What does the debate over Big Data and Surveillance mean?

Filth house kitchen before cleanup

Is it strange that the congressmen charged with oversight of the intelligence services — those who were “briefed” — did not know what was going on?

Not at all. It epitomizes the whole debate. They were too busy to go to a ‘secure room’ and read a paper report for four hours. Even their aides were too busy. This is the state of ‘intelligence’ and its interpretation.

Big data is so big, so amorphous, and so meaningless that it can’t be sifted productively. If you are an English-speaking drug dealer with a dedicated land line who uses the word ‘coke’ repeatedly in conversations, yes, they will find you. That is the only payoff of surveillance right now. Is there anyone that dumb?

We hear a lot about ‘triangulation’ of data, how with 3 bits of data a person can be found. But big data is so deep that such techniques yield many hits. So second and third and fourth analyses are necessary.

Those analyses are linguistic. How many competent speakers of Murathi or Urdu or Saraiki or even Tagalog work at the NSA? How many people at NSA or in the CIA can read this: ? نگلش سے اردو پورے جملے کا ترجمہ کرنے کی سہولت

Even as bloated as they are, the Big Interpreters together cannot interpret the Big Data they have. They just collect it, like hoarders, believing that some day they will ‘need it.’ Hopefully it won’t become a bio-hazard, like the kitchen above.

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