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Thursday, May 11, 2006


Spying on the headlines

It's amusing to see how papers treat the latest spying news. Here are three consecutive headlines on a Google news list of hits:So which is it? Did he "not confirm" it, did he "deny" it, or did he admit it, but deny that it infringes on privacy? Gheesh.

I haven't seen anyone comment on the overall concept, if we can call it that. The USA Today article claimed that "the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity." What on earth could that mean? Are they looking for a sudden influx of calls to Hackensack, NJ to alert them to the fact that there is a terrorist cell in Hackensack? Is the volume of phone calls made by a handful of terrorists in a country of 300 million people really going to cause the slightest statistical perturbation in phone records, compared not just to the latest American Idol vote but to practically anything else? And even if that were true, could they really be analyzing such data in real-time rather than days, weeks, or months later, when any use of it in "detecting terrorist activity" would be useless?

The whole story is dubious in the extreme.

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