The U.S. National Security Agency has been subject to considerable criticism since former government analyst Edward Snowden exposed its surveillance activities, but now the NSA is claiming, essentially, that it's not that big a deal.
The agency published a seven-page paper titled "The National Security Agency: Missions, Authorities, Oversight and Partnerships" last week in which it claimed that it analyzes just a fraction of the data transmitted globally over the internet every day.
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The paper says that the internet carries 1,826 petabytes of data every day - that's almost 2 billion gigabytes - and that the NSA only "touches" around 1.6 percent of that. Of that small chunk, just 0.00004 percent is "selected for review."
Amazingly, that amounts to 12GB.
"Put another way," the paper read, "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."
But the NSA didn't say what that data is comprised of, and it's not saying how much of that data it keeps.
It also provided no attributions or sources for those numbers, only claiming that the total global internet traffic figure comes from "a major tech provider."
Civil liberties for everyone!
In the paper the NSA also denied using its partnerships with foreign intelligence agencies to get around U.S. laws, and claimed that "the culture and fabric of NSA" encourages personnel to report when they suspect the agency is acting unlawfully.
Along with these claims comes a statement of intent that many of the NSA's critics will no doubt take umbrage with:
"We do not need to sacrifice civil liberties for the sake of national security; both are integral to who we are as Americans," it wrote. "NSA can and will continue to conduct its operations in a manner that respects both."
- At least the NSA won't be watching through the Xbox One's Kinect - not according to Microsoft, anyway.