The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.
Here’s the story they don’t tell you. Using the simple data of who called who and the times of the calls some very interesting conclusions can be made. Out of billions of calls individual groups as small as ten people can be identified and their organizational structure mapped. For example they can determine who the leader is and who will take his or her place if they were removed. This was several years ago so I imagine the results are better now. The same sort of information can be derived from email traffic as well.
I’m not sure how I stand on this. My inclination is that if the companies who own the data are compelled to turn it over without probable cause then I’m against it. But if it is optional and they get paid to share the information then I’m annoyed but don’t have a strong objection.