Data-gathering web spans more than we know

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Six degrees of separation is out the window, and so is your privacy, according to the NSA.

Chris Inglis, the deputy director of the NSA, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and gave a clue to just how extensive the agency’s surveillance is.

Consider that previous representatives have said the NSA access data up to “two hops” away from a potential terror suspect. On Wednesday, Inglis said analysts actually access data ‘two or three hops” from terror suspects.

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To put that into perspective: If the NSA is tracking a suspect, it can gather data and intelligence on evrryone in that suspect’s contact list (one hop); and everyone in those contacts’ lists (two hops) and then everyone in those contacts’ contacts’ lists (three hops).

Confusing? Maybe.

Incredibly extensive? Absolutely.

In 2011, scientists at Facebook and the University of Milan collaborated on a study that showed the average number of acquaintances separating any two individuals in the world is 4.7 – that’s much less than the “six degrees of separation” oft quoted.

So, in theory, any of us are only 1.7 “hops” away from being caught up in an NSA surveillance web during any terror suspects’ investigation.

And that means, in theory, the NSA is dangerously close to gathering and accessing information about, well, just about all of us.

Somewhere along the line we have to decide how much of privacy we are willing to trade for protection and security.

And, more important, our government officials need to be upfront and hones about how much of our privacy they are taking away.