Why Can’t I Enjoy the World’s Largest Database?

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Ideally, the largest database in the world should be something interesting, something stirring to the human imagination. Instead, the genuine article is something that’s mostly reviled and feared. Even its proponents characterize it in mostly apologetic terms (e.g. “a necessary evil”).

 

The database I’m referring to, of course, is the one created and maintained by the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor phone calls made by U.S. citizens. The program is under fire because of perceived violations of both the U.S. Constitution and consumer privacy laws.

 

The story behind this espionage initiative is the humongous numbers involved with the database: At a cost of billions of dollars to taxpayers, the NSA listens in on billions of phone calls of wildly varying length placed for a wide range of reasons by hundreds of millions of U.S. citizens (who are actually paying the government to spy on them). Of course, the story behind that story is the number of terrorists netted by the program—that is, zero.

 

The NSA has largely relied on assistance from telecommunications providers like AT&T and Verizon to carry out its agenda. However, one provider, Qwest, did not agree to collaborate with the Agency, which has led it to be praised by online commentators. (For some examples of this, see http://www.thankyouqwest.org.) Other providers should take note.

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