So, part of the reason the NSA is looking at our selfies is because they’re looking for communications between terrorists, right? That’s the whole justification. And if it struck you as a bit weird that terrorists would be dumb enough to use Facebook to plan their bombings, it turns out that, uh, they’re not.
Bloomberg did a little digging and found that terrorists, while stupid, are not quite that stupid:
In a January 2012 report titled “Jihadism on the Web: A Breeding Ground for Jihad in the Modern Age,” the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service drew a convincing picture of an Islamist Web underground centered around “core forums.” These websites are part of the Deep Web, or Undernet, the multitude of online resources not indexed by commonly used search engines.
For those wondering how extensive the “deep web” is, Google records approximately .004 percent of all the information on the Internet. Also, it turns out terrorists can use basic encryption too.
To be fair, a lot of the “Deep Web” is just garbage: Your old GeoCities site, those crappy forums you went to in high school and haven’t thought about in years, and so on. It’s literally stuff search engines are told not to index or hasn’t bothered indexing. And it’s not hard to find those sites that actually ARE active hives of terrorism if you are, say, an intelligence professional with contacts.
So, uh, what are these extensive systems actually good at monitoring? People who are not members of a terrorist organization! In other words, that massive organization that looks through all our stuff is really only good for spying on people who are not terrorists. Even though there is literally no reason, whatsoever, to do this. That’s… not very comforting.