Big Brother
Isn't Watching

Are the spies doing what they're doing because they're interested in us?

Civil libertarians say yes, and that the monitoring must stop; security advocates say no, not if we aren't doing anything bad.

The paranoid reaction --- that if I use the word "bomb" in an email to my aunt from the vicinity of a Bali nightclub then I may find black-suited agents descending on my hotel room --- is just an extreme version of the narcissistic fallacy that someone is trying to see into my brain.

There are seven billion people on the planet, and nearly seven billion mobile phones; six billion emails are sent every hour; 1.2 petabytes of data travel across the internet every minute, the equivalent of two thousand years' worth of music playing continuously, the contents of 2.2 billion books.

Even if they don't get everything --- the NSA claims, with loving wording, to "touch" just 1.6 per cent of global internet traffic, or about 35 million books' worth of data a minute --- the spooks have an awful more to be getting on with than worrying about you.

So the question has to be not so much
"Is Big Brother watching?"
How in hell can it cope?
--- "How to Get Ahead at the NSA"
Daniel Soar
The London Review of Books
24 October 2013
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