The NSA isn’t getting customer names or the content of phone conversations under the Verizon court order, but that doesn’t mean the information can’t be tied to other data coming in through the PRISM program to look into people’s lives, according to experts.
Like pieces of a puzzle, the bits and bytes left behind from people’s electronic interactions can be cobbled together to draw conclusions about their habits, friendships and preferences using data-mining formulas and increasingly powerful computers.
It’s all part of a phenomenon known as “Big Data,” a catchphrase increasingly used to describe the science of analyzing the vast amount of information collected through mobile devices, Web browsers and check-out stands. Analysts use powerful computers to detect trends and create digital dossiers about people.
The Obama administration and lawmakers privy to the NSA’s surveillance say the data being collected is only dissected when there is credible evidence of a terrorist plot or other reasons to believe that national security is being threatened. The sweeping court order covers the Verizon records of every mobile and landline phone call from April 25 through July 19, according to The Guardian.
It’s likely the Verizon phone records are being matched with an even broader set of data, said Forrester Research analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo.
“My sense is they are looking for network patterns,” she said. “They are looking for who is connected to whom and whether they can put any timelines together. They are also probably trying to identify locations where people are calling from.”
The Verizon data includes the duration of every call. Although the court order doesn’t require it, experts suspect the NSA may also be getting some kind of data that helps determine the vicinity of the calls.<< previous 1 2 3 4 next >>