Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Electronic Frontier Foundation Government Privacy The Courts United States

NSA Wants To Dump the Phone Records It Gathered Over 14 Years (thenextweb.com) 56

According to The Next Web, the NSA would like to get rid of something that a lot of people wish they'd never had in the first place: phone records that the agency has collected over a decade and a half (more, really) of mass surveillance. However, the EFF wants to make sure that the evidence of snooping doesn't get buried along with the actual recorded data. From the article: [T]he government says that it can't be sued by bodies like the EFF. The organization is currently involved in two pending cases seeking a remedy for the past 14 years of illegal phone record collection. EFF wrote a letter (PDF) to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court last December which it has now made public, explaining that it is ready to discuss options that will allow destruction of the records in ways that still preserve its ability to prosecute the cases. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out: if the government doesn't agree to a discussion about how to handle these phone records, it's possible that they will remain on file for years to come. Plus, it could allow the NSA to avoid being held accountable for its illegal mass surveillance.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NSA Wants To Dump the Phone Records It Gathered Over 14 Years

Comments Filter:
  • Plus, it could allow the NSA to avoid being held accountable for its illegal mass surveillance.

    How would that work? If might relieve them for responsibility for continuing to keep it (assuming they never use it again) but it won't waive potential illegal gathering and keeping in the past (subject to statute of limitations, if present).

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why exactly hasn't there been any accountability for violations of the 4th amendment on a massive scale?

      Ultimately the politicians answer to the American people. The American people just, apparently, decided that this was all A-OK!

      In a just world, there would be several dozens of the people who made these decisions in prison now for treason against the united states, and failure to uphold their oath to protect the constitution from enemies foreign and domestic. I'm not talking the peon NSA worker-bees in

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @01:04PM (#51374459)
    Nobody with a shred of common sense would actually believe that the government would actually erase all of this data. There will absolutely be copies of it on a secure, secret server somewhere in Spookland. This is nothing but a diversionary tactic.
    • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @01:29PM (#51374675) Journal

      How stupid do they think we are?

      Looking at the voting records over the years, you might not want to know the answer to that question... Suffice to say, it's not pretty..

      And yes, there is no way of ever knowing what records are being kept. Just assume the worst..

      • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @02:03PM (#51374937)

        I don't think voters are stupid. That's really not fair. The reason for their "stupidity" is that they're attempting to fight against an evolved bureaucracy and two party system. These things have had generations to figure out how to be insensitive to mere individual voters, why do you think any random group of voters has a chance?

        We've come to see the government in the dual role of the bogeyman and our savior. We complain about it while voting to give it extra powers because we're trained to see the government or some law as the solution to every problem.

        • And the two parties are virtually indistinguishable in action...

        • ...because we're trained...

          That's no excuse. Transcending our "training" is our problem and obligation. All choices are personal.

          • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

            That's the theory, to be sure. In reality, few people really *want* to.

            If the government tells you its going to take care of things, it requires not only some degree of courage to tell it to get lost, it also requires someone to come up with a better idea.

            Let's face it. The government is looking like it is going to be our enforced charity and health care provider because no one can be bothered to even come up with an alternative plan. Just the thought of the government not being involved in health care o

    • How much space would fourteen years' worth of compressed metadata take up? I strongly suspect a regular thumb drive would be up to the task. How much space would fourteen years' worth of speech-to-text (or manually transcribed, for higher priority targets) call transcripts compressed with language-specific PPM algorithms require? Doable on a four digit budget, I'm sure. Perhaps three.

      Now, when is the last time anyone in the intelligence community was given criminal or civil penalties (or even lost their
      • by clodney ( 778910 )

        A quick google search says that Americans make 3 billion calls a day.

        Metadata consists of at least originating number, called number, time, and duration. Call it 64 bytes per call. Add in cell tower location data and it can be much bigger.

        Directory information changes over time, so if you are looking at a 14 year old record, you need to know who held each of those numbers at the time the call was made. So each call has linkages to 2 different pieces of directory information, call it 200 bytes per entry.

        • > Metadata consists of at least originating number, called number, time, and duration. Call it 64 bytes per call.

          Each phone number needs 34 bits (call it 5 bytes, 40 bits), start time 32 bits, and duration 16 bits. So 17 bytes with dumb storage, no compression, etc.

          The sorted field (start time) trivially goes to nearly nothing. Which field depends on how you store it. (If it's a simple log in chronological order, there would one timestamp (with 1-second resolution), followed by a few thousand calls made

          • If we're talking about an actual database, I see a few issues with your metric.
            First, data alignment - due to the way modern computers are designed, it's probably cheaper/faster to pad out things like 5 byte values to 8 bytes. In addition, this would better allow for capturing country code - their interest in all phone calls is one thing, but I'd estimate that they're at least an order of magnitude more interested in international calls.

            By the same token, I'd have start time be 64 bits. This gives them th

        • Hmm. Yes, I should have looked that up and crunched the numbers before giving any out-of-my-ass estimates. I'd no idea it was on the order of three billion calls per day. But how big would that number be once the high volume callers (telemarketers, customer service, etc.) were vetted and either eliminated or stored in a separate low-interest database? I suspect you'd lose an order of magnitude there. Perhaps several.

          Also, 64 bytes is far too big for a decent tailor-made algorithm. There's no need for a t
        • A petabyte of storage isn't really anything when you are talking data center sized storage. It wouldn't even be a gallon jug full of microSD cards [xkcd.com].
        • Add in cell tower location data and it can be much bigger.

          I forgot to respond to this point. You could enumerate all of the towers in America with what, 18 bits? Even if you listed latitude and longitude compressed with PPM and some kind of last-known journal, it wouldn't be nearly as big you'd think (given that most people don't travel a lot.) And cell tower based pseudo-GPS can get you close enough for a street address most of the time. At the end of the day with all optimizations applied I'm still reasonably confident we're well under 24 bytes on average, on a

      • The only people that lose their jobs or are prosecuted are the whistle blowers who let the American people know the government is breaking the law.

        Jesus, typing that really brought home just how fucked our country is. What kind of bizarro world am I living in? How much longer can our government continue to operate with a complete lack of accountability and integrity?

        Time to pack up the patriotism, and pass the popcorn. This shithole is going down in flames, and probably sooner rather than later.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      Actually, they probably want to get rid of it so they can free up disk space for the new stuff they want. They probably already have most of the useful information they wanted out of the old stuff.

      There's probably less than 100,000 people that the US government gives enough of a crap about to keep material on them. The rest of us can be dealt with as needed without all this effort.

      • There's probably less than 100,000 people that the US government gives enough of a crap about to keep material on them. The rest of us can be dealt with as needed without all this effort.

        That's actually part of the NSA's problem. All this effort into collecting ALL the information, and they don't have enough resources left over to properly analyze the stuff they actually care about.

    • > There will absolutely be copies of it on a unpatched Windows server somewhere in Hilary's basement.

      FTFY
       

    • I hope they do keep a copy because in a century from now it will be a priceless scientific resource for sociologists and historians.
  • Why NSA? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why on earth should the NSA be held accountable for something they implemented on behalf of politicians?

    How about prosecuting George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld for torture first?

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      That torture has to be illegal first, before you can do that. It wasn't at the time and actually still isn't.

      • Except you're not a lawyer specializing in civil rights or international law, so your proclamation really doesn't mean shit.

        • International Law is a joke, you and everybody else should have figured that one out by now.

          There's nothing, and I mean NOTHING binding any government to adhere to it. Sanctions just make you look at it in a 'how much can I afford to get away with' way.

          • International Law is a joke, you and everybody else should have figured that one out by now.

            There's nothing, and I mean NOTHING binding any government to adhere to it. Sanctions just make you look at it in a 'how much can I afford to get away with' way.

            Thats pretty much how it works in the USA anyway (emphasis added).

  • I am sure the NSA has two sets of books. They will dump the data on the public books, but still keep the data in their huge data center out west. There is no getting rid of this data, only getting rid of the public's ability to use it against them.
  • I don't care nearly as much about the records they already gathered (and I'm not so foolish to think they don't have a backup copy). Aren't they still collecting new records?

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Think about the past and what MAINWAY, MARINA, FAIRVIEW, STORMBREW was or even back to STELLARWIND, MAIN CORE.
      Collect it all has not changed as a domestic surveillance system to collect all signals intelligence within the USA.
      Some options are:
      Bring the gov and mil to the contractors rather than the contractors to a gov site. Same domestic data sets just new mission names and a bit of color of law to say the gov projects have ended as talked about in public.
      Bring in more 5 eye staff at "shared" sites or
  • I really wonder the data size of this 14 years record, even if there probably use some kind of compression.

  • Let everyone read everyone else's e-mails and conversations: congressmen and presidents, priests, doctors, lawyers, businessmen and their workers, peons and plutocrats. Maybe we can, as a society, come to some conclusion about how we should handle privacy in the future.

    Researchers will have a field day. It will be hard to have your voice heard above the din of discontent as society's members see just how bad they look in the mirror.

    Let the great leveling begin!

  • They just want to dump it so they can free up the space to keep recording.

  • Yes, make them CHOKE on it. Make them EAT every last bit of surveillance data, and record every second of it for posterity. And they better not have suddenly deleted it, that's destruction of evidence, and they should be punished for that.
  • this is quite serendipitous as I was just thinking about how I would like to dump the NSA... into a pit and then dump all of their data tapes/drives/etc on top of them... and fill the pit with molten steel. two birds with one stone! ;)

The reward for working hard is more hard work.

Working...