The NSA Knows How Few People Read This Blog

One should be cautious about becoming numb to the endless train of scoops being produced in the wake of the Edward Snowden leak. Glenn Greenwald keeps churning out bigger and bigger stories, it seems to me. Now he reveals how the NSA is watching and storing potentially everything done anonymously over HTTP via a program called XKeyscore. The lede:

XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’

• XKeyscore gives ‘widest-reaching’ collection of online data

• NSA analysts require no prior authorization for searches

• Sweeps up emails, social media activity and browsing history

I’ll try to get back to this story and think some more about how it is already affecting how I think about the internet and privacy. But two quick thoughts:

1. This is an attack. 

In information security and hacking, one often calls attempts to gain entry to another person’s system “attacks”. It’s a violent metaphor, but it helps us think adequately about what is happening here. This is an attack on vital and important rights and aspects of who we are as persons. Since we do everything online, our entire lives at some point fall under the auspices and interceptions of a foreign intelligence service.

2. This changes our stories and our democracy.

Democracy is information. Our lives are stories. If the NSA administrates or oversees the sum total of our information, that radically changes the nature of how we administrate a government of, by and for the people. And if our lives are stories we tell ourselves, then when everything we do is stored, catalogued and retrievable for an outside service, that radically changes the nature of what it means to be a person with a history we tell ourselves and the world around us. In profound ways.

I’ll get back to this later.

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