Is Privatizing Metadata Collection Really a Good Idea?
Bob Cesca points out some of the problems in President Obama’s proposal to privatize the NSA’s metadata collection program:
First of all, corporations have a terrible track record when it comes to securing storing customer data. I’m old enough to remember how hackers — or as Greenwald calls them: activists exercising their speech rights — broke into Target’s servers and stole millions of credit card numbers. The same thing happened to Neiman Marcus days later.
Now toss into the equation the fact that, yes, the phone companies not only store your metadata, but also couple it with your name, address and billing information. NSA’s metadata storage, which is considerably more secure in the bowels of its Fort Meade facility, is completely anonymous and all inadvertent collection is minimized per the law.
What else separates NSA storage from corporate storage? How about layers of congressional and judicial oversight that doesn’t exist at Sprint or T-Mobile. Sure, much of NSA’s work takes place in secret, but likewise try getting your hands on corporate secrets from Verizon or AT&T beyond what’s posted on their privacy pages. Good luck with that.
And there’s another huge problem with this idea: one of the main reasons the US wants to store this metadata is that it lets them access and search it quickly in case of an emergency.
But if the government doesn’t already control the data, the only way to achieve the same kind of emergency response capability would be for the NSA to have even more access to the telecom companies’ databases. Not less.
Ironically, if this proposal is adopted it may end up making it easier for the government to access your telephone metadata, not more difficult.