19 April 2017
Autonomous Data Collector and Pre-Query Application
Your cyber communications have more than likely been seized & searched by the NSA. Your casual conversations with your significant other, parents, and friends have probably been read unnecessarily and illegally by the NSA. Not only personal conversations, but also posts you’ve made in Facebook or Twitter, have likely been seized and searched by the NSA. Why is it a big deal? This is a direct violation of your 4th amendment. Unreasonable searches & seizures are being practiced upon you. Upon the laws of America, the amendments of the constitution are laws that should be the last laws to be broken by the U.S. government, as they are the foundation of this country. Prior to the adoption of FISA’s Section 702, warrantless surveillance was lawfully performed by the NSA. Section 702 was created to address unlawful surveillance practices by the NSA. Attempts, such as Section 702, have failed at resolving unconstitutional surveillance practiced by the NSA because the NSA plays word games with they’re definition of Section 702, giving the fake illusion that they have rectified their unconstitutional surveillance practices, although they continue to practice unconstitutional surveillance. Protect your fundamental rights, if these are stripped from you, where do you stand as a citizen of the U.S.?
Section 702 has failed at rectifying unlawful mass surveillance. The NSA has stated that Section 702 solves mass surveillance issues by collecting only “Targeted Data”. The NSA defines targeted data as data which is only relevant to a certain suspicion for which a warrant has been awarded to the NSA prior to search and seizure of such targeted data. However, such practices are not actually being implemented by the NSA. Let’s state facts of the actual current practices performed by the NSA regarding capturing and searching targeted data. According to the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), “large cache of intercepted conversations” provided by Edward Snowden and analyzed by the Washington Post revealed that 9 out of 10 account holders “were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.” (Cindy Cohen 8) Keep in mind that the above report was created and released after Section 702 had already been put in place. The above report makes it evident that whatever technical approach based on Section 702 that the NSA is using to collect “targeted data”, is not working Therefore Section 702 has not resolved the issues of mass surveillance practices that the NSA continues to perform.
90% of the “Targeted Data” collected by the NSA is data which is unrelated data to the “targeted” data. The chances of accidently finding targeted data randomly might have a higher ratio of actual targeted data collected, even after having practiced the so called “Targeted Data” measures to collect data. Also, according to EFF article, “Section 702 would encompass more than 900,000 user accounts annually.” (Cindy Cohen 11). This is undeniable, ineffective mass surveillance. Not only because the practice of mass surveillance is unconstitutional should the NSA correct their data collecting practice, but also, the techniques of mass surveillance are ineffective. If only 10% of the “targeted data” collected is accurate data, then there is something wrong with the technology being used to search and collect “targeted data” being that this technology is doing a very bad job at fulfilling its purpose, to collect targeted data. The data currently being collected is evidently inaccurate, and even from a technical perspective, there should be optimizations and patches to the technology currently being used for data collecting, to better collect targeted data.
The NSA should develop & deploy an autonomous program on dedicated servers which effectively collects targeted mass data, queries targeted data, deletes untargeted data, and returns results to the NSA because mass surveillance is unconstitutional. The untargeted data should be completely deleted, and the NSA shall not have access to the dedicated servers on which the application is deployed on, except during maintenance operations & security alerts concerned with the application and servers themselves. Application logs regarding server & application health strictly, shall be available to the NSA. Also, benchmarks of targeted to untargeted collected data ratios shall be made available to the public, to decide whether this application is successful, and make improvements to the application as so. With this type of solution to mass surveillance, we let technology more accurately filter “Targeted Data”, so that when the data collected by the Autonomous Data Collector application reaches the NSA, only targeted data is presented to the organization.
The NSA cannot perform collection of data themselves since, as we have seen, the data collected by the NSA has a ratio of 9:1 among the amount of untargeted data collected compared to targeted data collected by the “Targeted Collection” methods which the NSA uses to collect suspect/targeted data. After data is collected by the NSA “lawfully”, the NSA has complete legal custody of the data collected, even if untargeted data of innocent bystanders is included in the data which was collected. We do not want the NSA to fall under unconstitutional practices by practicing mass surveillance. The NSA should not practice mass surveillance, such type of surveillance violates the 4th amendment. Your private information should remain private. The NSA should only have access to targeted data, and to do this, they need an application such as the one mentioned above, where untargeted data which is irrelevant to suspicion never reaches the NSA’s eyes.
Thousands of autonomous applications already exist and are currently being applied in the real world. Take for example the self-driving car, which runs on an autonomous software application for delivering its service. It has been successful overall. Such autonomous applications are already a lot more complex than the program the NSA would have to develop to collect targeted data without the NSA directly collecting such data. An OS (Operating System) such as Windows 10 or MacOSx is an autonomous application itself, being that the OS manages its own system autonomously for most of the time that the machine is in use. The autonomous target data collecting application that can be developed by the NSA, would be far simpler to develop than any of the above examples of autonomous applications. The program itself should be very feasible to develop. In a Software engineering perspective, this is just a “search & parse” application, meaning, an application that searches text, and retrieves only certain text from the searched text based on criteria provided.
Autonomous applications are made to function on their own, maintain themselves, and work alone. That is, the autonomy of such application is specifically well brainstormed & engineered pre-creation of the application. Now, we know that occasionally, things fail, and for that it is perfectly fine for someone to have to intervene with an errored autonomous application. If the NSA wisely decides to deploy an autonomous application for searching, parsing, and only sending the most possibly precise data to the themselves, maintenance & security is not something which has to suffer because of an autonomous application. On the very contrary, maintenance and security should be one of the most important things to be focused on prior to developing such an application, through which new implementations & techniques can be discovered and improved for autonomous application features. Besides all the preparation into developing a well maintained & secured autonomous application, the NSA shall also have access to the servers for maintenance & security practices strictly, which assures the wellbeing & security of the application.
As time progresses, so does technology, and the way we live our life. To protect the Constitution, continuous improvements aimed at protecting the Constitution should be progressively enacted in every aspect of human advancement, including technology. Complexity in technology only increases, so one must be very vigilant about how technology may affect your rights as it changes over time. Be well informed of how technology serves your rights, or how it might violate them. The NSA should be willing to try new methodologies of working with technology for the sake of protecting the rights of U.S. citizens. Advancements in technology should not be an excuse to violate American rights such as the 4th amendment. On the contrary, as technology advances, these advancements should be engineered to best protect the U.S. constitution and its citizens.
Mass surveillance does not guarantee safety. It makes no sense how the practice of mass surveillance could possibly help in increasing National Security. This is because mass surveillance does not target the threats to National Security, rather, it targets a broad, untargeted group of things & individuals, which are in no way a threat to National Security. This makes the job of searching through data that is perceived as an actual threat more difficult, since there is more data to sort through which in no way, is or should be considered a threat. Having more metadata that is no way related to a threat, is not useful, especially when the collection of that metadata has been obtained illegally. If unrelated data concerning threats is disregarded, as it logically should be, the process of rectifying National Security threats found by analyzing targeted data is a lot faster. This makes the process of catching and solving threats to National Security a lot faster, which could possibly prevent a lot more future threats to National Security.
The biggest concern in mass surveillance is the violation of the 4th amendment. Unreasonable searches & seizures practiced by King George of England on American colonists is the reason that led American colonists to the Revolutionary War. No one should strip an American of this right, specially the U.S. government, which was created to protect such rights. The American Constitution is what makes America, America. Do not let our government be turned into one which does not value the U.S. constitution. We should always protect the laws laid out by our founding fathers, which has made the U.S. the great country that it is today. The U.S. government does not exist without its citizens, as U.S. citizens are the main body of the U.S. government.
The Autonomous Data Collector and Pre-Query Application should result in a secure, ultra-targeted data collection system which collects accurate data regarding threats to National Security. The benefits of such application are that Mass Surveillance will no longer occur as a result of data being collected by the NSA, as the is the main goal of the Autonomous Data Collector and Pre-Query Application. This means that the 4th amendment of U.S. citizens will no longer be violated by the NSA, which in turn strengthens our government in its ability to protect the most vital rights of a U.S. citizen, the rights stated in the U.S. constitution. Also, collection and analyzation of data that illustrates threats to National Security will be more effective, since the data collected by the Autonomous Data Collector and Pre-Query Application will return a smaller amount of data (by ratio, compared to the data currently being collected by the current methods of Mass Surveillance the NSA is practicing) than the current data being collected by the NSA, since data unrelated to threats to National Security will not be collected/returned to the NSA by the Autonomous Data Collector and Pre-Query Application.
Make sure to vote in favor of the Autonomous Data Collector and Pre-Query Application. This application shall be a resolution to mass surveillance and protect your 4th amendment in the ever-advancing digital world. As a U.S. citizen, you hold the ultimate power in the U.S. government and the laws which are imposed by it. It is your duty to vote and be a part of the laws by which you agree to abide in based on your votes/lack of votes. Take part in voting in favor for the Autonomous Data Collector & Pre-Query Application and make your voice heard.
Cohn, Cindy. “Word Games: What the NSA Means By.” Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 24 Aug. 2016, www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/08/nsa-word-games-mass-v-targeted-surveillance-under-section-702. Accessed 21 Apr. 2017.
Wikipedia Community. “Stop Watching Us.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Apr. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Watching_Us. Accessed 21 Apr. 2017.
Childress, Sarah. “How the NSA Spying Programs Have Changed Since Snowden.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 9 Feb. 2015, www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-the-nsa-spying-programs-have-changed-since-snowden/. Accessed 21 Apr. 2017.
Soldatov, Andrei. “Russian Hospitality: Why Snowden Picked Moscow as His Transit Point.”Time, Time, 23 June 2013, world.time.com/2013/06/23/russian-hospitality-why-snowden-picked-moscow-as-his-transit-point/. Accessed 21 Apr. 2017.