Searching through big data with the NSA
Specifically designed to shift through more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats, the ICREACH search engine enabled the NSA to share massive amounts of surveillance data directly with domestic law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration, but also the CIA and the DIA.
Source: The Intercept.
According to the report, ICREACH has been accessible to more than 1,000 analysts at 23 U.S. government agencies that perform intelligence work. Information shared through ICREACH can be used to track people’s movements, map out their networks of associates, help predict future actions, and potentially reveal religious affiliations or political beliefs.
The search tool was designed to be the largest system for internally sharing secret surveillance records in the United States, capable of handling two to five billion new records every day, including more than 30 different kinds of metadata on emails, phone calls, faxes, internet chats, and text messages, as well as location information collected from cellphones, writes Ryan Gallagher from The Intercept.
Hopefully, this new revelation based on documents originally leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden will broaden consumers’ awareness about how a total lack of privacy, or losing control of your personal data through simple web browsing and smartphone usage, makes it easy for both state-sponsored or business-oriented abuse to take place (see Lost in Big Data: digital zombies).
In this case, ICREACH facilitates totalitarian surveillance and segregation scenarios to be put into place.
In the face of an overzealous security agency without proper democratic control, these new revelations just call for more personal data protection solutions. Of course, sharing fewer bits of our digital lives and overall less communication would only be muting ourselves out of the game when the Internet has become such a powerful tool.
Raising the bar with more encryption, more data protection? There’ll always be ways around that: after all, former East Germany’s Stasi did perform well without all these eavesdropping digital tools.
More education, more democracy and more transparency ought to win all fights for freedom.