Skip to comments.Unreasonable - Government, Big Data and the Fourth Amendment
Posted on 07/01/2013 11:11:58 AM PDT by guyshomenet
Big data is watching.
You can almost hear the computer servers in Washington buzzing with new activity. If you have never been in a large data center, they actually pulse and throb as systems surge to ingest, process and dump bits. Disks spin, cooling systems lurch and power panels hum. Data centers are seemingly alive, and the bigger the joint, the more ominous they sound like the devils own demon factory.
This is the backdrop for recent revelations concerning your government and big data (the phrase big data is IT industry slang for massive info crunching, the crunch verb deriving from mastication). The National Security Agency, a most unsecure place it now seems, has slurped your cellular phone records to see who you have called and texted, and who has been phoning you. Now it has been reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms an agency with a rogue record wants its own big data repository to find connection points between two or more individuals. Their proposed database would obtain exact matches from partial source data searches by combing names, phone numbers, nationwide utility data and reverse phone searches among other mass surveillance means.
Big Brother Obama is watching.
Government big data creates crisis-level complications. Any reading of the Fourth Amendment whereby we instructed the government to never conduct unreasonable searches or to do so without a warrant via due process is flattened by NSA/BATF activates as surely as the road kill you saw on your morning commute. The Fourth Amendment was ratified by people with recent memory of the colonial epidemic of general searches whereby British soldiers could ransack your home or workplace on a whim. Abuse of knowledge was part of the problem and why we required being secure in [our] persons, houses, papers, and effects.
When Obamas bandits triangulate everything about you, then you are not secure in your papers and effects.
The dangers of this Big Data Brother trend are multidimensional. First, the very definition of reasonable is being perverted. In nominal criminal investigations, law enforcement was required to identify specific individuals suspected, with high probability, of committing crimes before evidence was gathered. Today evidence is accumulated about everybody without causes of any sort. A side effect is that the word search has also expanded to include any digital espionage from your phone records, to your utility bills, to your medical files (Didnt read that part of the Obamacare bill? Neither did your congress critter). What the government can acquire without consent or cause is now vast.
And that is not the big data problem.
The goal of big data is the mass correlation of relationships. It attempts to find links between subjects, much like Google attempts to find a relationship between your search phrase and web content, or how eHarmony tries to match you to a mate. As many have learned, these matches range from imprecise to horrific. Mismatching, false positives and outright fraudulent results are common. Inappropriate and non-existent relationship matches occur, be it Match.com pairing a hippy chick with a button-down banker, Google sending you to a spam farm, or the deceased (halleluiah) Senator Ted Kennedy being put on a no-fly list.
Or the BATF incorrectly connecting you to Abdul.
Government big data, aside from violating the letter and intent of the Fourth Amendment and our general judicial history, will cause many people to suffer persecution and prosecution from error. It will also be misused as every government surveillance system eventually is. Thousands, perhaps millions of people will have due processes inverted before and after the fact. They will be spied upon without warrant, prosecuted without access to the original data, and forced to prove their innocence instead of the government accurately proving guilt. Beyond this, manufacturing evidence is now easier than ever and vastly more difficult to debunk (I bet you dont have a data center and deep knowledge of big data technology to find where false information was created).
Anyone thinking of a career change should investigate advanced digital forensics. Defense attorneys will be knocking on your door daily.
As a data center engineer and the lead architect on the build out of 3 data centers in my life, it’s very apparent that this article writer has never been in an actual data center or has no coherent understanding of the functions therein.
That being said, this article is telling. I’m thoroughly afraid for our future, FReepers.
LOL. Yeah, the data center description is a bit over the top, eh? Nevertheless, the author does make some good points. As I often point out on these threads, the US Constitution was written so as to carefully limit federal power. The 4th Amendment protections, for example, were clearly designed to box in the government, not We the People. Therefore, anytime there’s doubt, the burden of proof must be on government to prove the search is based on probable cause, but we aren’t even talking about probable cause searches here.
We’re talking about a government that collects all sorts of information on We the People without our permission. It doesn’t matter if the stated cause is national security or millions of Americans support the information gathering, because even political majorities can’t—legally or morally—give away constitutional rights without first amending the US Constitution.
Sorry, wrong. I started as a DSO for a Tempest vault, then a smallish McDonnell Douglas data center, then migrated up to heading a platform division at Circuit City’s corporate offices to run some big iron.
Like many writers, I simplify some information so the greatest number of people understand. IT pros (current and former, such as you and I) can get into the minutia, but for general consumption I prefer to broaden.
...wrong about what?
OH! I get it! So you’re the author of the article?
Listen bud, I don’t care who you are or where you’ve been, but cooling systems don’t “lurch.” And if an electrical panel is buzzing, you’ve got overloaded circuitry or you’ve got a short.
The only sound you hear in a data center is the whirr of cooling fans in server equipment and the constant drone of the CRAC fans. Of course there’s the occasional buzz from a server alerting to faulty hardware or a POST beep, but the words you use to personify the experience are improper.
I have two undergraduate degrees, one in English and one in Electrical Engineering, and I have graduate work in professional writing and communications. I’ve worked in IT for 20 years. You’re preaching to someone who writes engineering documentation for executives on a daily basis.
Were can I get one of them there Systems Lurch?
Seems to me, the principle of Garbage in = Garbage out can be demonstrated by downloading a phone book and looking for the Tea Party. The more data to sort through, the more sorters you need to read all the red flagged crap that the electronic sorter spits out.
More than anything else, this massive illegal data collection service burns up money uselessly. If the FBI and the CIA can’t stop two Kid bombers when they are red flagged and reported by other agency’s, how the heck are they going to accomplish anything trying to transcript the worlds telephone conversations?
Reading other peoples mail is what perverts do, to about the same effect.
If a junior admin launches a thousand instances on servers in rack 16, and the DCIM system see a temp spike, then yes, the cooling system can “lurch” though “mild surge” is a more descriptive phrase.
Granted, a non-dynamic center, well managed doesn’t have these variations. But some DCs are not well managed (hell, some are only slightly above anarchy).
So forgive artistic licence, but since we both have been in the trenches this really comes down not to a lack of experience or knowledge on either of our parts, just literary licence and misunderstanding.
Would be interesting if someone was actively working on a public data pollution initiative to make mass data less reliable, though it might have the unfortunate effect of actually disrupting legit law enforcement.
Neither one of us is wrong. My only gripe was with the word use. Otherwise your literacy In data center functionality is not under scrutiny.