mail? Would that be acceptable if they did? Isn't that just meta data?

Re:one thing seemingly missed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966825)

What if the "terrorist" dials a wrong number and reaches you? Or that the "terrorist" uses the same accountant on the phone/email?
Would that make all your other connections as terrorist suspects too?

Meta data - traffic analysis (4, Insightful)

hhawk (26580) | about a year ago | (#43966619)

The government has long wanted better, meaning highly reliable means of conducting traffic analysis... who knows who, who talks to whom, etc. You can use this data for good or bad.. you can use it to break past the limits in typical "cells"... you can find the path/person who links from one cell to another..

My own take is there is a enough personal data and information in meta data that use of it deprives us of our rights to be secure in our home and in our papers.. our communications with others, Etc.

Back in the days of the Clipper chip, the chip had done into wide spread use it's use would have given the NSA, Etc nearly perfect traffic analysis since each chip would have it's own unique and cryptographically signed ID. Fast forward, everyone walking around with a cell phone has an unique ID, several in fact including their phone #, and that's the value of all the meta data.. it's often more important than what is being said, it is who is talking to whom...

Knowing everyone who talked to OBL in say 1995 or 1990 or 1985 would be helpful to find his network in 2001 or 2002, Etc. It can be helpful when tracking bad guys, but it can be used to track anyone for any reason and find their entire network of friends and family.

Re:Meta data - traffic analysis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966743)

What's your point?

Re:Meta data - traffic analysis (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#43966859)

My own take is there is a enough personal data and information in meta data that use of it deprives us of our rights to be secure in our home and in our papers.. our communications with others, Etc.

I think the very fact that the NSA, et al, consider this "social graph" data to be worth all this effort proves that the data is far too invasive. They simply wouldn't be doing it unless it allowed them to see so much of our private lives.

There's enough information in the metadata . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#43966643)

. . . to justify full voice recordings, if an NSA employee feels like it.

Or if a contractor with Booze Acid Ex-Stasi is bored, and wants some live realtime reality show.

So "guilt by asociation" instead of plain guilt? (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#43966653)

Oh yes, that makes me feel MUCH better. It concerns me that in the event I ever dialed a wrong number that I could end up on a terrorist watch list somewhere.

Basically everything (4, Informative)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#43966681)

You need content only to create initial suspicion. Metadata is quite enough to find out whom else to wiretap.

I do expect however that with the next NSA datacenter or at the latest the one after that they will try to go for full or nearly full voice data retention and analysis in the form for keword filters. I think this is approaching feasibility now. Then they can create initial suspicion from phone conversation contents. What they will also eventually want is full web browsing history, propably reduced to URIs, user-names and passwords. That one is a bit more tricky though, as it requires server-side cooperation for everything SSL, SSL interceptors are never truely invisible. Full email body retention and analysis are also certainly on that list and should be implemented shortly.

Just as a side-note let me remind everybody that all this has no preventative value against terrorism at all and servers only to identify politically undesirables early on and to create blackmail material for political use and similar applications. It may also serve to identify possible targets whenever the FBI needs to create a few more "terrorists", because there are not enough genuine ones.

Depends what other data you have. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966719)

If all you have is metadata that shows, say, Representative Smith had numerous after-hours calls with, Mr. Jones, and Jones also had numerous conversations with a Mr. Black and a Mr. Brown, then you can't tell much.

However, if from other sources -- Facebook, for example, indicating that Black is openly gay, and ISP records that indicate Brown frequently downloads gay erotica from Youporn.com -- then you can make inferences that Jones might also be -- although perhaps not openly -- gay, and by extension so might be Representative Smith. Now if Smith is also known for lobbying against gay marriage, then odds are his contacts with Jones aren't about discussing gay rights, and there might be something about Smith that he'd rather not have generally known.

If congresscritters really understood this, I imagine they'd be up in arms about this data gathering too.

The old, white guys knew... (5, Informative)

Bodhammer (559311) | about a year ago | (#43966777)

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!"
-Benjamin Franklin

"... God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive.
"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms."
-Thomas Jefferson

"The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing."
John Adams

"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government."
-Patrick Henry

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves."
-William Pitt

"If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin."
Samuel Adams

"The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."
Patrick Henry

But Do We Need This? (2, Interesting)

jasnw (1913892) | about a year ago | (#43966797)

I am a long-time bleeding-heart liberal type, and while I am aghast at what we’ve given up in the name of The War on Terrorism I can see the usefulness, and perhaps even the imperative, for the US to collect and analyze data of this sort. If, and a very important if, the use of the data is carefully monitored by third parties and there are clear guidelines for collection, protection, and use of the data. Back in the Good Old Days of the 20th Century enemies were spatially located (for the most part). Spy satellites and spy boots-on-the-ground could be and were used to keep track of what people who wanted to do us harm were up to (in theory, anyway). These could also be used on US citizens, and there were pretty clear rules about not doing so (rules that were, admittedly, overlooked or circumvented at times). These days, the people who need to be watched are all over the world and are best tracked via lines of communication, most importantly cell phone and internet technologies. That’s what this is all about, keeping track of what’s going on so there are few surprises like the 9/11 fiasco.

Now, can this be misused? You betcha it can. Faster than you can say Nixon (or your favorite Bad Guy’s name). However, to NOT collect and analyze these data is a bad idea as well. As always, there’s no perfect solution. I think those data need to be collected and analyzed to keep an eye on what’s happening, but we also need more transparency on the checks-and-balances put in place to make sure the data are used only for very clear purposes. Can this be done in today’s highly politicized, the-other-side-is-stupid, political environment? I don’t know, but I do think we need to try.

Content of my calls wasn't not listened to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966817)

I'd just like to say that, as a Canadian, I expect to be afforded certain rights, not just by my government, but by all governments I happen to interact with. Any country that fails to preserve my rights, including my right to privacy, is barbaric scum I will do all I can to avoid in the future. The US Government has apparently had full access to all my US based cloud internet services, as well as (I'm extrapolating) all phone calls I've made that route through there.

Much of the debate in the US has been over exactly how much data of Americans the NSA has been snooping on. For us foreigners, the answer is simple: all of it.

I'm not sure what I thought was going on before; I had some vague idea that Google etc. only gave data through court orders. It's clear now that any FISA request that didn't deal with Americans (eg anything dealing with Canadians, for example) was let through. The only fog is over how quick that process was; could they just type in my name and get my gmail inbox? Or did some office full of $15/hr drones at GoogleHappyPlex have to skim the request first?

I'm a bit pissed off, and I'm intent on divesting myself of the cloud. Thankfully I have some old email accounts located in Canada. IMAP is good enough.

Moving out of the US (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#43966989)

I expect that we'll see a trend of more and more services being hosted in freer jurisdictions than the US, especially for those who are privacy conscience.

They can find out that you are a terrorist suspect (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966855)

They can find out that you are a terrorist suspect: A dials a number, gets it wrong and calls you. You tell him that you are not the person he wanted to call. NSA records the call meta data without knowing what was said. Later A becomes a terrorist suspect and since NSA recorded that call, you become a terrorist suspect too.

Even better: A knows that his phone call meta data will be recorded and is indeed a prospective terrorist. He calls random people to create meta data. When the NSA learns that A is a terrorist everyone becomes a terrorist suspect by induction [wikipedia.org] .

Summary:You are a terrorist and you can do nothing about it.

One man's metadata is another man's treasure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966885)

Just sayin'...as AC...(hey wait, is Slashdot in on this too????)

Location, location, location (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966929)

timestamp, owner_id, dst_id, location (by cell phone tower)

    what does that amount to, over time?
A complete track record of your movements and associations, and the graph to others

No big deal, right?

It used to be... (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year ago | (#43966957)

...that pen traces required a warrant.

All this brouhaha about the government spying on metadata has been known by some of us for quite a while. This was known as "Total Information Awareness" a decade ago and Echelon before that (which didn't quite make the news because Echelon was *really* about looking at international traffic). People got all up in arms at the mere prospect of it and it went away in thle news, but it never really went away. Instead it got more funding. Companies like Facebook et alia claiming they don't participate are, quite frankly, lying.

  And to hear the defense of it that "we're not looking at the content" as if metadata isn't as important as content, consider that Facebook's and all other social media's /money/ is made on metadata - who your friends are, what you like, etc. Without metadata, facebook, skype, etc, wouldn't be profitable.

  I got disgusted with this shit in 2002, but talking about it back then just made people's eyes glaze over, at best (or thought you were a loonie conspiracist more likely) so I didn't talk much about it at all. And this is all I'm gonna say on this subject, because y'all are probably already tired of hearing of it on the news.

  Just be aware that what you post here, and in other places, isn't private. It never was. Email is a postcard unless you encrypt (I wrote about this before).

  Anyway, that's that.

--
BMO

(I wrote this elsewhere, but I think it sums up my thoughts well enough to re-use here)

Rest assured (2, Interesting)

Fuzzums (250400) | about a year ago | (#43966973)

China is probably tapping your emails as well.

Who watches the Watchers? (4, Insightful)

ChromaticDragon (1034458) | about a year ago | (#43966979)

It may indeed seem a good thing to archive all this sort of meta-data in order to facilitate some sort of specific data-mining operation. Proper controls may indeed be in place so that appropriate warrants must be obtained to look through the data for any particular individual or group.

But all of this depends heavily on trust. Do you TRUST your government (and all future versions of such) to constrain themselves to appropriate usage of the data and indeed for the integrity of the data overall? If you cannot see yourself trusting your worst imaginable politically opposite cretin with such power, this really ought not to be something you'd support.

What in the world would prevent a government from altering the data as they see fit to crucify whoever they'd like? You'd need not have an ironclad case for conviction to destroy folk. Just sufficient "evidence" to link them with child-pornography, drug-lords, or whatever may be deemed reprehensible and let the media finish the tar-and-feather job.

Maybe the various service providers maintain their own copies of the data. Maybe not. But the "old" way of depending on CALEA to turn on a tap after a warrant seems far less susceptible to blatant abuse than a system where all the taps are supposedly taken ahead of time.

Ironic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43966997)

National Security: Information so vital, ensuring that Americans NOT know it is the issue at hand.

Back to the OP's discussion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43967015)

"What Can You Find Out From Metadata?"

A lot.

But social media will make it much easier to generate intel cause the users organize the information for them analysts. Why? Social media is centralized, where as current communications are distributed (peer to peer), which is why the agency collects so much data.

Your info has already been voluntarily given up. (4, Informative)

rMortyH (40227) | about a year ago | (#43967079)

Did any of these people stop to consider that CPNI data is routinely sold by Verizon and all other carriers unless they specifically opt out?

How many Americans who are complaining about this have opted out of the CPNI sharing clause of their contracts?

You are already giving permission, by not opting out, to your wireless and landline carriers to sell your metadata to ANYONE for ANY REASON, including the government, who may buy it on the open market just like anyone else. This data is seldom anonymized, and when it is, you can still search for specific characteristics to find the information of a specific person. And, any entity willing to pay for the information may have it, and it can be bought through a third-party data aggregator who will de-anonymize it and bundle it with plenty of other interesting facts about YOU.

How many people have actually read their terms of service? Have they gone through the arcane process of opting out of the voluntary sharing of CPNI data? (Every year, for each carrier?) Will they now complain that no one warned them? Did they expect their politicians to keep them informed? If the politicians had tried, would they have listened? They didn't care when this became the norm 10 years ago, and now suddenly it's intrusive?

This is what happens when you don't pay attention.

As far as you know (2)

yusing (216625) | about a year ago | (#43967087)

"that the content of calls have remained private"

As Chevy Chase used to say: "As far as you know."

Doubt that the machines can be told to record conversations "of interest"? A week of MP3s doesn't take up much space.

no one is "listening" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43967089)

They've said over and over no one is "listening" to your calls, but they have never said they aren't being recorded or transcribed with a computer.

Soon you will not only be able to get a warrant to tap phones, but also to listen to every call they've made since this program has been started.

Also, given that its a secret program, I don't think they need a warrant. They didn't need a warrant to kill that 16 year-old kid, and they won't need a warrant to get all your info and ruin you. You only need warrants for judicial punishment, not extrajudicial punishment.

Re:no one is "listening" (3, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#43967157)

Exactly. We've hit a bizarre point in the history of the US where the law no longer constrains what the government can and can't do. It used to be that if the government wanted to expand its powers it would try to pass a law, today they don't even care about that formality.

Wrong question (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#43967119)

"How much you can get wrong from metadata?" is a better question. A mistyped phone call could put you in deep water.

Thats the same problem of using tools that identifies with "99% of accuracy" on everyone. You have 1% of mismatching the right person, and an unknown percent (usually, pretty high) of matching the wrong person.

You, or someone that you care about will get a collateral damage, and it will be pretty ugly. They just don't admit when they are wrong.

Metadata - key (1)

judoguy (534886) | about a year ago | (#43967189)

The "metadata" is basically the key used to look up content when the dragon awakens to your existence.

I also love how Feinstein, when asked about this massive data collection, side stepped the question and claimed that this was all with congressional oversight. Very clever misdirection of the concern.

We never thought this was a rouge operation. The whole fucking problem is that it *IS* government policy.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>