It’s not as though any of this should be a surprise. The last administration left the building with congress still voting on what it would do about all the companies that had helped it with its at-the-time unprecedented access into our personal information. Remember the FBI wanting to know what library books we were checking out? Yeah, like that.
The trick was always a matter of finding a processor capable of handling the load, looking for keywords and such in the billions upon billions of bytes swimming through the internet and social media.
I’ve never assumed any of these things were private. Not telephone calls to DMs on FB. Why? Because I knew they had the technology and had been given the right to use it. We didn’t fight hard enough against the warrantless searches of the Bush administration. The law? Well, the law can be rewritten in a moment if necessary. Rights? You have the right to the inside of your own head. Yep. That’s it. That’s the only place you have privacy. That and, allegedly, the marriage bed.
Is it horrifying? Hell, yeah. But after all the running around and shrieking is over, we need to ask ourselves. What the fuck are they using all this data for? Why is it that the FBI and other organizations have had to construct terror plots themselves while they miss something like the Boston Marathon bombing coming down the pike?
What the fuck is going on? Oh, yeah… they’re listening to everyone. They’re just not doing anything with the information. Or are they still overwhelmed by the mountain of data, the inability to accurate sift through the myriad instances of the words “terrorism,” or “democracy” without the tried and true method of just having humans listen to or read them?
Are our deepest secrets laid bare for nothing? For no gain at all? We already know the companies can give away our information. Congress said as much when this came up last time. We let them all off the hook. So the question is now why are they giving the information away for free? Who gains?
And who are they watching? Social misfits? Pro-Democracy groups? Occupiers? Firebaggers? Teabaggers? Vegans? Pagans? UFO freaks? American Idol fans? Forensic anthropologists? Creationists? Atheists?
With all this data mining going on, you’d think they’d be able to bust human traffickers, eh? Catch a few more real criminals? But they don’t seem to be great at anything, really. And we can’t blame it all on stupid cops who’d rather beat someone half to death than actually work at solving a crime, nor the review boards that pat them on the head and send them out to do it again.
If this is a world-dominating conspiracy, folks, they’re really fucking bad at all of it. Massive surveillance that accomplishes… nothing. It doesn’t help the President learn about incipient scandals before the ship of state crashes into them. It doesn’t help the military avoid getting into terribly destructive quagmires, it doesn’t help the controlling party avoid screwing the pooch, it doesn’t help the minority party avoid committing suicide.
It does, however, piss off the people.
It would be ironic if it were this, of all things, that managed to piss everyone off enough to finally truly challenge our government. It seems to be one of the least destructive things it’s currently doing, given that it doesn’t seem to be directly harming anyone. Indirectly, sure, but primarily because people are discovering that what they thought was private actually wasn’t. There IS no security.
Cops in New York City deal with crime by stopping and frisking young men… getting them to reveal hidden contraband. They’re not using this multi-billion dollar apparatus to go after the real criminals. They’re not using this data-mining leviathan the chase the (mostly white) kingpins.
I’d hazard a guess that 80 to 90 percent of everything PRISM intercepts is functionally useless. Information that does no one any good whatsoever. Meaningless. White noise. False positives. It would be as if the show Person of Interest turned up most of the time people who were in no danger at all. They’d simply triggered a check routine because of unrelated activity.
People really don’t like being spied on. Even if they are pretending they’re not aware of it.
Will anything come of this scandal? Maybe. But I see it as a logical expansion of what we already knew existed.
And I’m still curious what the hell they’re doing with all of this information.