The National Security Agency’s surveillance network has the ability right now to keep tabs on 75 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic, The Wall Street Journal reports. The NSA is supposed to be using that ability to search out intelligence on the ‘bad guys’ by grabbing the communications of foreigners and Americans. The WSJ interviewed current and former intelligence and government officials and people from companies that help build or operate the systems, or provide data. After those interviews, they say that the written content of emails sent between citizens within the U.S. and domestic phone calls made with Internet technology were captured. The system works by using algorithms that act as filters to flag the crucial stuff for a human to then look at closer. An NSA spokeswoman told the Journal that its actions were both legal and respectful of Americans’ privacy.
Where is all that data going? Most likely a range of data centers, which are massive facilities designed to store data without ever losing power. The NSA is currently finishing construction on its Utah Data Center, a new $1.2 billion storage facility near Salt Lake City. When it’s finished, the data center will be able to hold and process five zettabytes of data, according to insiders. One zettabyte (ZB), is 10 to the power of 21 bytes—or the amount of data that could fill 250 billion DVDs. So far, no storage system in the world contains this much data, but Cisco estimates that the collective Internet will start sending zettabyte-levels of data by 2015. Sounds like the NSA needs to beef up that storage capacity!