CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"The Washington Post’s doubtful privacy statistics"

Stewart Baker has this post at The Volokh Conspiracy. In part:

The story is built around the implied claim that 90% of NSA intercept data is about innocent people.  I think the statistic is a phony. . . .

Suppose I become the target of a government investigation.  The government gets a warrant and seizes a year’s worth of my email.  Looking at my email patterns, that’s about 35,000 messages.  About twenty percent – say 7500 –are one-off messages that I can handle with a short reply (or by ignoring the message).  Either way, I’ll never hear from that person again.  And maybe a quarter are from about 500 people I hear from at least once a week.  The remainder are a mix — people I trade emails with for a while and then stop, or infrequent correspondents that can show up any time.  Conservatively, let’s say that about 25 people are responsible for the portion of my annual correspondence that falls into that category.  In sum, the total number of correspondents in my stored email is 7500+500+25 = 8000 or so.  So the criminal investigators who seized and stored my messages from me, their investigative target, and over 8000 people who aren’t targets.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/2014/07/the-washington-posts-doubtful-privacy-statistics.html

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