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LuckyGuy's avatar

Can/should the NSA telephone meta data be used for good purposes?

Asked by LuckyGuy (34606points) January 17th, 2014

Most everyone would agree there is potential for the data to be used in bad ways. But is it possible to use the data for good?

Since the data already exists, why not use it to track down violators of the Do Not Call list? Can it be used to stop and fine telemarketers? Can individuals use it as evidence in court cases as proof that they were being stalked, for example? Can police use it to find suspects in felony cases?
How about using the data to predict weak links in infrastructure and identifying regions that need service upgrades?
Beyond the intended purpose (whatever that might be) I can see so many ways the data could be useful. Do you?

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14 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

There’s a huge potential to use it for good. The irony is I can just picture the NSA arguing they collected the info to keep us safe, why should they allow citizens to use it to prove wrongdoing.

gorillapaws's avatar

No. They should purge all data and charge whoever’s responsible with treason for violating everything every soldier has ever fought and died to protect.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I’m not sure you are asking the right question.

The whole NSA data collection has great potential for both good and bad. My issue is less about data collection (with proper safeguards, it can be quite useful), but rather will the secrecy and lying about it.

If the NSA had been upfront and said “we’re storing this and this is why, and these are the benefits”, then we could have had an informed debate about the pluses and the minuses. There would have been a level of understanding, perhaps even tacit consent.

By doing it all surreptitiously, and lying to the AMerican people – that’s the inexcusable part.

The question really should be: IF You had been better informed about the NSA data collection and its purposes, would you be more supportive?

LuckyGuy's avatar

There is no question it bothers me that they do it but actually I am not surprised. I figure there is not a first world country on the plant that doesn’t do it. They just don’t get caught.

My question is not that they have it, but can we (the people) use it. I would love to screw telemarketers who call. Now the only recourse I have it to file that worthless FCC form.

ragingloli's avatar

Well, if you have political enemies, like civil rights advocates and the like, not only does all the spying allow you to dig up all the dirt about them for targeted smear campaigns, you also know everyone they have been talking to and can uncover and smear/assassinate their entire network of friends.

hearkat's avatar

The problem lies in the subjective judgement of what it “good”. The creators and supporters of the NSA program clearly believe that the service is for the “good” of the country and its citizens. Obviously, many disagree with that assessment.

So who gets to draw that line between “good” and “bad”? Appointees of the administration? Elected officials, when only a tiny portion of the population can be bothered to vote, and not all of those actually research the candidates but are swayed by advertising or cultural influences to vote along party lines?

Phone records and credit card charges are subpoenaed for court cases to document location and timeline of events in criminal cases. However, a warrant must be placed to obtain those records. There must be evidence presented as to why this suspect is being investigated and how the information could prove useful.

There are probably some who would argue that Telemarketers need their jobs, so it would be “bad” to use the metadata against them, as you propose.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@ragingloli Germany has been tapping for decades – and they are recording more than the meta data. they just didn’t get caught. In 2005 the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe overturned the ruling passed in 2003 that allowed full access.

“German federal law already lays down rules under which phone calls can be monitored.
“Today’s court ruling will affect other German states such as Thuringia, which has a similar law in place, and Hamburg and Bavaria, which were planning legislation.
The Lower Saxony law, which took effect at the end of 2003, allowed police to intercept phone calls, text messages and Internet connections.
The law failed to guarantee the protection of ``the core area of personal living arrangements,’’ the court said. There was no provision for personal information that had been collected to be deleted, nor did the law define sufficiently enough the criteria under which police could tap phones to prevent what were defined as ``crimes of considerable importance.’’
The case number is 1 BvR 668/04.

bolwerk's avatar

If you believe in rule of law, you shouldn’t be exploiting violations of the law for your own agenda. It’s akin to the police lying to get a warrant and then using what they find against you. It’s not okay when the pigs do it, and it’s not okay when the good guys (whoever they are) do it.

marinelife's avatar

It is data that never should have been collected. I do not think it should be used at all.

glacial's avatar

Wow. Absolutely not.

CWOTUS's avatar

If you ever read William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (which I very much recommend), you’ll find that Nazi “doctors” participated in some horrific modes of torture and called it “research”. For example, they studied human endurance by leaving some otherwise healthy concentration camp prisoners outside in cold weather with no clothing, no shelter, and no means to obtain either. They’d leave them outside for varying lengths of time to see how long it took for them to die of exposure, and in some cases how close to death they could be taken and still revived. They found, in some of their “attempted revival” cases, that leaving a man outside to nearly freeze to death, and then putting him into a bed with a single woman was a more effective means of reviving him than putting him into a bed with two women. It seemed paradoxical, but they reasoned that the single woman would be less inhibited in what she might do to save a man’s life when she was alone with him vs. when she had a witness. (This is documented in the book. I’m not making it up.)

So maybe there is “some value” in that knowledge. I would argue, and I think that Shirer does a good job of making the argument, that the cost and the means of acquiring that knowledge comes at too high a price. Any potential good that comes from such knowledge is tainted by how it was obtained in the first place – and must never be given a chance to be rationalized as “worth the cost”.

I don’t recall who said that “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good”, but I think the NSA’s domestic spying is one of those ill winds.

dabbler's avatar

” track down violators of the Do Not Call list” brilliant !

Pachy's avatar

I think yes, but what’s “good” and how do we know whether the people who define it are good?

LuckyGuy's avatar

@dabbler I would gladly let NSA use my data to get those SOB telemarketers. The proof is there. Use it!

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