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face-palmAll of the unnecessary trouble and bother over this silly little NSA unconstitutionally spying on Americans thing would be gone and forgotten in a moment if only — silly us — we knew how to count.

At least according to one cybersecurity expert.

James Foster, the founder and CEO of Riskive, a cybersecurity company that works with large companies and, yes, (alert, alert) government agencies, says PRISM is impossible. In fact, Foster claims, it would require an annual budget of at least $4.56 trillion dollars:

“The National Security Agency is not spying on our U.S. citizens — and the thought is not only illegal — it’s ludicrous. A simple mathematical analysis proves this point. If we can assume that one person has the capacity to fully scour 100 people’s communication a day, a feat in and of itself, to read all of someone’s email, text messages, phone calls, and overall interaction then the NSA would have to have over three million employees and would have an annual budget that would be 20 percent greater than the entire U.S. Federal budget. The bigger threat is from rogue individuals who waste millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars by revealing insights into government programs intended to protect our citizens.

We are in the midst of an era where national security is paramount and the balance between security and privacy will continue to be tested. Complete transparency is an oxymoron in a post 9/11 world.”

Journalists get a lot of pitches. I guess the law of averages says some of them have to be stupid. This one landed in my inbox about 45 minutes ago.


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Foster has never heard of “big data,” apparently. He isn’t aware of technologies like cluster analysis, machine learning, predictive modeling, sentiment analysis, or association rule learning that drive automated analysis of massive datasets. He doesn’t know that three-letter-organizations like the CIA, NSA, and FBI have been asking Silicon Valley data scientists for help by appealing to their patriotism. And he is not aware that individual humans will never see most of the 97 billion data points that the NSA has admitted snooping on.

Either that, or perhaps he thought that a quote like this would help defuse the scandal.

I suppose the possibilities here include that various men in black are mobilizing security experts to cast aspersions on the press reports about PRISM. Another might be that a security company that wants to do business with secretive government agencies wants to be seen visibly supporting their interests in public.

But you’d think he might have used a little intelligence in crafting the message.

Photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

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