GG: I think this will be the time the world realizes that the US and its closest allies are trying to build a surveillance system that has as its primary objective the elimination of privacy globally, by which I mean that everyone’s communications electronically will be collected, stored, analyzed and monitored by the US government.
Think about that for a moment, and it's ludicrous. It's not reality, it's paranoid fantasy. It's not the product of reason but of delusion.*
If everyone's communications were electronically collected, stored, analyzed, and monitored by the US government, how many people would it take to do that? Computers, we are told, can "mine" data. But not by themselves. We haven't built Skynet yet; we don't have a computer capable of such independent action, or even of self-awareness. The problem of consciousness and self-awareness necessary to create an intellectual distinction between "self" and "object" such as to be aware one could "know" data, is far beyond the capability of the most advanced computer available; and probably always will be.
So for a computer program to mine data, the program has to be written; then it has to be run; and someone, at least one human being, has to put an eyeball on the results, and decide what to do with them. How many human beings does it take to look at the results of the data mining of every piece of electronic communications on the planet? Not half of them; technology means we don't need a 1:1 ratio. But how many?
The world population is estimated at 7 billion. Not nearly all of those people are engaged in electronic communications, but still, let's say half are, so 3.5 billion. The US population is 316 million. If we employed about half the US population, or 158 million people, in tracking the electronic communications of everyone else, they could each track about 20 people per day, all day, every day. Frankly, much more than 20 people and you'd start to lose efficiency, I think. And of course some of those 20 people apiece would have to be employees of the US government. Somebody's gotta watch the watchers, right?
Including the military (but not the Snowdens), the federal government employs about 4.1 million people. If we engaged every one of those people in spying on the entire planet, they'd each have to keep track of 853 people every day, all day. That's if you want government to know what everyone else on the planet is saying. Just having the data is, apparently, meaningless. Ask Google. Ask Verizon. Ask AT&T. They have this stuff already, or a lot of it; but no one is accusing them of "knowing" this data. Even Google "reading" e-mail is just a program looking for and identifying a set of keywords. There is no group of human beings reading every e-mail sent through Google mail and deciding what ad to pop up in response to it.
Knowing takes human beings. I know what I am typing here, but my computer no more "knows" what these words mean than my cat does. Knowledge takes human beings. And how is one human being going to "know" what 853 human beings are saying all day, every day?
And I haven't even addressed what kind of data storage and computational power it would take to "data mine" all the electronic communications of the entire world. This isn't science fiction; someone somewhere doesn't push a button and the blinkenlights blink and the spiztensparkens spit, and an answer pops out. The sheer weight of data would overwhelm any system; by the time you had analyzed something, you'd find out in 2003 that Osama Bin Laden was determined to strike in the US.
Maybe. If he was stupid enough to use electronic communications, instead of couriers, as we know Al Qaeda usually does.
You may say I'm stretching the meaning of the verb "to know" here, but what else can it mean? This data is generated even as I press the button to publish this post. It's generated when I hit "send" on an e-mail, or a text message; it's generated when I push "Call" and make a phone call. That's not even news. Who "knows" that data is apparently the scare point. But who realistically can? If the US government is engaged in a nefarious plot to know all the electronic communications of the world, then the people in charge of that are delusional and mad, and I'm worried about them.
But so far the only evidence I see of delusion is the guy saying this is all possible and its going to happen. And he doesn't work for the government.
Or so he says.....
*but remember, this isn't about Glenn Greenwald. It can't possibly be.