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CIA Chief advises you to ask: What are your rights? Who owns your data?

Mar 25, 20135 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

The CIA wants to keep all data 'forever' to connect the dots, but the CIA CTO Gus Hunt advised that you should be asking about your rights and who owns the data in this Big Data world.

The cloud is old news, it’s “so three years ago,” and Big Data “was so last year,” but according to the CIA’s Chief Technology Officer, Ira “Gus” Hunt, this year is about “how to get value” from Big Data. At the GigaOM Structure Data conference, Hunt presented, “The CIA’s ‘Grand Challenges” with Big Data” and I highly recommend that you take about 30 minutes to personally listen to it.

Big Data: CIA Chief explained how big is big

Google stopped reporting on how big it was about four years ago, but at that time said it was more than 100 PB in size, had more than 1T of indexed URLs, and had more than 3 million servers pushing more than 7.2B page-views per day. Regarding YouTube, Hunt said, “We believe that YouTube the only exabyte-scale or bigger repository — that we’ve been able to come across — on the planet….at least in the public sector.” He pointed out that “roughly 35% of all the world’s digital photography gets put on Facebook,” which has more than 1 billion users. There are currently more than 7 billion people in the world. Globally, there are about 193,000 text messages sent per second and about 4,500 tweets per second. We use up more than 2.2 trillion minutes per year of cellphone talk-time and that is just in the U.S. Hunt said that when uncompressed, it takes less digital storage room than 1 YouTube video per year. He added that “the social mobile cloud made Big Data real.”

CIA wants to keep all this data ‘forever’ to connect the dots

Now consider all that when you ponder the fact that Hunt said the CIA wants to store it all; last week the CIA signed a $600 million, 10-year cloud computing contract with Amazon. “The value of any piece of information is only known when you can connect it with something else that arrives at a future point in time. Since you can’t connect dots you don’t have, it drives us into a mode of, we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it ‘forever’.”

He started talking about how intelligence agencies need to find the signal amidst the noise. We all help tremendously in that regard since you are basically “already a walking sensor platform.” He said the Mobile Sensor Platform slide was a “limited list.” Hunt added, “You are aware of the fact that somebody can know where you are at all times because you carry a mobile device, even if that mobile device is turned off. You know this, I hope? Yes? No? Well, you should.

So your smartphone or tablet is not only like a tricorder, transporter and communicator, but is also becoming a mobile health platform. The health industry is working on mobile apps to control pacemakers and to do remote health “tune-ups.” Hunt said cyber threats will evolve from cyberattacks on businesses to attacks on “you and your health.” In fact, you can be 100% identified by how you walk. Hunt said as a security app, such as verification for banking, it could be a good thing. “On the other hand, if you don’t want to be found, or you want to protect yourself, maybe you don’t want to have somebody know what your gait looks like so they can figure out where you are at all times.”

He tossed in some great tidbits that question some “security” claims, which have greatly impacted our “privacy.” For example: London, the surveillance society city, can only definitely say that all those surveillance cameras stopped one crime.

The CIA and other intelligence agencies need to hone in on the signals in all of this info to protect national security and, of course, to stop terrorists. But “information has time value” and to connect the dots, “global coverage requires global data.”

Hunt said, “Search is broken,” so Intelligence wants search tools that are as easy to use as it is to “exhale;” it would return results showing any number of ways all of the searched people are connected according to the “7 Universal constructs for analytics.” The CIA cares “about people, places, organizations, time, events, things and concepts.” Yet it’s also “all about speed” and “we want to push to peta-scale RAM.”

In Hunt’s closing thoughts, he said we are living in the “high noon” of the information age. “It is nearly within our grasp to compute on all human generated information.” Facebook was his example where the information is conveniently stored in one place.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.