The location information is particularly valuable for cloak-and-dagger operations like the one the NSA is running, said Cindy Cohn, a legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group that has been fighting the government’s collection of personal phone records since 2006. The foundation is suing over the government’s collection of U.S. citizens’ communications in a case that dates back to the administration of President George W. Bush.
“It’s incredibly invasive,” Cohn said. “This is a consequence of the fact that we have so many third parties that have accumulated significant information about our everyday lives.”
It’s such a rich vein of information that U.S. companies and other organizations now spend more than $2 billion each year to obtain third-party data about individuals, according to Forrester Research. The data helps businesses target potential customers. Much of this information is sold by so-called data brokers such as Acxiom Corp., a Little Rock, Arkansas, company that maintains extensive files about the online and offline
activities of more than 500 million consumers worldwide.
The digital floodgates have opened during the past decade as the convenience and allure of the Internet – and sleek smartphones – have made it easier and more enjoyable for people to stay connected wherever they go.
“I don’t think there has been a sea change in analytical methods as much as there has been a change in the volume, velocity and variety of information and the computing power to process it all,” said Gartner analyst Douglas Laney.
In a sign of the NSA’s determination to vacuum up as much data as possible, the agency has built a data center in Bluffdale, Utah that is five times larger than the U.S. Capitol -all to sift through Big Data. The massive center has fed perceptions that some factions of the U.S. government are determined to build a database of all phone calls, Internet searches and emails under the guise of national security. The Washington Post’s disclosure that both the NSA and FBI have the ability to burrow into computers of major Internet services will likely heighten fears that U.S. government’s Big Data is creating something akin to the ever-watchful Big Brother in George Orwell’s “1984” novel.<< previous 1 2 3 4 next >>