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Putting privacy and due process concerns aside, network analysis in the digital realm is a huge area of research and development, and is undoubtedly how these NSA phone records will be handled.
However, citing the obvious fact that the massive amounts of phone records handed over to the NSA present a daunting intelligence task has no bearing on the debate over the legal conditions under which the records were requested and obtained. This article does a fairly good job of pointing that out, but I've seen others that attempt to use it as some kind of reason for people not to dwell on it as much.
Actually the most pointed thing in this article was this:
"People don't realize how much of their lives, tastes, prejudices can be assembled through these types of records. We are fast becoming a fish bowl society. Most citizens don't recognize what a truly transformative point we're at."
... or what an insanely un-private world we now live in. I wish my government was looking out for my privacy instead of trying to take advantage of this emerging reality.
I agree. Privacy is disappearing. Is that a bad thing? I went to a college with about 500 people - everyone knew everything about everyone else.
Sen Clinton wrote "it takes a village". Well we're getting a village, a global village in which everyone can know just about everything about everyone else. For a fee.
I don't know if that's wholly good or bad. I feel certain that I have a right to be basically left alone, but I don't know if it's terribly harmful for privacy rights to erode a tad. Lots of progressive thinkers look to the building stronger communities. This implies that people share stronger connections, which, I think, weakens their respective privacy rights. I can have perfect privacy by building a high wall and talking to none of my neighbors. Or I can interact and begin to share information about myself with them. At a certain point, we all lose a little control over what our neighbors can deduce or infer.
I think the internet and the computer age merely allow that to happen quickly on a much larger scale.