“Come on man, think of how many phone calls are made and how many e-mails are sent every second! The NSA only consists of so many people! They can’t possibly be listening to us all the time!”
A common refrain from those who would attempt to convince you that the NSA spying program will be ineffective due to a lack of resources. This might seem fairly obvious, but whether someone is actively listening live during the moment is entirely irrelevant. Please keep in mind, the intent of this NSA surveillance program is not to simply eavesdrop on us for the perverse pleasure of NSA agents. I suspect that live surveillance is a pretty uncommon occurrence reserved for incredibly unique circumstances.
Now I have no particular expertise in this matter, I haven’t done a lot of research on the particulars of NSA programs. I’m just theorizing here how I think the government would operate.
The intent of the program is to collect data. It’s not that actual NSA agents are “listening” to your phone calls so much as it is that NSA servers are constantly receiving data from your cellular company with detailed records as to who you called, how long you talked to them, and how often you call them. No live person is “reading all of your e-mails,” but rather, some computer algorithm is scanning all of your e-mails for certain buzz-words, and then filtering them accordingly. All of this information goes in a massive database to be used against you, should the need ever arise. Just something to keep in mind the next time someone dismisses this program as a likely failure because there are so many e-mails and relatively few agents. Live surveillance is not the point – information gathering is.