WSJ: The More Data Government Collects, the Less Privacy is Violated

Image: WSJ: The More Data Government Collects, the Less Privacy is Violated

Monday, 10 Jun 2013 12:15 PM

By Dan Weil

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Protestors of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs have it all wrong, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial.

"The paradox of data-mining is that the more such information the government collects, the less of an intrusion it is," Journal editors write.

"These data sets are so large that only algorithms can understand them. The search is for trends, patterns, associations, networks. They are not in that sense invasions of individual privacy at all."

If the NSA doesn't do its data mining, threats can't be discovered. "The alternative to automated sweeps is more pervasive use of lower-tech methods like wiretaps, tracking and searches -- in a word, invasions of persons rather than statistical probabilities," the editorial states.

"The political attack on data-mining could increase rather than alleviate the risk to individual rights."

Moreover, the activity has been approved by the special court created by the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Journal points out.

"The more coherent critics concede that all of this is legal and constitutional but say it is nonetheless an amorphous infringement of civil liberties," the editorial states. "Like any government power, it can be abused," but there is no evidence of that.

"What our self-styled civil libertarians should really fear is another successful terror attack like 9/11, or one with [weapons of mass destruction]," Journal editors write. "Practices like data-mining save lives, and in doing so they protect against far greater intrusions on individual freedom."

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