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What the Surveillance State Does With Your Private Data 81

Posted by timothy
from the they-hate-that-expression dept.
Lasrick writes "Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic writes up a new report (and infographic) from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. 'What the Government Does With Americans' Data' is the best single attempt I've seen to explain all of the ways that surveillance professionals are collecting, storing, and disseminating private data on U.S. citizens. The report's text and helpful flow-chart illustrations run to roughly 50 pages. Unless you're already one of America's foremost experts on these subjects, it is virtually impossible to read this synthesis without coming away better informed.."
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What the Surveillance State Does With Your Private Data

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  • Cough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:57AM (#45091809)

    Unless you're already one of America's foremost experts on these subjects,

    Okay first, two things: Other countries are doing this too. Their experts are not any less 'expert-y' than the USA is. In fact, I'm betting they can at least build a data center that doesn't spontaniously shoot lightning at the equipment and catch fire. Soo... sorry but maybe you need to just stick with "expert" without the qualifier there, mate.

    Second, why do you have to be a "foremost expert" on this? I see plenty of people in this thread that know everything! *cough* But more seriously; You don't have to work for the government, or be a security expert, to figure out how they use the data. Look at what they have access to, look at their stated goals, then forget the stated goals and look at what they're actually trying to do and have done... and it's easy-peasy:

    They're supplying the internet with limitless porn captured from surveillance footage. Duh. Where do you think all the crappy amateur pics come from?

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Its a good list you have:
      Operation CHAOS, the new FISA era, retrospective telco immunity, the emerging domestic Fusion centres, use of National Security letters, domestic bulk database
      searches (40 years of data if terror related), the new style of evidence needed vs old legal protections, profiling, sharing, data retention numbers (years, 30 years),
      sneak and peek, 'interviews', DHS, TECS (was Treasury Enforcement Communication System), your data for 75 years, biometrics, policy on US domestic email searc
    • Okay first, two things: Other countries are doing this too.

      And blah, blah blah. You sound exactly like the sheep that go on about "Well, if you're doing nothing wrong...", an argument I always reject out of hand.

      • And blah, blah blah. You sound exactly like the sheep that go on about "Well, if you're doing nothing wrong...", an argument I always reject out of hand.

        Umm... da fuq you smoking dude? This is about the author's assertion that an American expert would be better than a Non-American expert. It's pure patriotism without any supporting facts to go along with it. In fact, the facts we have suggest other countries have experts on this sort of thing too. Other countries are doing this sort of thing. As much as America is.

        How the hell do you get from a rebuttal of blind patriotism to "herp a derp sheep herp herp ... doing nothing wrong. hurrr durr" ?!

        • by lgw (121541)

          Perhaps an American is more likely to be expert in the names and details of secret (until Snowden) American surveillance programs?

  • by hsmith (818216) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:59AM (#45091835)
    So it can leverage everything against you sometime in the future.

    Hey Mr. Congressman, don't oppose the funding bill for our new program, those texts you send 10 years ago would be terrible to be leaked

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly.

      Big brother wants to collect it for "fighting terrorism" and they are completely against legal provisions preventing the data from being used for any other reason. But at the end of the day, they can and WILL use it for anything they want to use it against you for, just like any other fascist police state.

      ALWAYS require a trial by JURY, and if you are a Juror, and you care about the freedom in this country, then you must rule in favor of those exercising their constitutional rights.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This is probably why Israel is able to have such coercive power over American politicians, since all data siphoned from Americans is provided to Israeli intelligence unredacted, on the honor-system that Israel will do a good job of censoring the material themselves. It's funny how the mainstream media covered the other Snowden leaks, but stayed silent about this one.

        Yeah, smart move - good for National Security. This is probably what Michael Hastings stumbled upon before his untimely execution.

        -- Ethanol

    • Send a text 10 years ago trying to find a hooker? Potentially end your political career. Shut down the government and risk world-wide economic collapse, possibly as even your stated goal? Get ready to be re-elected.

      Honestly, though, considering just how far politicians go to be elected and how much they're willing to smear their competitor, the real question is why aren't more of these supposed texts leaked anyways? If all it takes is 140-characters or less of text to blackmail Mr. Congressman, how coul

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      So it can leverage everything against you sometime in the future.

      Hey Mr. Congressman, don't oppose the funding bill for our new program, those texts you send 10 years ago would be terrible to be leaked

      As the Miranda act states you have the right to remain silent only if you specifically invoke those rights prior to interregation. The question is, when does the interregation begin? Do you really get to know about the double secret probation or do you find out on your way to the gallows?

  • FTA (Score:5, Informative)

    by SternisheFan (2529412) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @10:04AM (#45091901)
    Data Retention By the Numbers

    5 years: How long the National Security Agency keeps “metadata” about all Americans’ domestic and international phone calls without suspicion of wrongdoing

    5 years: How long the National Counterterrorism Center can keep and search databases of non-terrorism information about Americans

    5 to 20 years: Retention periods for databases that store at least some information from border searches of Americans’ laptops, phones, hard drives, and more

    6 years: Time period, beginning with the start of surveillance, that the NSA can keep Americans’ incidentally gathered communications

    20 to 30 years: Amount of time the FBI keeps information collected via assessments and National Security Letters, even when it is irrelevant to a current investigation

    30 years: Time period that Suspicious Activity Reports with no nexus to terrorism are kept by the FBI

    1 Billion and growing: Records in the FBI’s Investigative Data Warehouse

    1,000,000 sq. ft.: Size of National Security Agency’s data center (opening in 2014)

    41 billion: Communications records stored by NSA’s XKEYSCORE system every 30 days

    • Yeah, like they're not keeping ALL the data forever.

      • by Gothmolly (148874)

        Sure they're not.

      • But do they do a 7 pass wipe and then shread the drive after, like they do with their own secret stuff? (Do they even delete it? Sorry, I took your data through a border checkpoint, so we get 20 more years...)
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      75 years on page 35 :)
    • And the tax and (newly invasive) healthcare records?

    • LOVEINT is a thing. NSA lied to congress. They were doing this without approval prior to the Patriot Act. The statistics are lies unless significant evidence to the contrary is provided, the less extraordinary claim shall prevail, according to the Razor of Occam: They are deceptive liars and their words should not be believed.

      5 years is just long enough to check my interest in political parties. We have a secret ballot for a reason. The spying must end, where is the hard, peer reviewed evidence that su

    • 0: the number of times they're actually telling you the truth.
  • Short answer ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @10:10AM (#45091985) Homepage

    The short answer is "anything they damned well want to".

    If in 10 years they need to dig up dirt on you, they'll have it. If they want to question you because you knew someone with a criminal past, they will.

    They're collecting it for terrorism reasons, but using for anything else they damned well please.

    • Nobody gets it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 10, 2013 @11:03AM (#45092681)

      I can't believe that nobody gets this yet. Sure, the data can be used for blackmail, intimidation, or extortion. But that's merely a bonus to them, the icing on the cake. It's not the reason they wanted a surveillance state in the first place.

      The real value of the data isn't the data itself -- it's how much it justifies in government spending. We are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars per year. It doesn't matter where the money goes, or what comes of it. What matters is that it passes through their hands, giving them the opportunity to leverage that cash flow for personal gain.

      The real story here is even more despicable than blackmail, intimidation, and extortion. The real story is greed, and the power of coercive authority being used to satisfy that greed. They are after money, period.

      As demonstrated over and over again throughout history, power is merely a stepping stone to riches.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You've got it backwards. Money is a stepping stone to power. These guys are after power, not necessarily monetary wealth. Currency always collapses sooner or later. The real rush is abusing your power, raping young children, lying in congress and the media, starting wars, and then getting away with it!

        Plus it pays off to rub other people's backs that don't have that power accessible in first person.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        As demonstrated over and over again throughout history, power is merely a stepping stone to riches

        And vice-versa.

    • > They're collecting it for terrorism reasons

      An interesting phrase in that it runs both ways.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @10:14AM (#45092037) Homepage
    for example say you have an unfavorable opinion of the government. perhaps that unfavorable opinion has been discovered and lets say the G20 or G8 is coming to your neighborhood. You've printed off a few dozen peaceful protest signs and plan to head to the streets, when Mr Doe and Mr Cardholder show up at your door with a few questions and you're 'detained' for them. I guess we missed the protest now, didnt we? now what if all your friends enjoyed the same fate?

    or say someone in your apartment is pirating movies, and the RIAA decides they want to work with ICE and the FBI to extract royalties and blow through a round of biblical punishment 101. sure, you might not have done anything wrong but im sure your browsing history and the sheer number of video clips you've watched on youtube for a similar artist could be used to prove intent.

    finally, what if you're running as the fabled third party? all is going well until you mention reigning in the surveillance state and shuttering the war machine. Suddenly the public starts seeing leaks about your browsing habits, or your ties to a friend who once wrote a scathing email to the israeli embassy.
    • by ai4px (1244212)

      for example say you have an unfavorable opinion of the government. perhaps that unfavorable opinion has been discovered and lets say the G20 or G8 is coming to your neighborhood. You've printed off a few dozen peaceful protest signs and plan to head to the streets, when Mr Doe and Mr Cardholder show up at your door with a few questions and you're 'detained' for them. I guess we missed the protest now, didnt we? now what if all your friends enjoyed the same fate?

      This has already happened at a few school board meetings. In one case a guy was asking questions at the end of the meeting and the school board had him arrested. He was charged with assaulting a police officer. A few days later, they dropped the charges and cut him lose. But he had missed the opportunity to address the school board. man arrested [wbaltv.com]

  • "All your data belong to us. We'll use it any way we damn well want, Citizen. Now go back to work so you can pay taxes."

    • by darrellg1 (969068)
      Now get back to work so you can pay us.

      FTFY
    • by PPH (736903)

      [Sigh] OK. Back to my crappy job at Rocky Mountain Power in Bluffdale, Utah.

      Let me give this knob on the substation voltage regulator a spin and see what happens.

  • Yeah, right (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PPH (736903) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @10:20AM (#45092123)

    I stopped at the little "info-graphic". Where's the DEA? We've already heard about their Special Operations Division [slashdot.org] and how it hides the true sources of intelligence from defendants. So I'm going to doubt that this article covers the entire scope of information sharing. It may be accurate, but I think there are still a lot of holes.

    And what about unofficial information sharing? Got a buddy in the FBI? What to know what your business competitors are up to? No problem. We have their files right here.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Same with the CIA and domestic operations.
      • Re:Yeah, right (Score:4, Interesting)

        by PPH (736903) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @11:01AM (#45092665)

        The other thing that bothers me: The graphic shows an information flow out from the NCTC to the Treasury Department. Now, I understand information flowing in. Who is funding which terrorists*. But there is no conceivable enforcement action that the Treasury/IRS can take in a terrorism case.

        *In theory. Practically, a major terrorist attack (think 9/11) can easily be funded by a very small cash flow compared to typical corporate expenditures. Nobody spotted Bernie Madoff. The money he took that they still can't find could theoretically create an endowment that could support a few terrorist cells in perpetuity.

        • by Qzukk (229616)

          But there is no conceivable enforcement action that the Treasury/IRS can take in a terrorism case

          Isn't that how they took down the mobsters, though? I'm sure the government figures they can use whatever weapons they've got.

        • by Valdrax (32670)

          But there is no conceivable enforcement action that the Treasury/IRS can take in a terrorism case.

          The Treasury Department is the one that requests that foreign-held (and domestically-held) assets of suspected terrorists and other criminals be frozen. That probably won't stop an attack in progress as part of an emergency counter-response, but it severely hampers the ability to plan future attacks and to evade justice for past ones.

          • by PPH (736903)

            The Treasury Department is the one that requests that foreign-held (and domestically-held) assets of suspected terrorists

            That would be a small attache case full of $100 dollar bills. Good luck stopping that.

            but it severely hampers the ability to plan future attacks and to evade justice for past ones.

            Not really. These people can live in caves. Or as the guest of Pakistan. Good luck drying up a bunch of very small cash flows.

            The financial intelligence as an input might be useful. But in the end, the people that do the enforcement and need the information is Seal Team 6.

            and other criminals

            This is what it boils down to. Searching for my dentist's off shore bank account.

            • by Valdrax (32670)

              That would be a small attache case full of $100 dollar bills. Good luck stopping that. ...
              Not really. These people can live in caves. Or as the guest of Pakistan. Good luck drying up a bunch of very small cash flows.

              I think you have a very... media-cultivated view of how terrorists work. Just because they can survive off the land doesn't mean that they can be effective terrorists while doing so. According to the CIA, al Qaeda had operating expenses in the range of $30 million per year before 9/11. That's not a "small attache case full of $100 dollar bills" enterprise -- that's a major, international criminal enterprise / political movement. We have confiscated hundreds of millions of dollars from them and their maj

        • by hazeii (5702)

          Plenty of people knew about Madoff; it seems their decisions were whether to take the silver dollar or just give it a miss (admittedly some people did ring alarm bells).

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      And where is the sharing of that information with Israel [slashdot.org]? And where is the part where this is not surveillance, but directly hacking into personal machines and servers [theguardian.com] planting backdoors on them? Also, if your private data have some corporation interested on it [reuters.com], would it go there?
      • by bware (148533)

        And where is the sharing of that information with Israel?

        Pages 45, 47, 74, 78 (last two are references).

        And where is the part where this is not surveillance, but directly hacking into personal machines and servers planting backdoors on them?

        The title is "What the goverment does with Americans' data", not "How the government gets American's data".

        I'm not arguing that what the NSA is doing is not evil, just that is not what this report addresses. However, one glaring omission is data-sharing with the DEA.

  • by Tasha26 (1613349) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @10:41AM (#45092403) Homepage
    industrial espionage, finding dirty secrets of people with influence, spying on the political opposition, ... betting on the stock market (oops already said that).
  • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc@nospAm.carpanet.net> on Thursday October 10, 2013 @10:41AM (#45092409) Homepage

    Their distortions continue in part because no matter how many times President Obama, NSA Director Keith Alexander, Clapper and others egregiously mislead the public in their statements about surveillance, news organizations treat them as honest men and report on subsequent statements as if they're presumptively true.

    Exactly, anyone familiar with this: http://www.mpp.org/our-work/campaigns/drug-czar/gao-rejects-us-rep-pauls.html [mpp.org]

    Who then has watched the news media just lap up every word the ONDCP puts out as if the drug czar was reading the word of god off golden tablets for them; knows this is nothing new, but is a huge problem.

    These people get way more credibility than they rightly deserve.

  • Imagine a boot stomping on a face, forever.


    You're that face.
  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @11:17AM (#45092865)
    The idea that the United States clumsily, but accidentally, brought the terrorism situation and surveillance state that followed on itself can be approached from enough angles that it represents an undeniable truth... or does it fully? We all now know that the tin foil hat crowd was not only right all along, the didn't take it far enough. Perhaps we are still not taking it far enough. With extreme paranoia over our governments conspiracy to subvert its people now wholly justified, perhaps creating the terrorist situation was intentional and represents a broader and more sinister plan that has been in play longer than we know with goals more far reaching than we are prepared to entertain.

    If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. - James Madison

    As vague as I'm being, I know that I am still presenting a level of paranoia that is completely insane... or am I? It sounds crazy now, and I hope it is.
    • by Prune (557140)
      Not to be a pedant, but there is no record that Madison actually said or wrote the quote you've posted. See here: http://technoccult.net/archives/2011/10/16/did-james-madison-say/ [technoccult.net]
      • by wjcofkc (964165)
        The source of many great quotes can only be taken with a grain of salt. Regardless, someone originally said it and it sounds good in respect to the topic. : p
        • by Prune (557140)
          Sure, but why not use the quote that has matching semantics and actually belongs to Madison? "The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home." It is not stylistically inferior.
    • by JigJag (2046772)

      I was just about to post something similar. The full PDF report [brennancenter.org] implies that all this we see in the USA now was brought about by the events of 11 Sep 2001. I believe this is disingenuous since it artificially ties surveillance to terrorism. By making even a slight connection, people would tend to approve of the situation, even if tacitly.

      It's true that the Department of Homeland Security was created after the attacks, however we would be lying to ourselves if we were to believe the machine was not already i

      • by wjcofkc (964165)
        I was thinking back a bit further, back in the early 80's when we either did or didn't train Bin-laden depending on who you ask. We did train our future enemies though. I don't think any particular act of terrorism was deliberate on behalf of our government. Rather, that things were carefully molded, set into motion, and strategically guided. Any one of many terror scenario possibilities could have led to what we have now - not just 9/11 - it was just a matter of ensuring that something sufficient eventuall
      • by wjcofkc (964165)
        Upon further consideration, shit is so fucked up perhaps the government did instigate 9/11, and going even further actually made sure Al Gore lost the electoral vote despite winning the popular vote.
    • by mi (197448)

      If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. - James Madison

      Little did Madison know about "personal income tax" and, because that just was not bad enough, "universal health care".

      To enforce these fine programs, the government needs to know an awful lot about the citizenry... Not just incomes and wealth (the IRS), but also health- and credit-history (Obamacare) of all subjects will soon be at the fingertips of the Executive government...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 10, 2013 @11:57AM (#45093389)

    ONE (the most important) - to 'read' the mind of the public. Your masters control you via propaganda- control messages disseminated via mainstream media and public schooling. The NSA provides near real-time feedback as to the effectiveness of any given propaganda project, allowing that project to be refined for greater effectiveness, or even aborted (see the recent failure of Obama's intended holocaust of Syria- killed by an inability to gain public support despite a saturated mainstream media project demonising Syria at the time).

    TWO- to identify ALL emerging grassroots social and political activity, allowing groups and potential leaders to be co-opted or eliminated BEFORE they reach significant levels of power and/or influence.

    THREE- to gather blackmail and coercion intelligence on ALL people in potential positions of power and influence, so they can be 'persuaded' to follow the 'correct' agendas as and when required. The mainstream media, for instance, was created in its modern form as a 'scandal' mechanism to allow the ire of the sheeple to be directed at ANY target designated by those that rule. Assange, and the recent rape scandal that ruined the prospects of one of France's likely next leaders shows this tactic in action.

    It should be noted that throughout Human History, intelligence agencies have ALWAYS existed to serve the above three listed agendas. Fighting crime and 'terrorism' (which is almost non-existent outside of state-sponsered terror by nations like the USA, Britain, and Israel) has always been the domain of ordinary policing. NSA full surveillance is about YOU. Who you are, what you think, and who you may become.

    • by koan (80826)

      So you worked for them.

      Way back when there was an org called the OSI, and some earlier incarnations, the going thread was "All you to topple a government is 3% of the people".

      What you posted is *precisely* what the NSA does, if anyone doubts this just Google "The Vengeful Librarians".

  • Considering all of this has materialized after the concept of corporate lobbying I'd have to say that what doesn't fall into what the goberment is directly looking for: (actual terrorists, and undermine the lives of individuals they do not like, and corporate secrets sold to competitors), the rest is probably sold as marketing data. This would be congruent to the 3 pronged, both sides played against the middle template of the war on drugs, yet another ponzi scheme just like the war on terror. Just goes to
  • In my state the Gestapo even searches closed purses.

    The out of control Surveillance State is becoming a worse and worse deal every day, right, Wade?

  • If the entire security apparatus is built around you conducting your business, whether it be terrorism or shopping at Amazon, via the Internet then the obvious solution is "Don't use the Internet".

    Then what do they have? All the information that has been public for decades.

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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