Thank you, NSA!

So with all the stuff written about data privacy, the seemingly daily credit card breaches from various retailers, and even stories about point of sale systems being unsafe, I just wanted to take this moment to say thanks to our hapless NSA.

Why thank them? Well, they continue to inspire our entertainment industry in new and exciting ways, and also make previous movies and TV show plot points all that more believable. Take the following cases in point:

  1. “The Good Wife” used to be one of my favorite shows on the air, and one of the reasons were all the techy points scored by the various legal eagles working in Chicago. I mean, when did you ever hear the words “cell phone metadata” used in a TV series? Granted, some of the stuff is irritating, such as one client that looks awfully like Yahoo (or maybe their prototype is Google) called ChumHum that is always skirting the law. I guess if Dave Eggers can hide behind “The Circle” (which is a darn fine read, by the way), so can the fictional lawyers in “The Good Wife.” We were even treated to some “60 Minutes” style scene of NSA workers in Chicago tracking phone calls and more metadata on a subsequent show.
  2. Speaking of “60 Minutes,” when was the last time you got a tour of a top secret data center on national TV where you could plainly see the bad guys’ IP addresses? Granted, those are probably outdated anyway. But stiil.
  3. Speaking of Google, there are now artists who use images of people randomly captured in their Street Views to recreate the image in “real life”.  It could be borderline creepy, or a new art form, hard to say which.
  4. Jason Bourne’s exploits are all that much more believable. I was watching one of the earlier episodes and I have to admit it was almost too ironic that a reporter from The Guardian gets wasted by the CIA-like agency: the same newspaper that was involved in the Snowden leaks. And the talented agency can scan for those Bourne-oriented keywords in near real-time over the phone calls too. Amazingly prescient for 2007! I haven’t had a chance to review “War Games” or “Three Days of the Condor” yet, but I am sure a lot of other cold-war plot lines are back in style.
  5. Bluffdale Utah is now a tourist destination. This (pictured above) is where the NSA is trying to build its data repository for all those calls. As a destination, it isn’t quite A-list yet: you can only imagine but not see the fiasco happening beyond the barbed wire fencing about bad data center design, despite the nearly infinite budget involved.
  6. Overseas tech companies are reaping a competitive advantage. Thanks to all the subrosa connections between the NSA and various American tech leaders such as Microsoft, Google, and so forth, many enterprises are opting to look elsewhere to host their email traffic. When was the last time you heard the term “Email made in Germany” used in a positive way? Thanks NSA for making the market in offshore data havens.
  7. An entire industry of posting arrest records and mugshots now thrives. Several sites are now capturing this data. Thanks NSA for motivating the private sector!

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