Decoding the Summer of Snowden | Cato Institute

Officials were quick to assure the public that the bulk collection is limited to “metadata” — information about phone calls, rather than their actual contents. But metadata can be incredibly sensitive too — revealing who has phoned a divorce lawyer, a suicide hotline, a rape crisis center, a medical specialist, an unpopular political group … or a reporter who exposes government misconduct. More sophisticated pattern analysis — mapping changes in the time, frequency, and sequence of communications — can even reveal intimate facts about people’s habits, associations, relationships, and even mental state. Cell phone records can also be used to track the owner’s location, providing a virtual map of all their movements. Officials say they don’t “currently” collect that information “under this program,” but we’ve learned that a bulk location- tracking program of some kind was pilottested by NSA in 2010–2011, and the scope of location tracking under other programs remains unknown.

via Decoding the Summer of Snowden | Cato Institute.

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