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NSA to store yottabytes of surveillance data in Utah megarepository (update: not so much)

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Devin Coldewey
Crunch Gear
Tuesday, Nov 3rd, 2009

There’s an interesting article in the current New York Review of books (predictably, a book review) detailing the history of the National Security Agency, that shadowy power-behind-the-power to which we surrender much of our privacy. That in itself is interesting, but I found the introduction a bit shocking: the NSA is constructing a datacenter in the Utah desert that they project will be storing yottabytes of surveillance data. And what is a yottabyte? I’m glad you asked.

There are a thousand gigabytes in a terabyte, a thousand terabytes in a petabyte, a thousand petabytes in an exabyte, a thousand exabytes in a zettabyte, and a thousand zettabytes in a yottabyte. In other words, a yottabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000GB. Are you paranoid yet?

The more salient question is, of course, what are they storing that, by some estimates, is going take up thousands of times more space than all the world’s known computers combined? Don’t think they’re going to say; they didn’t grow to their current level of shadowy omniscience by disclosing things like that to the public. However, speculation isn’t too hard on this topic. Now more than ever, surveillance is a data game. What with millions of phones being tapped and all data duplicated, constant recording of all radio traffic, 24-hour high definition video surveillance by satellite, there’s terabytes at least of data coming in every day. And who knows when you’ll have to sift through August 2007’s overhead footage of Baghdad for heat signatures in order to confirm some other intelligence?

Full article here

This article was posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 11:37 am

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