When it comes to government having access to “Big Data” the mistakes, however small or innocent, can be quite large.
Perhaps we are a bit naive as Americans when we assume that government is not watching a great deal of what we do or say over “public” airways, etc. It just stands to reason that if it is going out over “the air” that somehow, interested parties are going to be able to get their hands on it, That may include foreign governments spying on us, local rebels like Anonymous, and, perhaps more thoroughly and often, our government’s amazing information gathering apparatus linked to places like the NSA.
But as Americans, naive or cynical, we should be able to question and contemplate the possibilities of Big Data in the hands of Big Government.
“What does the National Security Agency consider a small or a big number? The Washington Post’s Barton Gellman has a report based on documents the paper got from Edward Snowden about an N.S.A. audit that found two thousand seven hundred and seventy-six “incidents” in 2012 in which it broke its own rules about spying on Americans, either accidentally or on purpose. That is seven times a day, which sounds less like a slip than a ritual. But to call those violations frequent, according to the agency, would be to misunderstand the scale of its operations: “You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day,” a senior N.S.A. official told the paper. “You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.” We spy so much that the math gets hard; even thousands of privacy and legal violations can’t really be held against us.”