Thursday, August 22, 2013

Percentages and Numbers

Trey Smith

I am sure that most of you are aware that -- unlike what the President and other mass surveillance supporters have said repeatedly -- evidence has come out that the NSA routinely violates its own privacy rules. In one of the most recent years, there were supposedly over 2,700 such violations.

Just looking at that number, it seems like a lot! Not to worry, say the NSA spokespeople, when you take into consideration the millions of communications we regularly hoover up, 2,700 represents a very low percentage. That's not a bad talking point...if your goal is to minimize public outrage.

But there predominantly are two things missing from the discussion. For starters, 2,700 boo boos doesn't sound so bad in a sample of millions. It does represent a very minute percentage. But the key question is NOT the number of violations; it's how many innocent people were impacted? For the sake of argument, there could be only one or two recorded violations, but if those violations impacted 50 million people, that would be substantial.

Let's go back to the number 2,700. Let's say, on average, each violation impacted 1,500 innocent individuals. That would mean that over 4 million people had their rights violated. What if the average was 10,000. Then we'd be talking about 27 million people. In either case, the salient figure that is most important is not the percentage of violations.

Oh, but it gets worse.

Those 2,700 violations solely are from the office in Fort Meade, Maryland. There are probably hundreds (if not thousands) of government and contractor sites doing the NSA's secretive work. We don't know how many violations any of these other offices have committed. So, it is likely that 2,700 represents the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Taken altogether, the real figure could be tens of thousands of violations per year impacting untold millions of innocent people.

In other words, the assurances that a) NSA spying stays strictly within the law and b) it is subject to stringent safeguards and oversight is laughable. They are just winging it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.