NSA Mass Surveillance: Biggest Big Data Story

When people talk about the US National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA), the talk usually centers on privacy, with good reason. Still, it’s not the only subject worth discussing. The volume of data collected by the NSA and the associated costs make it the ultimate in Big Data case studies. […]

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.forbes.com

Very interesting read.  “When people talk about the US National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA), the talk usually centers on privacy, with good reason. Still, it’s not the only subject worth discussing. The volume of data collected by the NSA and the associated costs make it the ultimate in Big Data case studies. What can it tell us about data and business? What can it tell us about business risk and the potential benefits and consequences of Big Data investments?   –  The agency’s exact budget is a government secret, but estimates put it around $10 billion per year. Although not all of that is devoted to surveillance, it’s reasonable to conclude that something in the ballpark of $5 billion goes to fund NSA data gathering each year. This may not be the clear-cut biggest Big Data application (Google’s revenue was $66 billion last year, for example), but it’s substantial, focused and paid for by the public. We ought to discuss what we’re getting for the money.   The budget is not the only cost of any Big Data program. Data gathering and analysis has an impact on public perception and everyday business practices. Do it wrong, and you could run into a lot of costs you never expected. NSA programs have led to costs that the government and public may not have anticipated: correcting functional problems, lost business to US companies, additional security costs to US individuals and businesses seeking to protect private data and the lost influence due to damaged credibility of US government and businesses.   Spies have always depended on communication surveillance to obtain information. Stealing documents, listening in on conversations and cracking the codes of secret messages are basics of the profession. Electronics have been part of the mix for decades: the British used an elaborate electronic surveillance system to listen in on captured German officers during the 1940s. What’s new is the volume and breadth of information gathered.    Communication surveillance is a major part of the NSA’s mission (paired with protecting sensitive US communications). Years before Edward Snowden leaked details of the NSA’s mass surveillance of US citizens, Evan Coldewey of TechCrunch reported “NSA to store yottabytes of surveillance data in Utah mega-repository”, though that figure was quickly challenged and a later update revised the figure to “not so much”. While Coldewey, writing in 2009, may have been a little off-base on the quantity, he was right on target when he said the purpose was to store data from extensive surveillance programs. In 2012, James Bamford of Wired placed the cost of building that data repository at $2 billion, and quoted an unnamed NSA official stating, “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

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