US Surveillance: More Than Just Surveillance

As I’m writing this, every word is scanned – in real time – by the most advanced supercomputer available to humanity, placed in some extremely discrete place somewhere in the United States of America. Even thou I’m posing from Europe, the data from my computer is redirected between 10 and 20 times before it’s stored on the WordPress server, also situated in the US. Some of the routers can not be identified. Well, that’s no news to those who have been following my increasing focus on information technology over the last couple of years. But some of my greatest concerns have increased, too. The supercomputer have already predicted the next word I will write, – before I have written it, decided if any action is required and executed the preprogrammed response

“Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

US Official


The main concern amongst most mainstream media at the moment is how will this effect user activity? But – and I know this is hard to imagine – the answer to that  is to be found in exactly the same place as from where the question arise : Stored on the hard disks of the only computer in the world with the capability of, not only monitor everything online,  but also manipulate it.   

The shocking amount of data illegally collected is enough to make anyone a bit dizzy.

More than 2 million gigabyte per hour, 1,7 billion online conversations per day,  more than 300 million phone calls recorded every day, direct access to crucial servers at Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Apple, A&AT,   powered by highly sophisticated software programs that conduct “deep packet inspection,” examining of internet traffic as it passes through the 10-gigabit-per-second cables at the speed of light, resulting in a database currently storing detailed information on somewhere between 15 and 20  online conversations.

nsa network

Yeah, the system collects and store information, all right. But what else does this monstercomputer do?

That’s where the sudden flow of information stops. have a comprehensive coverage of the story from a technical perspective. Recommended reading.

The impressive capacity of the America surveillance system may be enough to frighten most people, but in a computer science perspective it becomes even more frightening.

What excactly is this computer system capable of?


prism-slide-1First , let’s have a look at 17 US agencies involved in the so-called (no longer) secret PRISM program:


  • groundbreaking investigation from the Washington Post found some rather daunting figures:
  • 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies are working on intelligence, counterterrorism, or homeland security in the U.S.
  • Just the NSA alone is contracting with more than 250 companies on intelligence work, including big names like Northrop Grumman and SAIC.
  • Many intelligence agencies are doing redundant work, such as 51 federal and military organizations that track the flow of money in and out of terror networks.
  • One reason why those intelligence budgets are classified: millions of dollars in so-called “ghost money” given to foreign governments.

And The UK Guardian reports that the British intelligence services are a part of the PRISM program, too.

I guess that covers pretty much everything….


The PRISM program is said to have a direct access connection to internal servers at the following internet companies:

  • prism-slide-4Microsoft
  • Yahoo
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • PalTalk
  • Skype
  • AQL
  • Apple

That should secure the lines…

All companies denies knowledge of the PRISM project, or anything similar.

At the moment is rather unclear whether the IT-giants are cooperating with the US authorities, if they are doing so to gain privileges or if they are forced. It may also be true that they are unaware of the whole thing (not likely), and it may also be a case of leakage with some alternative motive.


prism-slide-5Bluffdale? What kinda name is that?

It’s also a slightly bizarre place, according to the description at

“Bluffdale sits in a bowl-shaped valley in the shadow of Utah’s Wasatch Range to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west. It’s the heart of Mormon country, where religious pioneers first arrived more than 160 years ago. Today Bluffdale is home to one of the nation’s largest sects of polygamists, the Apostolic United Brethren, with upwards of 9,000 members. The brethren’s complex includes a chapel, a school, a sports field, and an archive. Membership has doubled since 1978—and the number of plural marriages has tripled. Rather than Bibles, prophets, and worshippers, this temple will be filled with servers, computer intelligence experts, and armed guards. And instead of listening for words flowing down from heaven, these newcomers will be secretly capturing, storing, and analyzing vast quantities of words and images hurtling through the world’s telecommunications networks.”

“Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013.”


“This is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents,


According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official:

Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.


Okay, I’m adding code breaking to collection and storage of data.

ap957255269727Most probably some kind of analysis are also being made – believed to be of the predictive kind, based on algorithms and mathematical models. And that makes sense, because the more data analyzed the better predictions the computer is able to make. Practically, the computer first makes a profile of a target defined by the engineers or programmers, then it finds everyone who fits the profile and starts collecting more information on the individuals……what happenss next is in my humble opinion the most interesting (and scary) issue here. For two reasons:

1.  There’s no such thing as a perfect algorithm, no computer prediction is 100% accurate 100% of the time. In fact, sometimes there can be huge , totally unexpected deviations. Everything that is based on  algorithmic predictions should be monitored by humans, enabled to override the computer program.

2. We’re looking at the worlds fastest and most advanced computer. It can collect the data, make the analysis, predict behavior and possible actions, and execute a predefined response faster than the human brain is able to think. That is in itself questionable. And even more if we add a little knowledge on what is going on in the development area at the moment – if you can imagine it, the computer can do it.

Here’s some central areas of computer science:

Ubiquitous computing

Scientific visualization

Quantum computer

Robotic surgery

Security engineering


Quantum entanglement

Computational genomics

Computer animation

3-D Print




the-mission-of-the-nsa-is-to-acquire-and-analyze-information-in-an-effort-to-identify-threats-to-us-interests-and-to-protect-americas-informationTerrorist protection? Perhaps.

But I strongly doubt that PRISM system, that looks more like an international operation of some kind, is set up with just one intent; to identify possible threats to US security and interests. This system, as far as I can see, have a much larger and dangerous potential.

I have a strong feeling that the next generation of mass destruction weapons is about to surface. And I fear that we will see a “digital Hiroshima” before these techdrunk, paranoid,  wannabes realize that they’re not playing with toys.

Oh – by the way – I’ve had my system surveillance program running the whole time writing this post. I will now have a look at the logs. If I find anything suspicious, I’ll let you know…’

Definitively related:



All Human Rights Reserved (h) 2013


How Much Social Influence Do You Need To Get Shot in the Head?

I have posted a few pieces on social media influence this year, and it’s certainly something to be taken seriously. But when it comes to measure social influence, it gets quite complicated. However, the prominent business magazine, Forbes, have discovered that there are several online tools you can use to analyze social media activity and pinpoint the most powerful influencers. Still, I can’t help wondering; who are these people? who do they influence? in what way? and do these very influential people actually make any significant contributions when it comes to solve the worlds problems?  

“They are the people who most influence the biggest brands or have the best-selling book or who have been around the business a long time.”



Now, let me get this straight: They are all PR-people and marketers, they’ve been in the business for a long time and they’ve written best-selling books on social media marketing, and now they are marketing themselves and their books very successfully – in social media. 

But that’s not all. According to a survey by Forbes Magazine, using chose Peek Analytics as the tool to measure influence, these people also have some impact on someone, apparently resulting in some producer of some famous brands being able to sell some more products… Amazing!

They are the “Top Social Media Power Influencers of 2013″.

On the scoring, Peek Analytics gives people a score called Pull. If an individual has a Pull of 10x, that means that the audience the individual can reach is at least ten times greater than what the average social media user can reach. In the top ten this year all the influencers have a pull of between 2,000 and 3,000. There are also some basic criteria for involvement – experts must be creating their own content, and it has to be about social media. (See more on the criteria here).

By the way –  if you want to measure your own Pull, you can do that by following this link.

Here’s the top 10 list:

# 1. Sean Gardner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASean, who also writes at Huffington Post, comes in at number 1. Sean blends social media insight with inspirational messaging, a trend we’re seeing across social. 

#2. Ann Tran.

Number 1 on the women’s list, Ann writes primarily about social media in the travel and hospitality vertical 

#3. Jessica Northey.

It’s a trend this year, leading influencers whose base is in a specific vertical. For Jessica it is music. She also says she’s moving away from blogging towards Google +.

#4. Mari Smith.

Mari is a leading Facebook marketing expert and one of the top 10, overall, from last year. She’s also the author of The New Relationship Marketing.

# 5. Aaron Lee.

images (1)Aaron has been strong on Twitter for a long time now, and has a useful website with professional-grade advice but which can also inform people at the beginning of their social media careers.

 #6. John Paul Aguiar.

An eclectic mix of blog advice, Twitter and other social tools, John is in business to help people make money from social.

#7. Liz Strauss.

Liz runs She’s currently taking on the challenge of cancer. Best wishes.

#8. Warren Whitlock.

Host of Blog Talk Radio’s Social Media Profit Show, like John, Warren’s focus in on social media for profit. 

#9. Ted Coine.

Happy-Blogger-Along with Shawn Murphy, Ted runs the Switch and Shiftblog.

#10.  Pam Moore.

Covering Facebook, Google + and the business of social.


“Inspirational Messaging”

“We are seeing a lot more inspirational messaging via Twitter from this group than we did last year – almost as if social media is relegated (or elevated depending on your taste) to motivational relationships. This is becoming an essential part of being a social media leader,” Forbes notes.

The top ten last year was skewed towards people who had a strong institutional base – an employer who allowed them time to do social media. The group below are much more skewed towards self-starters who have made social media their business, or who are advising on how to make social media your business.


And here’s the rest:

#11. Jeff Bullas.

happy-bloggingAn eclectic mix of social media tips and online marketing advice from Jeff and a stable of guest writers. 

#12Renee Blodgett.

Deep seated social media marketing expertise with a long chain of references and endorsements from mainstream media.

#13. Ted Rubin.

A broader remit than many on the list, Ted puts social media in the context of the wider evolving business environment. 

#14. Eve Mayer.

Officially a LinkedIn expert writes about a diverse range of social media issues and tools – Pinterest, Instagram, Google +

#15. Glen Gilmore.

istock_000002807197xsmallGlen is a practicing attorney and teaches Digital Marketing, Crisis Communications and Social Media Law at Rutgers University Center for Management Development

#16. Paul Barron. 

Paul is a social media expert in the restaurant trade where he runs the successful TV channel, Turn and Burn, and the website digitalcoco. 

#17. Dan Schawbel.

Dan’s work focuses on the use of social to build your personal success. Author ofPromote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success.

#18Kim Garst.

Advice on a mixture of social media tools: Google Hangouts, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram etc

#19. Lori Ruff.

LinkedIn specialist who recently launched a new advisory service to guide companies on the use of the LinkedIn platform.

#20. Ann Handley.

happy-bloggerAnn manages the content factory that is marketingprofs, a site that is producing better and better social media content, as well as being a content marketing expert in her own right. 

#21. Chris Brogan.

Chris is CEO&President, Human Business Works: courses to grow YOU!

#22Gary Vaynerchuck.

CEO and Co-founder of the social media & brand consulting agency, VaynerMedia. An authority in the branding and social media world who started out in the wine vertical. 

#23. Chris Voss.

Chris hosts his own radio show, probably expanding now to a much wider remit

#24. Pam Dyer.

Marketing manager at SolutionsIQ, Pam covers a variety of social media issues and trends in depth.

# 25. Laura Fitton.

happy-blogger-rosieAn online marketing generalist Laura is also a recognized expert in Twitter. The main reason for inclusion, apart from her ranking, is that she is a co-author of Twitter for Dummies. 

#26. Calvin Lee.

Calvin runs Mayhem Studios, a design practice in LA but has become perhaps better known for his social media work and social media advocacy.

#27 Jessica Merrill.

Jessica blogs at blogging4jobs, an HR/recruiting site and joins the many other experts on the list who are applying social to a specific activity. 

#28. Bonnie Sainsbury 

An eclectic range of themes around social, including one of the few on the list directly addressing mobile.

#29. Jonathan Naferrete.

Jonathan is an Instagram expert. He doesn’t blog text very often but does post images – he’s also a photographer.

#30. Lilach Bullock.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA social media marketing consultant with a strong following and some nice comparison work that looks at Pinterest, Facebook, earned media and more.

#31. Steve Farnsworth.

Pretty eclectic mix of content from Steve who is Chief Digital Strategist at Jolt Digital Marketing.

#32. Deborah Lee.

British adviser with eclectic social media interests but a particular focus on Twitter.

#33. Neal Schaffer.

Social media consultant and adviser, Neal’s Windmill Marketing site is a good resource for the whole range of social media tips, particularly around LinkedIn. 

#34. Mike O’Neil.

Linked expert Mike O’Neil runs the Integrated Alliances website and provides corporate LinkedIn training.

#35. Jay Oatway.

happy-bloggingAuthor of Mastering Story, Community & Influence: How To Use Social Media to Become a Socialeader

#36. Jeff Barrett.

On the PR side of social, Jeff writes regularly for the Washington Times in addition to running the agency “Status Creative”

#37. Scott Stratten.

Eclectic website with topical posts on social media, especially Twitter. 

#38. Marsha Collier.

Marsha is the author of 40 books, many of them in the social area, particularly around social media and customer service. A lot of her dissemination work takes place via Twitter and those books. Increasingly, we notice, she is taking her trade onto Google +

#39. Lori Taylor.

Lori writes an eclectic blog covering Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and general social media tips but her main work is in social media and direct response. Lori appeared in last year’s Top 50.

#40. Viveka vonRosen.

Happy-Blogger-Viveka is primarily a LinkedIn expert, though we’ve noticed her Twitter distribution is much more diverse than this.

#41. Yacine Baroudi.

Yacine is broadening his scope from social media to internet of things, a journey that many in social will have to take.

#42. Sandi Krakowski.

Sandi is a Facebook marketing expert and works on that fine line between social media and spiritual inspiration. I interviewed her about that work here on

#43. Susan Cooper.

Susan is a social media generalist but with a clear vertical focus in music. “I currently handle social media marketing, consulting and strategy targeted for musicians, entertainers and select businesses.

#44. Christine Korda.

Christine is VP and in charge of blogger relations at shesconnected and an active mom’s blogger.

#45. Don Crowther.

Social media marketing, with some useful content on the latest trends.

#46. Dede Watson.

istock_000002807197xsmallGeneral tips on how to do social. Dede has maintained a strong following over the past 12 months. 

#47. Erik Qualman.

Author of Socialnomics and a runs the multi-contributor blog of the same name.

#48. Michael Hyatt.

Author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, and runs a comprehensive advisory website. 

#49. Darren Rowse.

Darren is Problogger, one of the best sources on how to blog for profit. 

#50. Christopher Penn.

On the PR side of social Chris is also co-founder of PodCamp.


There you have it. The most powerful social media  (self)influencers of the year.

Unfortunately, there’s only a few names on that list that is familiar to me.  But with these people shaping the future of social media, I see an endless stream of consumption driving fun coming…

However, social media influence can be measured in many ways.

gdfreytRemember Malala Yousafzai? The 14-year-old Pakistani blogger who got shot in the head by the Taliban?

On 9 October 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Yousafzai as she rode home on a bus after taking an exam in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The masked gunman shouted “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all”,  and, on her being identified, shot at her. She was hit with one bullet, which went through her head, neck, and ended in her shoulder.

Malala was blogging about what schools she wanted to go to, what she wanted to be. She wouldn’t have reached very far up on the Forbes list.

Point being: A Taliban death sentence is something usually reserved for top US or Israeli officials and allied, and also a quite accurate measure of influence. But perhaps of another kind?



Related by econoTwist’s:


All Human Rights Reserved (h) 2013