Gov’s got a problem. It turns out that people don’t always like being told what to do, even when Gov so obviously knows what’s best for them. But don’t worry, Gov has a plan. To make sure that everyone is protected, from terrorists or just themselves, Gov occasionally takes a look at all our cell phone data, online activity, and credit card transactions. That’s not paranoid right?
Paranoid or not, the National Security Agency (NSA) (the agency most involved with collecting and tracking the data of Americans), spends millions of dollars each month pursuing this mission. This is an educated guess, of course, because the NSA, being a secretive organization with a secret budget, doesn’t publicly report how large its budget is each year. But, however large its budget, the agency has certainly been busy.
In addition to collecting cell phone data, government has also tracked purchase data from credit card providers. While it’s unclear exactly what kind of data is being collected (and what that’s being used for), your credit card purchase history is probably one more thing the government knows about you, and not necessarily with your permission.
But it isn’t just credit card transactions and cell phone data. The NSA also tracks location data from cell phones as well. So, it’s more than likely that the government knows information about where you go, what you buy, and who you interact with regularly. What could go wrong?
Even with various safeguards in place, the NSA has a track record of violating the Constitution and routinely intercepting the communications of American citizens. And with literally thousands of laws on the books, the potential for the government to catch someone doing something is extremely high. When you combine the thousands of laws on the books, the incredible scope of the US data collection apparatus, and a secret budget, the threat to our liberty becomes clear.
To learn more about the origins and scope of government spying, take a look at American Surveillance: Intelligence, Privacy, and the Fourth Amendment by Anthony Gregory.