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The Significance of a ‘Three Hop’ Analysis

Washington’s Blog has an excellent, if somewhat long, post that outlines the significance of the NSA’s ‘three hop’ analysis. It collects and provides some numbers behind basic communications network analyses, and comes to the conclusion that upwards to 2.5 million Americans could be “caught up in dragnet for each suspected terrorist, means that a mere 140 potential terrorists could lead to spying on all Americans. There are tens of thousands of Americans listed as suspected terrorists … including just about anyone who protests anything that the government or big banks do.”

Go read the full post. Some of the numbers are a bit speculative, but on the whole it does a good job showing why ‘three hop’ analyses are so problematic: such analyses disproportionately collect data on American citizens the basis of the most limited forms of suspicion. Such surveillance should be set aside because it constitutes an inappropriate infringement on individuals’ and communities’ reasonable expectations of privacy; it runs counter to how a well ordered and properly functioning democracy should operate in theory and in practice.