NSA Uses PRISIM to Collect More Internet Activity Than Google

productimage-picture-prism-bricks-30-pc-starter-kit-17389.jpg.436x346_q100_upscaleNumbers are funny things. People like to think that numbers cannot be mutated to twist or distort facts. As any listener of talk radio knows, this simply isn’t true thanks to percentages.

What am I rambling on about? Beats me. Instead, let’s read what the NSA has to say about their Internet-wide eavesdropping PRISIM system. Watch them numbers dance!

“According to figures published by a major tech provider, the Internet carries 1,826 Petabytes of information per day. In its foreign intelligence mission, NSA touches about 1.6 percent of that. However, of the 1.6 percent of the data, only 0.025 percent is actually selected for review. The net effect is that NSA analysts look at 0.00004 percent of the world's traffic in conducting their mission—that's less than one part in a million. Put another way, if a standard basketball court represented the global communications environment, NSA's total collection would be represented by an area smaller than a dime on that basketball court.”

Huh… So maybe the United States government isn’t really checking everything we say. At least not personally. There is no mention of what happens to all that harvested data  that isn’t selected for review. I’m sure they throw it all away. Like Google and their illegally harvested Wi-Fi data gathered while mapping streets.

Still, 1.6% isn’t all that much, right? Let’s see, 1.6% of 1,826 petabytes is 29.21 PBs. Hmm… So, how much data is that? Well, depending on if we’re using binary or not, it is somewhere between 29,210 terabytes and 29,911 terabytes. So… That’s a lot of data, but what does it mean in practical terms?

I think it’s safe to say that we all kinda know and accept that Google has its finger on the pulse of the Internet. For a lot of folks, Google is their search, email, news, photo, AND video provider. Combining all that user data together, Google is estimated to hand about 24 petabytes a day, 5000 terabytes less than the NSA.

That’s still a really big number. Let’s bring it a little closer to home.

  • If you totaled up all the traffic that runs through AT&T, you’d get about 30 petabytes
  • The Large Hadron Collider produces about 15 petabytes of data per YEAR in their quest for the Higgs boson.
  • In 2009, there were 15 billion photos on Facebook. Each photo is automatically resized four different ways for a total of 60 billion images. Total size on disk? 1.5 petabytes.
  • All of the user data from all of the servers in the World of Warcraft fits within 1.5 petabytes.
  • One petabyte is enough to store the DNA of the entire population of the USA - with cloning it twice
  • Your brain is estimated to store the equivalent of 2.5 petabytes in memories.

Happy web surfing!

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