Recently, I wrote about the possibility of modern existence mirroring the Tom Cruise film Minority Report, wherein law enforcement tracks citizens who are "predisposed" to committing crimes. Is it possible that scenario is coming true?
According to a recent report in the Washington Post, the National Security Agency (NSA) has begun to intercept and examine the email address books of Yahoo, Gmail, and Hotmail accounts around the globe. The NSA is further alleged to have gathered information from some half-million buddy lists from live chat services. In fact, the NSA has secretly been devouring some 250 million address books every year. This global practice of “Big Brother”-style surveillance may seem harmless – “If I’m not doing anything wrong, why should I worry?” – but according to the Post, the information gleaned from those address books and chat rooms is being cross-referenced to map out the relationships and contacts contained in that information and the activities and social connections of sensitive intelligence targets worldwide.
To fathom the awesome power of such an intelligence-gathering tool, consider the relatively low-tech version of such social network mapping found on sites like LinkedIn. On these sites, you can type in the name of a long lost love or childhood friend and be stunned by the comprehensive analysis of both you and your target’s social connections. By turbo-charging its ability to create maps of social networks in the ongoing global campaign for intelligence in the battle against terrorism, the NSA can create all sorts of links between you and “intelligence targets” that you never intended or even knew existed.
So be advised: Be mindful that activities in chatrooms and the flippant, tongue-in-cheek comments you make on social networks can be taken extremely seriously by Big Brother’s henchmen as they probe the depths of your electronic social existence.