Big Brother Is Watching

“It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself–anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face…; was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime…”

– George Orwell, 1984

Big Brother is watching most everything you do. Your emails, your phone calls, your current geographic location, your taste in movies, your daily commute, your net worth, even your psychological profile is being monitored by the U.S. government. Currently, they are not able to analyze all of the data (think of the incident with the shooter at Fort Hood, Tex.). But that isn’t going to last long. The National Security Agency (NSA) is currently building a $1.7 billion facility in Utah to analyze all sorts of digital data. The computing speeds and capabilities border on the incomprehensible in scope, being able to handle yottabytes (1024 bytes) of data. Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, estimated that the total of all human knowledge created from the dawn of man to 2003 was 5 exabytes (1018 bytes). One million exabytes equals one yotabyte. As a frame of reference a gigabyte, a standard speed and memory unit in commercial computers, is 109, so if you square that it is 1018 or one exabyte.

In order to process all of this raw data, they will use advanced algorithms and high speed computing (over 2.33 petaflops; one petaflop is 1015 operations per second, or 10,000,000 gigabytes per second). This will not only analyze data coming in real time, but sift through the massive stockpile of data collected since 9/11. Encryption that cannot be cracked today can always be cracked tomorrow.

The 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies who work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence acquire their information from a variety of sources. Geostationary satellites, domestic and international satellite communications, taps in telecom switches, Google, Facebook and other data collection organs, closed circuit public cameras, biometrics collected at ATMs, GPS in cell phones, business records, and even electronic toll collectors like the E-ZPass. CIA Director Petraeus even said that “smart” appliances will soon be connected to the global grid. Imagine your fridge silently collecting data about you, or the television watching you. Sound like Soviet Russia yet?

Currently, an estimated 854,000 people hold top-secret security clearances. The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency has gone from 7,500 employees in 2002 to 16,500 today. Every day the NSA intercepts and stores 1.7 billion emails, phone calls, and other communications. Some of the keywords they search for to red flag items include: Drill, Exercise, Initiative, Crash, Facility, Home grown, Agro, Tornado, Magnitude, Relief, Response, MARTA, San Diego and even Pork.

Somewhat surprisingly, there has not been an overwhelming public outcry against this data collection. Using social media like Facebook and Twitter, people readily volunteer personal information. What is the government going to do about it? I don’t see anyone busting down my door any time I use my first amendment right to criticize the government. Well, the fact is that they have the data before they have the technology to use it. So once they do develop the technology, in the very near future, they will already have all the means in place to crack down in any way they see fit. By then, it will be too late. Is this paranoia? Maybe it is. But ask yourself, why do they need to know so much about you?

Additional Resources:

10 Ways the Government Watches You:

Apple Denies Reports of iPhone Tracking:

Wired NSA Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center:

The Washington Post Top Secret America:

4 High-Tech Ways the Federal Government Is Spying on Private Citizens:

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