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Saturday, June 22, 2013

What the NSA Leaks have to do with weightlifters and why we should care

The good list and the bad list-- according to Guardiannews.com, communications to countries in red/orange/yellow are more heavily scrutinized than communications to countries in green.  Unfortunately, some of the badlisted countries happen to have some good weightlifting.
File:Boundless-heatmap-large-001.jpg
From Wikipedia.com June 20, 2013

Have you ever watched a video of Hossein Rezazadeh win the Olympic Gold medal in 2004? How about Rostami at the last Olympics or Hossein Tavakoli? Have you ever watched a world, European, or Asian Championships via some youtube channel, from some country you've never heard of,  because US media gives poor coverage of the event?  How about watching the Chinese National weightlifting Championships?
In all these scenarios, you could be seen to have contact with another social network user in a red-orange listed country.

By following weightlifting on the Internet - YouTube, Facebook, etc- you have been in contact with internet users from countries that are shades of red, orange, and yellow on the NSA watch list. Allegedly, the NSA is collecting metadata directly from these sources on users.

Having been exposed to sociometry, stakeholder theory, and network optimization at MIT, trust me, there are all sorts of wonderfully geeky shit you can do with this metadata. Think about it-  you could model users as nodes and calculate a users distance to a suspected terrorist network of nodes in some red listed country. You could do Eulerian walks across the network to determine shortest path between two users of interest.    So, does this mean if a weightlifter from a red country friends you or adds you to a weightlifting group, that you could show up in metadata and become a target of interest?

More specifically-
Studies show that the average person is effective at managing 150 relationships max- so, it's likely there's a whole bunch of people on your friends list of whom you have no idea what their political ideologies are.  What if a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend on your Facebook friends list is an actual terrorist? There's over 1000 people on my friends list whom I've never met and friended me because of weightlifting.  Worse yet, it's a common occurrence for some dude from either Italy or Egypt to send me a private message asking me to marry them or just hitting on me, and  Egypt is int he top 4 most scrutinized countries on the watch list! (  I wonder if there is a correlation between pervyness and terrorism). 

What about Boston-
At the 2013 Boston Marathon, the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly exploded the dirty bomb. According to news stories on Boston.com,  Tamerlan Tsarneav had terrorist videos on his youtube playlist (http://www.boston.com/metrodesk/2013/04/19/bombing-suspects-were-local-normal-immigrants/AGztkXv4Y9b6sfAsVzcDQO/story.html).  If the NSA programs - Prism and boundless informant- are so effective, then why wasn't the marathon bombing prevented?

Maybe, its because when your looking at every single persons data- including innocent weightlifters like you and me-- it can take away focus from the true criminals.  In other words, giving up our Fourth Amendment Rights is no guarantee that we will be safe. If anything, collecting data on innocent people will inevitably lead to false positives - or people being suspected of terrorism who are completely innocent. We ought to only  collect data on people with legitimate suspicion-- ie people like Tamerlan Tsarnaev who have playlists of terrorism videos-- and work backwards from their interactions, targeting other users who demonstrate actions counter to the public's safety.

In summary, more US news outlets should cover this topic to understand its affects- good and bad -- on the public.


5 comments:

Shaun said...

Very interesting post. Good reason to not make tons of social networking connections with people you don't know or hardly know.

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