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October 04, 2016

Yahoo Scanned All Users' Arriving Messages at Behest of NSA and/or FBI

Apparently they were scanning for specific strings of characters, that is, words they found interesting for some reason or another.


I seem to be in the minority position on this. After 9/11, there was broad agreement that we needed to be vigilant against terrorism.

Now it's become the more intellectually hip position to be paranoid about this sort of thing.* In addition, simple mistrust of Obama (well-earned mistrust, by the by) has made people circumstantially libertarian on the issue.

I don't really see how you can demand that our intelligence agencies to connect the dots without allowing them to gather some dots in the first place.

I've mentioned this before, but personally, I am a lot less bothered by a purely automated, machine-driven search for specific words that only kicks emails containing those words to humans than the thought of an actual human looking at all these emails. The human has curiosities, suspicions, and judgments that a mechanical algorithm simply does not. I feel violated by a human's eyes (and the thoughts that what he sees might spark); I feel nothing at all about purely mechanical search processes.

In addition, of course, I know mechanical search bots are already reading all my emails anyway, or at least recording everything I search for through my browser, and scanning everything I look up on Amazon.

That's how and why when I look up a kind of boot, all of the ads shown on my computer for the next two weeks are about, get this, boots.

I don't understand why I'm supposed to be outraged that the NSA is looking at my emails for mention of bomb-making materials when no one ever says any g**-damned thing about Google using my browser to note every single consumer product I might express a transient interest in.

Don't believe me? Go do a search for "J. Crew Messenger bag." Tell me what your ads try to sell you for the next two weeks.

What's the difference here?

* I guess my problem with this overnight shift in opinion is this: When you were calling for the US government to be more forward-leaning in finding terrorists and protecting you against terrorism, what did you think they would do to achieve this?

My problem with the overnight sea change in opinion on the right is that what we learned they were doing was pretty much what I expected they would be doing -- and pretty much what I thought most on the right understood they would be doing, too.

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posted by Ace at 03:31 PM

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