Thursday, December 5, 2013

Alrighty Then...

Buddy of mine showed me that headline on Wednesday (read about it here).

I pointed out to him that that was rather a large amount of data. I think I actually said, "Scott, that's a crap ton of data!" As in, no way they could go through all of it, every day. In addition to all of the other electronic data they collect.

"But they have computer programs that sift through all of that data very rapidly."

I stood there in silence for a moment, then offered, "Dude, we're software guys, we both know how difficult it is to write really efficient, fast code. Do you realize how complex that code has to be to go through all of that data?"

"But they hire really good programmers to..."

"Wait a minute there Scott. Do you realize how little the government pays its ordinary employees? Hell, we make more than most of them. Besides all the really sh!t hot programmers work for Google, or one of the big game companies. That's where the money is."

"Dude, think about how the government works. I mean really, do you think that the guys who brought us the non-functioning ObummerCare website could actually hire people to write code so sophisticated as to go through hundreds of terabytes of data a day and extract really useful, actionable intelligence?"

"Oh, yeah..."

While I may be underestimating the capabilities of government computer programmers (after all, I used to be one of those), we sometimes give too much credence to the whole "Big Brother is watching, government is all powerful" meme. They may be watching somebody, but typically it's not Joe Average citizen, that kind of surveillance gets expensive in a big hurry.

Unless of course, you've done something to show up on the government's radar. Like threaten to blow something up. The software is sophisticated enough to "listen" for key words and phrases and flag those conversations. But then a human needs to dig through the data and determine if it really is a threat.

So let's not all panic at once. Too many people see the NSA and other intelligence agencies like this -

The All Seeing Eye of Sauron in Mordor

But don't think for a minute that U.S. intelligence agencies are like this guy -

Wile E Coyote on the Lookout for the Road Runner

As always the truth lies somewhere in between those two extremes. For the most part these folks are pretty much like us. Their commute to work probably sucks worse than the average American's (have you ever driven in DC traffic?) They worry about paying their bills and count the days until they get to go on vacation.

Just like the rest of us.

So yeah, they're more like this -

Or this,

So yeah, definitely not like these guys -

Nope, the intelligence agencies are nothing like the IRS. (Just kidding!)


  1. They have the data and can sort through it for specific numbers if they have a lead and can track their calls, but yeah, they are not actively listening to most of us...maybe just ex - gvmt employees who malign our new health care system...I'm just sayin.

    1. Yup, ex-government employees who...

      Hey, wait a minute...

  2. Agree with Josh, to a point. The number is BS. It's what they can do with the number, They refuse to help out police, unless it's in their interest. Here's what they could do!!
    If you are a goin to lie to congress about your abilities, i believe that congress should give them a phone number of the latest "dead" person, and see what they have, and no lying about it. Remember all the bs they have spread around, they should be able to say, this is where that phone has been for the last 5 years. They and the leakers have said they can do this, And then tell you the closest telephone at the time of death. That would show, the world, information retrieval not just data, but useful data, Data is no good, unless it can be used. the 0's and 1's have to mean something, or it's a waste of time. And if it's a waste of time, why are we spending those dollars?

    1. Some fine points Mr Buchanan. Wouldn't be the first time the government wasted time. And money.

  3. What... the other 2 billion folks in the world aren't making cell phone calls?

    1. Apparently they can't track Obummer phones...


  4. You know who's REALLY worried about all this? Philandering husbands and wives.

  5. I wonder if the bother listening to the those free Obamaphones. Prolly saves alot of time.....

  6. Think about it. If their better half knows the email address and their lesser half's apple password than they can track them anywhere in America or the wide world using the 'find my phone" app that works on ipad, ipods and iphones. So could they know if you aren't at work? Sure. Lay this over a 5 billion location bolus of cell phone locations a day where you know the activation code to track the guys you are specifically targeting and 99% of the data is left unrefined but you know exactly where your targets are. When it comes to the Black programmers I'm willing to accept that they are closer to Saruman than to Sauron although the more apt comparison might be Sauron and Morgoth. Either way a cell phone today is just a great big huge radiating targeting source that screams "SHOOT ME!!!!!" Remember the Skunk Works and how it was decades ahead of the rest of the world when it came to flying designs.

    1. Yeah, sometimes I realize that by carrying a cell phone, there's no need for some gravel agitator to laze the target. Many of us carry our very own target designators. Damn, I might need to rethink this whole "need to be connected" thing!


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Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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