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NSA Data Center (courtesy Christian Greiner)

By Christian Greiner

I am an Internet marketer by trade and in my industry it’s the companies with the most data that stand to make the most money. At my disposal I have over 200 million email addresses in the United Stated with over 3 billion points of data. From your email address alone there is a good chance I can tell you your age, sex, location, race, and interests. And yet my information pales in comparison to what companies like Google know about you . . .

If you use the Google Search Engine or Chrome Browser, Google knows everything you have searched for online. If you use Gmail they read contents of your inbox. If you use Google Drive they know the contents of your documents. The very reason they are so profitable is because they know so much about you.

Yet, as off-putting as it is to visit a website and have their ads follow me around all day via Google’s cookies AdSense, that’s not what I’m most concerned about.

No, what bothers me is the view from my bedroom window every morning. About a mile away from my home, the NSA is nearing completion of the world’s most powerful data center. It’s heavily fortified, costing $2 billion to build, and will be five times the size of the US capital upon completion later this year.

According to Wired Magazine:

“Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter.’”

In other words, if you’ve ordered a magazine for your AR-15 from Brownells there’s probably an order confirmation currently sitting in your inbox that the government has all the authority it needs to read. If you’ve performed a Google search for “AK47 replacement stock,” the government can easily gain access to that information. And what website are your reading right now? I believe that’s what’s known as a “red flag.”

Think the search engines will hold your data private? Not likely. Since 2001 Yahoo! has worked with the Chinese government in handing over user information on Chinese government critics, resulting in their trials and convictions.

In 2009 Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt offered some advice for all of us:

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines—including Google—do retain this information for some time and it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.”

In the coming years technology will become more invasive in our private lives. I doubt anybody believes the opposite. As a result, the government will have access to ever increasing amounts of personal data.

I’m not suggesting they currently read all your text messages and emails. But I’d argue the reason they aren’t isn’t because they don’t want to, have moral qualms or a law prevents them from doing so. Rather, it’s simply because they currently lack the required resources. New data centers will continue to be built, algorithms created and the art of data mining will be improved.

My point is that if even Internet marketers like me have access to data that lets me know you like Jeeps, guns, and college football. I can’t imagine it would be too difficult for our friends in the intelligence community to piece together — with the help of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T and a new 1 million square foot data center — which guns in particular you own. If a law is passed outlawing a specific firearm I own and its confiscation is mandated, we’re not far from the point at which whether my firearm is registered or not will be a moot point.

I will continue to oppose anti-2A policies, including universal background checks and registration. I can’t help but think, though, that in some ways these major battles have already been lost. Moving forward, we must oppose laws that infringe upon our right to privacy and support laws that right these wrongs. Laws such as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2013 being proposed in Congress right now.

In this day and age we cannot separate our Second Amendment rights and our right to privacy. The destruction of either one would lead to the downfall of both and eventually all our rights.

Christian Greiner is an SEO specialist and co-founder of GunsmithSEO, an internet marketing agency specializing in the firearms industry. 

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  1. Thank you sir, for pointing this out. Now, as for your filthy, disreputable profession…. I SPIT ON IT.

    • The emails that affiliate marketers have are given to them by the owners of those emails. It’s called building a list. And the owner of that email can unsubscribe at any time. There’s nothing filthy or disreputable about it at all.

    • Haha, I promise I’m not as bad as all that. I’ve never sent out a spam email, I just use the data to help companies understand their customer demographic.

    • There is a difference between spammers and the people who try to ensure that the ads I see are relevant to my interests. I would rather see an ad for a special at Brownell’s than a promotion for feminine hygiene products, and the people who work to ensure the former happens instead of the latter are doing everyone involved a favor.

    • Please also see Bruce Schneier’s talk on this issue:

      There is no privacy on the internet

      Crucial crucial issue. And another reason why it is super-crucial for people to drop bipolar politics and organize the strongest possible front to protect inborn rights (prior to the constitution of any government, including our republic’s).

      I completely expect that I am being tracked…which is why I decided to start posting here under my own name and e-mail. Your hiding will not protect you. The battle for freedom is being waged by automatons and Big Data against individual rights.

      And if they can use guns to accelerate this battle, by getting the fearful to allow erosion of legal protection of our rights, that’s just the beginning.

      • +1
        Their game plan is to divide and diminish.
        We need to link up with left wing organizations like the ACLU, first on common ground (like opposing militarization of the police) and then toward an expansive view of protecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

        The long term goal is to change the conversation so that everyone feels invested in the entire Constitution, not just the parts they like.

        I respect your decision to use your real name. Tyranny never wins by brute force alone, there’s always an elements of resignation, intimidation and calculation.

  2. Privacy? What privacy? Public officials don’t have any, and neither do we. Privacy is dead. Off the grid? There is no such thing, except interpreted merely as doing without utilities. And Greiner, sooner or later I’m going to have ask you why you buy all that latex clothing.

        • Swiss, if you mean my “Global Village” comment, no. The Global Village was originally a marketing term for the internet. The main modem for the early Mac computers was by “Global Village.” Just referring to the speed with which electronic data (versus paper data) travels and replicates.

  3. Don’t be afraid. Look at it like a direct path of communication to real decision makers. Start your direct communication like this:

    Hey Mr govt agent I know you are reading this. Tell your government keepers to stop this gun confiscation nonsense before all hell breaks out.

    See: simple and direct. Most agents are probably reasonable people, who love our country and will be able to recognize a reasoned comment , aren’t you guys and gals?

  4. There was a recent brewhahaha involving Target stores’ predictive data marketing systems. Apparently a woman found out she was pregnant AFTER Target sent her baby related product recommendations out of the clear blue.

    With time, the Feds can determine which doors to knock on through similar means. Buying your ammo in cash and trying to stay “of the grid” won’t save you, because the software will be able to pull a gun owner based on criterion we can’t easily change.Heck, if Target is any indication the Feds will already be at your favorite gun store waiting for you to make your next purchase.

    • She didn’t find out she was pregnant that way it was her father who found out thanks to the mailer.

      Marketers are only as good as the info they get so while we have plenty to worry about the ability to predict intimate details of our lives without someone already being aware isn’t there.

    • Bitcoin wallet.dat files can be hacked by individuals. They don’t stand a piss against government backed intrusion. They can also compel the formation of databases of transactions if it really gets their interest.

  5. Everybody go out and do a search for “ar-15” right now and we can all be on the same list. It’ll be cool – and we won’t let those smelly “ak-47” search people on our list.

  6. There are at least eight different entities tracking your presence on this page right now. Don’t believe me? Ask RF.

    • Let’s see if we can figure who might garner more scrutiny. Someone who uses their full legal name on line or someone using a nom de plume?

      Regardless, I seriously doubt any network obfuscation is going to impede the NSA snoopers once their new facility comes on line.

      • Well that’s why I fight against the push in recent years to encourage the usage of real names. The fewer people who stop using handles and move to real names, the better in my opinion.

        You are almost correct in your point about the NSA snoopers. I say almost because they don’t really need to wait for their new facility, as their current servers can process a goodly amount of data already.

        But even when it does come online, it doesn’t make them omniscient.

    • No offense Little Pony but if it is as easy to hide as you (publicly) say then what makes you think you are hard to find?

      • I’m not quite sure what you mean? Do you mean that doing things differently and trying to hide makes one stick out more?

        I’m under no illusion that it I can’t be traced, but these are extremely simple steps to make things more difficult. I simply believe in making things more difficult for trackers. Just on the principle of privacy – I don’t think I need to keep privacy, but do think I have a right to privacy. I don’t want to go down without a struggle.

        But yeah, it probably wouldn’t be difficult to find my IP, and ask my ISP for my name and address. If I was truly paranoid I suppose I would use public wifi instead, and run everything through TOR, and wipe my cookies constantly. Maybe run everything inside a virtual machine that I wipe every now and then.

        I think it’s healthy to push back and to make others aware of what’s happening and the tools that can be used to help combat it. Otherwise, the data collectors will just keep taking bigger and bigger liberties.

      • BTW: if you are interested in these topics and have 3 hours to spare, I thought this presentation was pretty good:
        This covers the data that private companies can collect.

        And then if you have another hour and a half this is also a good speech (which specifically mentions the NSA data center referenced in the blog post):
        This covers the type of data that the government can collect.

        Both of them are key-note speeches from a conference called HOPE. (Hackers On Planet Earth)

  7. That’s precisely why I have programmed robots to make random keyword searches on my computers at semi-random times.
    “You can’t prove that I searched for those keywords. All those words are in my robot’s dictionary and my robot doesn’t keep a log of what it searched for.”

  8. Meh, I ain’t gonna run. That just makes you die tired.
    If they’re taking requests, though, can I request extermination by AC-130? I can’t think of a cooler way to be euthanized than by an airborne howitzer.

  9. It’s like something out of “Three Days of the Condor.” Yeah, government intrusion and data mining is that old. They’ve just gotten better at it.

  10. I would imagine the real power of this complex will be targeted data acquisition. For instance, let’s say the DHS get wind of some suspicious behavior from an individual or group. They could then attempt to glean information (hopefully with a search warrant) about them.

    As a species we’re prone to laziness and incompetence when faced with pouring over TRILLIONS of documents. Even with key word searches, there’s just so much mundane stuff out there…

  11. I worked for a executive in Phantom Works who’s team hired 6 people as a team out of college to do cyber security R&D. (Circa 2009) One of these undergraduates showed up to the interview with a program that could brute force break any password on your keyboard up to 16 characters long.

    It means I now pay cash anonymously for “stuff” at the Gun show and keep my mouth shut on line.

    Except for my handle on Marin Owners Group, ARF15, Silencer Talk, Here, Firearm Blog, Midway USA, Optics Talk…..opps!

    I’m screwed.

    • One of these undergraduates showed up to the interview with a program that could brute force break any password on your keyboard up to 16 characters long
      A rather broad a misleading statement. Any IT developer can write a brute force password cracker in 15 minutes, running it against all possible combinations of a 128 bit key would take a infeasible amount of time. And if he had a rainbow table, it wouldn’t effect a program which used a salt or key stretching.

      • I’d have been far more impressed if he’d shown up with a DNA-computing hack which could break 128-bit AES keys overnight.

  12. As I get older, I understand the endings of Escape From New York and Escape From LA more and more.

    On a related note, I guess all that research I did into .9mm will peg me as a journo and therefore ignored.

  13. During the Clinton years they started a program called forward search , the watched Fed. Ex. and UPS to see where a package would come from and go to. So a package from Sportsman’s Guide got watched… I have had a Small corner of my package get torn . Scope checks…. Also they do keyword checks so a word like (bombXX) got a check… They record it all , but so much to review , that for now is in our favor….THE JOKE is not in catching bad guys …. but CONTROL OF EVERYTHING……..WAKE UP AMERIKA!!!!!!!

  14. Thinking that George Orwells book “1984” was named wrong. Should have been 2014. Or THX1138 was an unheeded warning! Forgot to mention Orwells Animal Farm. Oops!

  15. No mention of the ATF’s eTrace database? Unless you’ve never bought a gun new, or had it serviced by a gun smith or the manufacturer, it is all ready registered to you. And that data is also available to over 120+ nations via the UN’s disarmament program. Then take in account CCW permit databases too.

  16. One irony is how so many of the current holders of power in this country say gun owners are paranoid, and all the while they’re filthly little busybodies even Screwtape couldn’t dream up. (See the gropers in the TSA.) Talk about insecure, petulant, and paranoid, certain elements in the federales make the rest of us look like carefree little kids just flying our kites in the park.

  17. Chilling!

    The only thing restricting profiling each of us lack of resources (people) to do the data mining.
    But before long, if not already, resources won’t be a limitation. Computers will be programmed to pull all sorts of profile data together about each of us who are “on the grid” and prepare instant dossiers targeting our personal profile and activities.

    And what’s going to stop “them” with laws like the Patriot Act on the books!

  18. Dear Big Brother,

    I like guns! (Love is probably a better word)

    I enjoy them! (I really enjoy them!)

    Just in case you have not figured that out already!

  19. So, yeah, they are building a giant database of info about US and other citizens.
    I checked for contracts and because it is a ‘black’ program, all I can find is the contract to building the buildings, that is done by the USArmy Corps of Engineers. All other contracts would be listed in the Acquisition Research Center, where all classified contracts are listed.
    If anyone has access to the ARC and can take a look and speak about the tech and who the contractors are, Might be interesting.
    But, honestly, they have much bigger things to do than make a list of people with guns.
    The center is not operational, so that means the hardware and software are being created and there will be several contracts for people to staff the center, techs, janitors, etc.
    The NSA won’t even tell Congreve what they are doing, so I think the chances that congress could get a list of firearm owners is pretty much nil.

    If you want to do some lit research on the Utah data center, look up the Narus technology, and the FAA Sunsets Extension Act of 2012. Narus is an eavesdropping tool, the sunset act is the authority to eavesdrop on us without a warrant.

    • Not sure where you were looking, but it is publicly acknowledged to go live this year.

      Semi-vague specs about the computing power contained therein are also public knowledge. One of the men in charge of its design and implementation has since resigned from NSA.

      In more than one interview around a year ago when this story broke, he said that were anyone to use the data center for nefarious purposes it would be best described as “dictatorship in a box”. His words.

  20. I would hope that Christian knows that there are ways to keep the Googles and Facebooks of the world at bay. For instance, right now, TTAG is using the following tracking cookies and widgets. I know this because I have a Ghostery plug-in installed. More importantly, Ghostery has turned these tracking devices OFF. I do not have ads following me around.

    Ghostery found 6 trackers
    Facebook Social Graph Widget Analytics
    Google Analytics Analytics
    Lockerz Share Widget

    Detected tracker source URLs:
    nRelate Widget
    Wordpress Stats Analytics

  21. AT this point, who gives a shit whether they know where our guns are. The thing to ask your self now is. What are you going to do when they come for them?

    • There is no doubt in my military mind the govt knows what guns I have. I had to get a NICS check when I bought them and you’ll never convince me they don’t retain the data. I’ve yet to meet anyone here in NYS that has said they will comply with the safe act registration requirements so starting in Jan of next year we will get to test my theory.

      In case anyone hasn’t heard yet, yesterday Herr Cuomo took a page out of his fascist mentor’s (George Soros’s) playbook, and enacted a program to turn neighbor against neighbor by offering a $500 reward for anyone reporting “illegal” guns. Ah, Andy my boy. I figure by now you’d of learned the lesson of unintended consequences. How many ways do you think this program can go bad. You see when the great Soros was helping to round up the Jews for their cyanide showers their guns had already been taken away. You’ve got the cart before the horse Andy. Its tough to see straight when you’re blinded by presidential ambition I guess.

      • This program is not new. The funny thing is when the media contacted law enforcement about the program several agencies had never a report or even heard of it.

  22. My message to Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt:

    ……..(‘(…´…´…. ¯~/’…’)
    ……….”…\………. _.·´

    google search that you piece of shit. I hope you record everything.

  23. As evidenced by the confusing set of movies Netflix tries to suggest for me, I have the ultimate pattern breaker in my house: my wife.

    Sure, I’ll Google, “the truth about guns” or “AK folding stock mod” or “SC2 Terran fast expo build order” or “Nas lyrics Black Republican”… then the wife jumps on and Googles “attachment parenting” or “vegan chocolate cookie recipe” or “Seattle’s best food trucks” or “Downtown Abbey episode recap”.

    I’m sure Google has no effin idea what to think…

  24. “(hopefully with a search warrant)”

    HA! Funniest thing I’ve heard all day, and I listened to Biden’s interview on NPR this afternoon.

  25. I don’t know squat about computers. It’s all greek to me. But I’ve spent a lifetime at one government job or another. State, Federal, local. They all had one thing in common. A complete clusterfvck.

    The NSA computers may be the newest marvel but the info is being sent to the same knot heads that can’t see the fall of the soviet union coming. These same people thought going into Viet Nam, Somalia, Iraq and Astan was a good idea.

    At this point I’d almost welcome the machines rising up and taking over. At least the decisions made would be logical.

  26. A sadly accurate foreshadowing. But a great flick. Max Von Sydow at his tall, creepy best. The civilized and worldly version of Angus Scrimm from the original Phantasm.

  27. I may get shouted down for this, but I’d like to point out that the NSA’s charter is explicitly for intel collection occurring outside our borders. They’ve extended this to surveillance of IP data flows at the switching exchanges directly proximate to the international fiber trunks, which I find totally repugnant but at least justifiable from a technical perspective. My understanding of their “rules of engagement” is that they have legal findings which are narrowly tailored to permit interception and analysis of IP traffic going to or from non-US networks, but that any traffic which is purely US-to-US is off limits.

    I’m far more concerned about the battle between the US DOJ (including the FBI) and the EFF/ACLU opposition regarding (a) warrantless GPS tracking on your vehicle and (b) warrantless network-side interception of text messages and mobile phone location data.

    This post brought to you by late-night task avoidance and the letter “N”.

  28. There is a difference of a purchase history and a registration. If I buy a 30rnd magazine or an AR upper there is evidence I might have an AR through purchase history.
    But I have no obligation to keep these items or use them on an AR. Maybe I’m building a sculpture out of them. Or giving them to the poor. Whatever it is if someone comes looking for them, there is no obligation to have them. This opportunity to be vague about our possessions is important.
    Registrations take all that owner data and then obligate the owner to let someone know if their whereabouts changes.

  29. Hmm…

    Maybe I want them to know. Governments are made of men, after all. Those men should be afraid — maybe not for their lives, necessarily, but certainly for their jobs. We should all be so armed. And we should shout it from the rooftops!

    What’s that phrase again? When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.

  30. My Boss and I were non-techie bean coutners, so we’re easiy impressed by hipsters waving shiny things in front of us.

  31. So we’ll be the first picked off: the subsequent generation with no 2A or activist history can carry the ball, hit the ground running. They will when radicalized tyrannical .gov, there’s no choice.

  32. been reading some comments here regarding screen-name… can’t get closer than mine, except of course leaving out my last name.

    I firmly believe the government knows all too much about its’ own citizens than it does about foreign enemies. we have become the domestic ones.

  33. The info stored is not only temporary but it’s vast, 90%+ impossible to ever recover, read, view and grab. What you yourself claim to be able to obtain isn’t jack sh*t. Much of the info that is used is anonymous, only a fraction of all related info(with the exception of smart phones usage) is identifiable. Yes, the gov and private snoop firms know more about some people, but it’s not quite Orwellian yet as there is still no way to process all this info for specific needs in most cases. 99% of US spying is now terror related, not saying some of us get caught up in the net but the gov sure doesn’t know who’s who, who ordered this or that, who looked for this, who replied about that. The system set up is set up with so many different data bases and storage places the ability for all of those to connect and for a single agency to collect it all is impossible. It’s amazing how some can be so tricked into believing 1984 is here, it’s not even close.

    • What you say may be true now but somebody in Silver Creek, NY was keeping track of the guy they just busted for selling banned weapons.

      Besides the reason they are building the facility in Nev is to address some if not all of the issues you just listed..

    • Lars, I get the feeling you just stepped out of a time machine. It’s 2013, not 1999.
      All phone data is identifiable when recorded in real time – were it not you’d never be able to connect to anyone. Anything that moves on the web is (eventually ) identifiable – no matter how many proxies you hide behind. As to processing all that data, that’s what this new center is about. As to 1984, you might want to research predictive software. That’s another thing Bluffdale is all about.

  34. The fun part also is so many people who work for the government in a secure area, we hear reports about how they fell out a window… (learned too much?) or (were a risk of leaks) working for the government can be bad for your health!!! HA HA HA .


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