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Schneier: Metadata Equals Surveillance

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the a-rose-by-any-other-name dept.

United States 191

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Bruce Schneier writes that lots of people discount the seriousness of the NSA's actions by saying that it's just metadata — after all the NSA isn't really listening in on everybody's calls — they're just keeping track of who you call. 'Imagine you hired a detective to eavesdrop on someone,' writes Schneier. 'He might plant a bug in their office. He might tap their phone.' That's the data. 'Now imagine you hired that same detective to surveil that person. The result would be details of what he did: where he went, who he talked to, what he looked at, what he purchased — how he spent his day. That's all metadata.' When the government collects metadata on the entire country, they put everyone under surveillance says Schneier. 'Metadata equals surveillance; it's that simple.'"

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Metadata is the most important data (5, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44927859)

This is a basic fact for anyone dealing with any substantive volume of data. The details are of no interest to anyone in power, but patterns are.

The dividing line people will have here is whether the 4th amendment(and the human right it's based on) protects a right to privacy or a right against freely targed witchhunt prosecutions. This spying won't especially invade the first, but could easily be construed to lead to the second.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (4, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#44927913)

Actually, when it comes to metadata, you could make a First Amendment case: freedom of association.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (1, Troll)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44927979)

Freedom to do something doesn't mean no one will know. I support prevention of chilling effects, but that's a weak argument. It's like the stupid 2nd amendment charge by the NRA, only on a more fundamental right.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928111)

Yes, because the importance of an inalienable right is judged by the number of the amendment. Good thing they are only violating our 4th amendment rights in passing on the way to the 2nd amendment.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928223)

If you don't guarantee the general privacy of the masses you don't have freedom of association. In my mind freedom of association is suppose to be that guarantee. Unfortunately the government uses assumptions / suspicions that are not founded on hard evidence to target groups of people. As an example they targeted everybody who accessed services / web sites hosted by Freedom Hosting. If you ask me that was illegal. The same thing can be said about monitoring a group organizing publicly. There is a huge difference between policing a general population and targeting population with surveillance even if many of its members are involved in criminal acts, and then targeting those within, when those within are not themselves necessarily committing illegal acts. You should not assume / suspect me of committing an illegal act simply because I'm associating with a group whose individual members are known to be committing crimes. A few good examples of this would be KKK groups, communist groups, civil rights groups, various African American groups like the Black Panther Party, LGBT groups, pedophilia groups, free software groups (yes, they were targets of the IRS under the Obama administration), etc.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44929495)

Crawl back under your progressive rock. I am a NRA member I do belive in the 2nd Amendment. And I do belive that what the goverment is doing is wrong. Don't assume that the two are mutaly exclusive. Why do you people always have to pivot and attack? Never stay on the topic but always try to twist it to something else?

Re:Metadata is the most important data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44929603)

I support the 2nd Amendment as well.

But I wouldn't fuck the NRA with *your* dick.

Not just the NSA (5, Interesting)

ThatAblaze (1723456) | about a year ago | (#44928137)

People seem to be losing sight of the fact that it isn't only the NSA that is doing this tracking. Europe and China are both huge on tracking, they just haven't had this kind of public leak. So, while the question of which US Constitutional Amendment has been breached is a good question, it doesn't address the larger picture question: Where do we, as citizens of whichever country, draw the line and force our governments to stop?

Re:Not just the NSA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928335)

We don't care what China and Europe are doing. They can't be held to the Constitution, however, our government does need to be. a few thousand people killed 12 years ago did not give the government of the USA the right to start using the Constitution for toilet paper. That's all we need to be concerned about, who cares what precedents China and Europe have, that need not concern us.

Re:Not just the NSA (5, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#44928381)

We don't care what China and Europe are doing.

Speak for yourself. The Slashdot audience is global and the problem is global.

a few thousand people killed 12 years ago did not give the government of the USA the right to start using the Constitution for toilet paper

Quite right: an apathetic public gave the government the ability (not the right) to violate its founding principles. The terrorist attacks were a pretext to accelerate the trend, not the real reason.

Re:Not just the NSA (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#44928353)

Far to the left of where our governments want it drawn. ;-)

Re:Not just the NSA (4, Insightful)

digsbo (1292334) | about a year ago | (#44928863)

I don't think it's the left/right axis. Communism is left. Communism is also authoritarian. It's the authoritarian/libertarian axis that you're interested in here.

Re:Not just the NSA (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928983)

Communism is also authoritarian. It's the authoritarian/libertarian axis that you're interested in here.

Communism isn't authoritarian, Authoritarianism is. On paper, communism couldn't be authoritarian - it's arguably closer to democracy than even the ideal American state was. But that's on paper - in reality it's used by those desiring power to implement something completely different.

There's many schools of 'libertarian' (which should really be stated as Anarchism) communism, such as anarcho-communism. Marx was, ultimately, and Anarchist/Libertarian.

Re:Not just the NSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928661)

People seem to be losing sight of the fact that it isn't only the NSA that is doing this tracking. Europe and China are both huge on tracking, they just haven't had this kind of public leak. So, while the question of which US Constitutional Amendment has been breached is a good question, it doesn't address the larger picture question: Where do we, as citizens of whichever country, draw the line and force our governments to stop?

Let's leave China aside for a moment shall we? We can all jump on them afterwards. Europe does not, as a whole (UK peons of NSA are not EU mandated. Germany are a band of arsebandits in constant search of a convenient arse) condone or engage in this kind of perverse interest in the affairs of its citizens.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (4, Informative)

mendax (114116) | about a year ago | (#44928833)

Actually, when it comes to metadata, you could make a First Amendment case: freedom of association.

Indeed, and, in fact, this is the major argument being made by the ACLU acting on its own behalf in its lawsuit against the NSA over the collection of metadata. It allows the government to determine who its clients are, who are its members, etc. Numerous Supreme Court rulings from the civil rights era make it clear that the First Amendment guarantees the right to associate anonymously. It should also be noted that the First Amendment freedoms are the most protected by the courts. When the government feels the need to do so it MUST MUST MUST as little as possible and only to satisfy its legitimate needs and no farther. The courts call the application of this "strict scrutiny". Because this is a geeky forum, most people here know a way this collection of metadata can be done that protects the identity of the parties. Because this exists, the NSA's collection of meta data is unconstitutional on its face.

There is no point in arguing that the NSA has a legitimate need to collect metadata from phone companies and ISPs. We don't like it but It has that need, it can demonstrate the validity of that need, and the courts are going to recognize it. But there is a less restrictive way of doing it that would accomplish the same thing and they didn't use it.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (2)

gatzke (2977) | about a year ago | (#44929477)

Don't you still have freedom to associate? They are just keeping tabs on whom you associate with.

I would stick with privacy (which is not in the constitution). Just unreasonable search and seizure AFAIK.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44927935)

The circle is now complete.

When I left you I was but a "symantic web evangelist".

Now I am the "metadata big data all seeing eye".

Re:Metadata is the most important data (5, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44928047)

The details are of no interest to anyone in power, but patterns are.

It has already been made public that huge volumes of email, actual phone conversations are recorded.
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57589495-38/nsa-spying-flap-extends-to-contents-of-u.s-phone-calls/ [cnet.com]
http://reason.com/blog/2013/06/15/yes-actually-the-nsa-says-they-can-eaves [reason.com]
http://www.dailyfinance.com/on/irs-audit-emails-warrant-aclu/ [dailyfinance.com]

And further, the NSA leaks content to local and state law enforcement.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/05/us-dea-sod-idUSBRE97409R20130805 [reuters.com]
http://www.salon.com/2013/08/10/the_nsa_dea_police_state_tango/ [salon.com]

So the this whole discussion about meta-data is moot. When you can archive, transcribe and catalog content, who needs metadata?

Re:Metadata is the most important data (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44928085)

Because they don't care what you said. It really is beneath them, even if they have it. We need to be worried about the consequences this will have on people.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (5, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44928241)

But if you had bothered to even give those links a cursory look, you would find that they DO CARE what you said, and if the NSA doesn't personally care, they know agencies that do, and they freely share what they learn.

The story is fairly straightforward [policymic.com] . A unit of the DEA known as the Special Operations Division has been receiving and distributing vast levels of intelligence from agencies such as the NSA, CIA, and Department of Homeland Security. Upon receiving information about a particular transaction or meeting place, DEA agents go make arrests, using traffic stops as pretext.

There is nothing "beneath them". In order to hold that view, you have to subscriber to the whole "Defenders of America" flag wrapping nonsense. These agencies have ceased working for YOU.

You can't worry about the consequences will have on the people, and ignore the fact that some how, somewhere along the line, this government has taken it upon itself to vet every communication, be party to ever conversation, and monitor every action, and watch every person. Where did that idea of government EVER come from?

Re:Metadata is the most important data (2)

tqk (413719) | about a year ago | (#44928797)

You can't worry about the consequences will have on the people, and ignore the fact that some how, somewhere along the line, this government has taken it upon itself to vet every communication, be party to ever conversation, and monitor every action, and watch every person. Where did that idea of government EVER come from?

If you read history, that's always been the tyrant's plan. What you ought to be asking is how did the USA succumb to tyrrany?

You got lazy, arrogant, self-assured, and lackadaisical about how your country's run.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (3, Interesting)

Phrogman (80473) | about a year ago | (#44929705)

The modern day equivalent to Bread and Circuses, Cheezeburgers and Movies/TV perhaps?

Consumers get focused on consuming, poor people get focused on where the rent is coming from and can they afford to eat. Neither gets involved in Politics, particularly when everyone knows that politicians do not have the interests of the people at heart, are actively accepting bribes (in the form of campaign contributions) and that the system is rigged to ensure that one of two candidates who are mostly the same will be elected no matter how they choose to vote, plus of course the rich are running it all.

Wrong response mind you but its easy to see how it happens.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928087)

Speaking of witchhuntig,

Remember when Anil Dash of Gawker decided he didn't like Pax Dickinson of Business Insider, searched his tweet history, discovered something he said three years ago back when everyone was making fun of Mel Gibson, and got Dickinson fired?

Let's change the laws to reduce witchhunting. Starting with the "hostile workplace" law according to which an employer is liable if he should have known that someone doesn't like protected classes. It's a recipe for reporting what people said three years ago to their employer and getting them fired.

Then we can talk about whether the NSA should know if I ever called Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the phone. At least the NSA isn't going to tell my employer to fire me.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44928101)

Sorry, you're not going to get me in favor of letting people make life miserable for their subordinates. If that's your problem, you dislike the statute of limitations, not the law itself.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928295)

At least the NSA isn't going to tell my employer to fire me.

No, no no. Oh, no, of course not. They wouldn't tell anyone to fire anyone.

What happens is men in suits come to your office and speak with the boss behind closed doors. Then they speak with the coworkers. They ask questions about what you were doing, how you work with other people. Has anyone seen you get angry, raise your voice, raise your fist, get a little violent? Do you have weapons? Do you bring them to work?

The details are fuzzy, but when I worked as a student worker at a big university back in the 90's, exactly this happened to one of my coworkers, courtesy of the CIA. The men introduced themselves as such, didn't suggest that we couldn't speak about the meeting (though he suggested we not discuss the boss's closed door meeting), but isn't that the point? Everyone knew the guy was being investigated for something. Things got awkward, and eventually the guy was let go because nobody wanted to work with him anymore.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928911)

raise your fist

Black power salute?

That's what he gets.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928965)

For breaking up with the Director's daughter :D

(Seriously though, given the stories you hear about cops, regardless of gender, doing that to their spouses, can you imagine what happens if you're in the right position and have the resources of the CIA or NSA backing you up and little to no legal supervision?) Anybody remember 'True Lies'? :D Now imagine that with an irate ex instead of a loving husband? Oh wait... what did he do to that used car salesman?

Re:Metadata is the most important data (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44929087)

Yep, I have a similar story.

A decades long friend of mine was recently visited by four law enforcement officers - he was under suspicion of being a pedophile ... the same man who has baby-sat my kids quite a few times.

He got onto a list because they now deem that the 60s version of "Lord of the Flies" is sufficient grounds to judge you as a suspect, in other words 1+1=3.

These agencies are really fucked up. When you have four officers appear at your house with guns at 9pm at night, who take all of your computing equipment - including backups (regardless that it's all of your business data and is essential to keep your business running) ... just in case you might be a questionable suspect because you bought a "legal" video off Amazon.

I've really lost faith in the system.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44929873)

...I've really lost faith in the system....

What are you going to do about it then? Lie down and cry yourself to sleep?

Re:Metadata is the most important data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44929263)

At least the NSA isn't going to tell my employer to fire me.

No, no no. Oh, no, of course not. They wouldn't tell anyone to fire anyone.

What happens is men in suits come to your office and speak with the boss behind closed doors. Then they speak with the coworkers. They ask questions about what you were doing, how you work with other people. Has anyone seen you get angry, raise your voice, raise your fist, get a little violent? Do you have weapons? Do you bring them to work?

The details are fuzzy, but when I worked as a student worker at a big university back in the 90's, exactly this happened to one of my coworkers, courtesy of the CIA. The men introduced themselves as such, didn't suggest that we couldn't speak about the meeting (though he suggested we not discuss the boss's closed door meeting), but isn't that the point? Everyone knew the guy was being investigated for something. Things got awkward, and eventually the guy was let go because nobody wanted to work with him anymore.

So he applied for a job with the CIA, they gave him a standard background check, and you all were so paranoid that you fired him.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (0)

Flere Imsaho (786612) | about a year ago | (#44929679)

Do you have weapons? Do you bring them to work?

Do you realize how WTF that sounds to people outside the US? If you bring weapons to work you should be arrested. Fuck your 2nd amendment, or at least the batshit-insane interpretation of it you guys base your laws on.

Re:Metadata is the most important data (1)

melikamp (631205) | about a year ago | (#44929917)

Things got awkward, and eventually the guy was let go because nobody wanted to work with him anymore.

Did you want to make a comment about NSA with this story? Because it sounds like people who "let him go" are to blame, as well as "everybody", since they decided to ostracize him for no reason at all. For all we know, NSA was simply doing their job.

Have we forgotten WHY they want the metadata? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928643)

We already know that the NSA is recording and monitoring every phone call and internet conversation. This has already been well documented. They don't START from the meta-data. They use it as a reverse lookup for the taps that they have already performed. All the phone calls, emails and web conversations arrive in their servers with only phone numbers, email and IP addresses. They listen to 100% of the conversations and then use the meta-data to attach a name to those that were 'of interest'. They request the meta-data once every few months in order to keep track of changes, but the phone and internet taps are comprehensive and in real time.

They have rifled through every house in the neighborhood but only look up the name of the individual after they find something. The FISA court then offers ex-post-facto 'probable cause' in order to attach a name to the discovery. This is exactly opposite the 4th amendment protection we assume we have.

Re: Metadata is the most important data (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about a year ago | (#44929689)

The fourth amendment protects both. History tells us that we need privacy to freely associate with people. This is more of a neccesity then an original intent. History also tells us that before the US broke away from England, the king and people representing them went on witch hunts regularly. If someone with any power disliked you or you said the wrong thing in front of someone, the would issue a general warrant and some goons would show up and turn your home, place of employment, and friends upside down trying to find any evidence of you doing anything wrong- even if they knew it would only harass you. Once the general warrant was issued, it remained in efect for the life of the king.
The fourth amendment specifically had this in mind with both the federalist ant anti-federalist bringing it up. There were four revisions to what became the fourth amendment and all those revisions were grammer and style in attemps to make it clear and understandable. It is well documented in our founding and the events attributed to it.

It most certainly is supposed to protect against wild witch hunts.

Big Data (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44927877)

The result would be details of what he did: where he went, who he talked to, what he looked at, what he purchased — how he spent his day.

And with big data hitting the databases of Amazon (and every other retailer you shop), Google, credit cards, banks, credit bureaus, medical information bureau, IRS, .... they can find out just about anything they want about you.

When you turn off Ghostery, NoScript and AdBlock, it's pretty fucking eerie the ads that are placed on pages - and that's JUST the marketing people. Just image what the NSA can do!

Yep! Made fun of the Tin Foil hat wearers all those years and we're RIGHT!

So in other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44927879)

metadata is data?

Re:So in other words... (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#44927963)

Enough to choke SQLite with if you have a big enough media horde to throw at Plex or XBMC.

Putting that "meta" prefix on the front doesn't make it any less interesting.

Re:So in other words... (1)

gVibe (997166) | about a year ago | (#44928267)

Wholeheartedly agree!! Think of it like skimming only the headlines until you find a story that interests you. Then you click and read...except for the NSA, its click and catalogue.

Re:So in other words... (5, Insightful)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44928219)

Since metadata is data about data nobody ever questioned if metadata was data. The argument was that it wasn't important data. Of course, the simple question: If it isn't important data, then why gather it? seems to elude most people even to this day.

Give people time... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44927915)

It's gonna take awhile for everyone to get upto speed on this whole 'spying on everyone' thing.
Heck just 5 years ago if you made the statement 'the goverment is spying on all of us'. You'd get some sort of response involving tinfoil and hats even tho it was 100% true 5 years ago as it is today.

And now... People are starting to realize it wasn't just crazy tinfoil hat ramblings... Give them some time and they'll wise up. Somewhat...
Nother 10 years we might be able to even start fixing the problem. But i wouldn't bet on it.

Re:Give people time... (4, Informative)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about a year ago | (#44928125)

Heck just 5 years ago if you made the statement 'the goverment is spying on all of us'. You'd get some sort of response involving tinfoil and hats

I read this all the time and it's just not true.

In 2006, the front page of the New York Times detailed how the NSA was copying basically all internet traffic right from the backbone. At the time it was seen as a confirmation of what basically everyone had suspected for decades. Obviously if they were gathering all of that data, they were doing something with it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_641A

Re:Give people time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928327)

Nothing will happen .. Since noone's moving , and we all know the only way things would change in Washington is the People walking on the capital by the tens of millions , and even then , true change would doubtfully happen . It's too late to change anything now. They have all the power they need , they got the machinery and the people , they even got secret laws and courts .. Nothing will take away their power now but using brute force and taking power from them. There's no way that people will be freed from the tyranny but by taking the power by force from those who have it now and will never let go unless they are taken out by force. It's too late now to wake up .. Maybe you can try that walk on Washington .. but politicians don't care about the People , whoever they are or whatever party they may be. You guys in the US are screwed . Too late , Big Brother has won.

The USSC has said otherwise (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44927947)

In 1979, the US Supreme Court ruled that collection of this metadata did not contitute a search.
  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_v._Maryland

Re:The USSC has said otherwise (5, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#44928027)

Actually, while they did say that collecting metadata did not constitute a search, they have never said that putting someone under surveillance was a search either. The police do not need a search warrant to follow you around. In 1979, when the Supreme Court made the ruling in question, the metadata available was no more thorough than a police officer could obtain by following you around. Since that time, things have changed significantly. If a lawyer argued the case correctly, they could convince the court that it could overturn the precedent without having to find that the original ruling was a mistake.

Re:The USSC has said otherwise (4, Insightful)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44928211)

The fundamental difference between this and the Smith case is that the agencies had to do their own recording to accomplish it, as opposed to demanding (and getting, whether coerced, cooperative, or compelled) records. I have been saying for weeks that the most disturbing part of this is that even if your data is handed over by the telcos, you have no recourse because the documents searched were not yours in the first place. Even with the fourth amendment.

Re:The USSC has said otherwise (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928375)

The police do not need a search warrant to follow you around.

They don't need a warrant, but they DO need a reason.

while they did say that collecting metadata did not constitute a search

No, that's not what they said. Nowhere was the phrase "metadata" used. What they said was that you did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in regards to the numbers you dialed, because you told the phone company by dialing them. The term "metadata" is not defined legally anywhere, which is why the politicians keep using it.
You're also ignoring the fact that there are laws specifically dealing with information collected by Telcos. Search the FCC page for "CPNI" if you want specifics, but put simply the phone company is not allowed to disclose your call details to anybody other than you without a warrant or court order.

Re:The USSC has said otherwise (1)

Tom (822) | about a year ago | (#44928451)

Not only that, but there's also precedent that qualitative differences matter.

There are many cases where recording something is illegal even though my watching or listening it is perfectly legal, for example.

The officer following you around might be a similar case, and manual surveillance and database record keeping fall into entirely different legal categories.

Re:The USSC has said otherwise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44929049)

Not only that, but there's also precedent that qualitative differences matter.

Right there is the start of a uniquely American argument.

(Precedent is important in countries based on British common law, but is not universal.)

Re:The USSC has said otherwise (3, Interesting)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a year ago | (#44928205)

In 2012 the US Supreme Court ruled that the police needed a warrant to track your car with a GPS. That attaching a device to your car was a trespass.

Re:The USSC has said otherwise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928369)

Using that logic, call metadata (including location where the calls are made from) info also requires warrant, because one can deduce a lot about the movement.

The thing is that USSC ruling was made when most of the public did not know about the scale about the magnitued and reach of boundless surveilance.

In retrospective, FISA court "ruling" and USSC ruling are contradicting each other.

Re:The USSC has said otherwise (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year ago | (#44928265)

In 1979, the US Supreme Court ruled that collection of this metadata did not contitute a search.

  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_v._Maryland [wikipedia.org]

Yes, but SCOTUS also is so insane they think Corporations are People when corporations predate the Constitution and were NEVER MENTIONED IN IT ONCE.

Re:The USSC has said otherwise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928395)

In 1979, the US Supreme Court ruled that collection of this metadata did not contitute a search.

  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_v._Maryland [wikipedia.org]

Yes, but SCOTUS offtopic rant redacted

In 1979 they did NOT use the term "metadata". And in the 30 years since that decision, Congress has passed data protections laws which make it so they DO need a warrant or court order in order to access a pen registry.

Re:The USSC has said otherwise (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year ago | (#44928473)

My point was they are insane.

Your point was you think that's ok.

Metadata (5, Informative)

LoraxLobster0202 (3182609) | about a year ago | (#44927955)

Metada is as private as the contents is. However, I can't loose the the feeling, that somehow entire debate is being spun as if society "accepts" that metadata does not matter. It matters. The thing is that if existing law would be followed " The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized", then most of NSA would be out of work. The Irony is that one, merely mentioning his rights is automatically classified as potential terroris http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/ridiculous-dhs-list-you-might-be-domestic-ter [networkworld.com]

Re:Metadata (1)

DutchUncle (826473) | about a year ago | (#44928053)

"Normal" people can be swayed by a technical-term-sounding difference, because they don't understand the difference. You know them, the sort of people who say "That's just semantics" without understanding that they are saying "That's just the REAL MEANING of the words".

Re:Metadata (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44928249)

problematically, the records are not ours. They belong to the telcos, and the telcos are legally welcome to share them with anyone they please. I'd love to see new protections to the contrary.

Re:Metadata (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928485)

problematically, the records are not ours. They belong to the telcos, and the telcos are legally welcome to share them with anyone they please. I'd love to see new protections to the contrary.

100% Wrong.
http://www.fcc.gov/guides/protecting-your-telephone-calling-records

I ChOoSe FrEe WiLl (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928037)

aNd yOu mUsT dO aS i dO oR eLSe

Or else what

eXaCTly

Conform or be cast out

eXaCTly

 

US President Hides His Metadata (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928039)

The President of the United states refuses to divulge his visitor lists claiming that it might divulge privileged information. This has been going on for years under presidents of both parties. Visitor lists are metadata (who he talked to, not what they talked about). If the president recognizes his metadata is confidential, how can he claim other peoples' metadata is not confidential?

Re:US President Hides His Metadata (1)

Deluvianvortex (2908365) | about a year ago | (#44928207)

because his has their names and other identifying information. Ours is just length of calls to anonymous numbers.

Re:US President Hides His Metadata (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928255)

Are you seriously proposing the NSA doesn't have some sort of DB (or realtime access to the telco's own DB) of reverse phone-number lookups? Once the have the source + destination numbers, there's no reason to expect they wouldn't also be able to correlate those with individuals instantly (or at least to households).

Re:US President Hides His Metadata (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928287)

No telephone number is anonymous unless it is to a prepaid cell phone that was bought with cash. Even that simply does not identify the speaker on said telephone.

Re:US President Hides His Metadata (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44929373)

It could go deeper than that though. If they wanted to they can pull the video from the convenience store, the video from the atm, plate scans from cops in the area at the time, etc.etc.etc. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if they could get matches from voiceprint analysis against a database of high value targets. The stuff of tinfoil-hatter's dreams is today's reality!

Re:US President Hides His Metadata (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928357)

because his has their names and other identifying information. Ours is just length of calls to anonymous numbers.

Numbers are not anonymous to the NSA. At least most of them are not. Would the President be willing to assign a number to a visitor and release those logs? That way you can see person 319 visited 8 times this week?

Re:US President Hides His Metadata (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928739)

Even I have that database for landlines. You can get a copy too with just [realpageslive.com] a few [dexpages.com] downloads and a simple perl script.

Re:US President Hides His Metadata (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928871)

I'm not sure. Are you Funny +1 or Sadly Delusional -1

"Anonymous numbers"? Hah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44929121)

calls to anonymous numbers

Associating those numbers to a human being the same way that a name-string links to a human being? As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable!

Not.

Re:US President Hides His Metadata (1)

sconeu (64226) | about a year ago | (#44928837)

Hey, if he (and his visitors) have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear.

At least that's what the .gov keeps telling us...

I propose Americans get metadata for politicians (5, Insightful)

JoeyRox (2711699) | about a year ago | (#44928117)

If the NSA collecting metadata on Americans isn't such a big deal then I propose the metadata for all politicians be posted on a publicly accessible website. I'm particularly interested in the phone records between Congress and K Street.

Re:I propose Americans get metadata for politician (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928601)

I'd like to see the metadata on their (also 1st and 2nd degree relatives) financial transactions. Not the list of what they bought, just metadata, like the transaction origin, time and ammount is fine.

Re:I propose Americans get metadata for politician (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44928783)

Let's post all their calls with all donors, strategists, and members of the media.

If it's no big deal for people to know this, or abuse it .

Re:I propose Americans get metadata for politician (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44929089)

I propose going the other way... people complain about politicians... unless you seriously plan on changing the form of government, the solution would appear to be putting in better politicians. As running for public office is voluntary, why would you make the conditions worse, so that only the likes that would want to be on reality TV would want to sign up?

Shut up, Bruce... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928121)

... and convince whatever journalists you're consulting with to start releasing reports with more technical details.

police (0)

Spaham (634471) | about a year ago | (#44928159)

You guys still haven't understood you lived in a police state ?
What's it gonna take ??

Re:police (5, Insightful)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year ago | (#44928253)

You guys still haven't understood you lived in a police state ?
What's it gonna take ??

When they start quartering troops (e.g. bots) in our houses (e.g. computers).

oh.

wait.

It's ironic (1)

ThatAblaze (1723456) | about a year ago | (#44928169)

Does anyone else see the irony in that an article composed entirely of metadata about NSA spying (i.e. explanations of the implications of the data, rather than new data) is pointing out how harmful metadata itself can be?

Location data (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#44928179)

Cell information is basically location data. They may not collect what your talking about, but they do know where you were.

Re:Location data (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about a year ago | (#44928521)

They know where you were, who you were talking to,, where they were, how long you talked, how often you talk to them, where you travel to before/after you talk, where they travel before/after you talk, what times you usually talk, ...
And they do it for everyone you talk with. So they can map who you talk to, who your friends talk to, see where you normally travel to during the week, who you eat lunch with, etc.
There's a lot of information available fin that "metadata" about you.

Metadata is Worse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928199)

Am actually more worried about the false positives created by using just metadata. For example before I got a regular job, I worked as a Freelance I.T. consultant. Okay, that sounds good on the resume but really I just went around helping people and super small businesses with minor computer problems advertised mostly through word of mouth and flyers. The word of mouth part being very important because I helped one guy who was a member of ultra right wing Christan church. Well, he thought I did a good job for reasonable pay and wasn't lefty pinko; so he put a few flyers up at the chruch which lead to several more jobs. So the metadata would I have shown I was member of this church. I never heard of any credible threat and I don't see them doing anything but still it just takes one guy off his meds....

the social graph colours all nodes (3, Informative)

epine (68316) | about a year ago | (#44928217)

Traffic analysis [wikipedia.org] is the process of intercepting and examining messages in order to deduce information from patterns in communication. It can be performed even when the messages are encrypted and cannot be decrypted. In general, the greater the number of messages observed, or even intercepted and stored, the more can be inferred from the traffic.

The primary filter has always been traffic analysis. It constructs the social graph [wikipedia.org] . I've heard that's worth something. An otherwise valueless company seems to trade on it.

Traffic analysis is what one can do effectively on a perversive scale. It puts the "focus" into focused intelligence, which would otherwise amount to extracting needles from haystacks concerning the detection of novel threats. Indeed, often the forest is worth more than the trees. The bits of business of an individual life are often less easy to read than a person's extended social footprint.

Fu..hrermore, in an electronic society where six degrees of separation is an overestimate by half, is there anyone in the population less secluded than a junior wife in a Mormon splinter town who couldn't be painted as a threat for having crossed digital paths with at least three shady characters over three decades of normal living?

The social graph colours all nodes. Does anyone think that members of the judicial oversight committee are required to bone up on Turing's use of log probability to establish meaningful discrimination thresholds?

Consider the four principal categories of metadata:
* who
* what
* when
* where

Looks harmless to me. What goes under "why"? Anything their little minds decide to write down.

Who: public school teacher
What: google search for "pressure cooker"
When: yesterday
What: google search for "backpack"
When: day before yesterday
Where: domestic residence, Springfield

Yet again, the metadata paints a compelling picture: moral turpitude. What could be more obvious among a law enforcement community prone to the syllogism that "I don't like the look on your face" equates to "disturbing the peace".

Checks and balances? Guess what? Metadata signs all cheques.

Re:the social graph colours all nodes (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | about a year ago | (#44928417)

Your "whats" aren't metadata, those are data. The metadata would be just the URL of the site you visited. Of course with the the web your metadata often contains data so it's hard to separate the two, but this whole metadata thing was about phone records anyway, so the point is moot.

Re:the social graph colours all nodes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928809)

Your "whats" aren't metadata, those are data.

Data about other data. Which happens to be exactly what metadata is in the first place.

Re:the social graph colours all nodes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44929169)

Your "whats" aren't metadata, those are data.

CONTEXT, man, CONTEXT! "The Real Data" in this case (as self-servingly defined by the Powers That Be) refers to the HTTP body of web-pages you are retrieving.

Thus "metadata" involves the headers, your IP, when the request comes in, what URL it goes to, etc. This is analogous to how the words of a phone conversation are "the data" while the source/dest numbers and timing is metadata.

The metadata is how we figure you out (5, Insightful)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year ago | (#44928237)

the metadata is how we figure you out.

the data is just the evidence when we finally put you in jail for thoughtcrimes.

NSA Definition of Metadata and it's official usage (4, Insightful)

wjcofkc (964165) | about a year ago | (#44928261)

Metadata can be abused as an ambiguous term, as we are seeing the NSA doing. I would like to hear the NSA definition of metadata in clear, no uncertain, and thorough terms. They are peddling the term to a populace that hasn't realized that by and large, they themselves don't know what it means. By saying "it's just metadata" that seems to be enough for much of the population to think what they are up to is benign without even knowing what it is, and I really don't understand why.

Re:NSA Definition of Metadata and it's official us (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928435)

Because although the American people don't want their conversations listened in on, they're not worried about the governemnt knowing who they called when.
That is all.

There's no reason to believe that it's only metada (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44928347)

There's no reason to believe that they're only capturing metadata. There's no technical distinction between the "data" and "metadata", as it's all just a byte stream. And if the NSA has direct access to the byte stream, there's absolutely nothing keeping them from capturing the whole thing rather than parsing out and keeping just the headers (to/from, subject, etc.). Keep in mind that these are people who've already demonstrated that they're willing to lie to Congress, and even to fund their surveilance of the American people out of secret funds to keep them going when explicitly forbidden (and the program de-funded) by Congress. Compared to that, it's not hard to believe that they're lying again, because they know in their hearts that they're the "good guys" and that they have to break the rules to stop the "bad guys". And the fact that it's illegal, immoral and unconstitutional is, apparently, a technicality.

My rule of thumb (2)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44928437)

Metadata or not, here's the way I figure surveillance, espionage, wiretapping, etc.: If I can collect the data on some government officials and sell it to the Russians, Chinese, or North Koreans, its OK for them to collect it on me.

Bad analogy (1)

pbjones (315127) | about a year ago | (#44928449)

It's a bad example, you can see who you are following, metadata is blind, it does not know anything about the specific person, it just indicates patterns.

Never yield (5, Insightful)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44928549)

Politicians stole the word "metadata" from computer science, and declared it on-limits for warrantless spying. This is a sophistry, invented out of whole cloth.

The king of England would have used phone metadata to round up the Founding Fathers in quick order. Therefore government doesn't get to do this.

Stop government from building the tools of tyrrany to begin with. That is the meaning of the Constitution.

Don't you mean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44929069)

mail metadata, or public square discussions, or maybe even 'gentleman's club meetings'?

I think even telegraphs would be a bit of a stretch for the founding fathers :)

Let's get scary... (2)

jasno (124830) | about a year ago | (#44928865)

I feel like what needs to happen is for all of us geeks to get off our collective asses and start companies which openly, agressively track people and sell that data to the public. For instance, start tracking license plates. Make the database searchable for $10 per query. Advertise it. Scare the hell out of people. Only then will enough calls make it to congressional phone lines.

Re:Let's get scary... (1)

dbc (135354) | about a year ago | (#44930007)

Good idea. All it would take is a reference design that can capture and upload license plate information, and contains the letters "duino" in its name. It will be an overnight sensation, mainly because of the "duino" part, but in any case I'm sure lots of folks would pay $10 to know where all their city's police cars are at the moment.

metadata! surveillance! bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44929287)

ironic that bruce's use of the word metadata is as arbitrary as his opponents in the government: the term is inherently meaningless without defining what "data" you're talking about. IP addresses are metadata relative to the application layer payload; but can be considered data relative to the metadata of MAC addresses. his blog post would be much more pertinent if it contained any new insight into how the collection of the specific telephony metadata amassed per 215 raises fourth amendment concerns.

This won't be popular (3, Interesting)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#44929773)

This won't be a popular perspective, but I agree that metadata is not data.

It's like collecting the "from" addresses on the mail delivered to your door without opening the envelopes. They're not steaming open your letters, so it's legal.

The problem is that "legal" isn't necessarily moral. Especially given the sheer volume of meta data generated by the average internet-connected humanoid in modern times.

For one thing, I keep in touch with far more people and places using email than I ever did using snail mail. I used to get maybe 3-4 letters a year, a few magazines, and anonymous junk mail when I relied on snail mail for communications. In the electronic age, I keep in touch with several dozen friends, get newsletters from vendors and sometimes click on the links to read the articles they've published or subscribe to the online training they've offered, I broadcast emails to groups of friends (something I couldn't do with snail mail at all), and generally am far more connected via email alone than I ever was by snail mail or phone calls.

Add in the browsing meta data, and you start to get a painfully clear picture of my likes, dislikes, interests, and associations without ever diving into the details. When you consider that the NSA, CSEC, GCHQ, and others track not only my direct interests but n levels of indirection, and I end up associated with all kinds of distasteful figures that I'd never willingly associate with in real life, much less send a snail-mail letter to.

The only saving grace is the needle-in-a-haystack problem. The more meta data they collect, the bigger the haystack and the harder it is to find the needles buried within.

And the number of mass shootings and bombings in the US and around the world just proves that point. I've not seen it broadcast that they arrested anyone other than the VIA train plotters in Canada to date.

One instance where surveillance did what it should. Versus dozens of instances where it failed abysmally.

Re:This won't be popular (1)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#44929923)

As to the phone, in the internet age I call even fewer people than I ever did before. I've got maybe 4 friends I hear from throughout the course of the year by phone, other than that the only people I talk to are relatives and pollsters. So for me, personally, the CDR collection isn't a big deal.

Metadata, Smetadata (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44929793)

When I was a lad it was referred to as 'call detail records,' at least for phone calls. That's a far too honest term for the Nominal Security Agency, which disguises it with the pablum of 'metadata.' Of course, when I was a lad we had a press that aspired to something higher than mere stenography. Today, unfortunately, our media lapdogs are more interested in the latest tweaking twit than they are in fourth amendment violations.

Metadata is worse... (2)

OldSport (2677879) | about a year ago | (#44929975)

...than listening to calls in detail. Crappy bitrate audio of conversational speech is very difficult to analyze with voice recognition, etc. However, simpler digital data can be churned through massive datacenters and with ease, resulting in detailed dossiers on anybody with a cell phone (which is everyone these days). People don't seem to realize just how much info can begleaned from metadata. Shit, I'm on the paranoid side an I bet I would be shocked by the info the NSA probably has on me.

Doesn't matter!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44930013)

The SCOTUS has already determined that 'metadata' is fair game, and unless he can argue around that decision, his opinion is meaningless.

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