The NSA’s (ir)relevance in our lives

College students need not worry about the NSA’s collection of metadata.

by Ronald Dixon

The National Security Agency launched itself into the limelight this year after its spying and data-collecting techniques surfaced. The findings further reduced the public’s trust in government, but do we actually need to worry about the NSA?

I have defended the constitutionality of the NSA’s actions before. But now I’d like to consider the NSA from young Americans’ perspective. The question: What impact does the NSA actually have on our lives?

One of the controversial duties of the NSA is to collect large quantities of metadata. Metadata includes personal information published online. Considering that about 85 percent of college students are on Facebook and 20 percent of young people use Twitter daily, a lot of our information is out there, vulnerable for collection.

What is the actual impact  of the NSA’s bulk collection of your online information? The answer is none.

The NSA collects roughly 1.6 percent of metadata online, and then it analyzes 0.025 percent of that collected data. Through this process, the agency only observes 0.00004 percent of Internet traffic. The data that the NSA takes time to read and interpret is the information that is integral to its duty to public safety.

Of course, there are some isolated incidences of abuse, but, as a whole, the NSA’s job has no impact on most Americans. The government does not care about the political opinions that you post on Tumblr or the Halloween party pictures that you upload to Flickr. If you were communicating with a terrorist through Facebook or messaging German chancellor Angela Merkel, the NSA might take a peek at your data. However, retweeting Justin Bieber’s Twitter posts will not be on the NSA’s list of concerns.

College students and, indeed, everyone should question government security efforts, but our online information is irrelevant to the objectives of the NSA.