How do intelligence agencies find that needle in the absolutely humongous haystack of surveillance data? Thanks to former United States National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, we now know that they have their own Google style search engine to trawl through scads of metadata that's captured wholesale.
Snowden's leaks describe a system called ICREACH that provides for a "Google-like search" of metadata - that is, phone records, locations of mobile devices, email addresses and internet chat logs.
According to Snowden's documents, there are hundreds of billions of meta data records in in the ICREACH and the older PROTON systems, a number that is growing by one to two billion a day. The figures are from 2010, so they could be much larger four years later.
What's interesting from a Kiwi perspective is that our very own Government Communications Security Bureau or GCSB may have access to ICREACH.
British spies already have access, and the document shows GCSB connected to ICREACH via the NSA with a "future broker" as part of the five-eyes intelligence sharing agreement.
Presumably the traffic to ICREACH is two-way, so does that mean NZ metadata is going into the US database as well?
Also, is NZ metadata shared with the CIA, FBI, DEA and US military intelligence agencies?
Those would seem reasonable enough questions to have answered now that NZ ISPs and telcos may need to store metadata on customers for up to a decade.
Location satellites wrongly located
Last week's launch of the first two operational satellites for Europe's billion dollar Galileo global positioning system alternative didn't go well.
The Doresa and Milena satellites ended up in the wrong orbit after a failure of the upper stage of the Russian Soyuz rockets Fregat upper stage. Now the two birds are circling the Earth in an elliptical orbit and not a circular one, and lean the wrong way relative to the equator.
It doesn't look like it'll be possible to poke them into the right orbit either. The European Commission has summoned the economic and political bloc's Space Agency and the Arianespace space port operator to explain what went wrong, but either way, there doesn't seem to be enough fuel in the satellites to take them out of the bad orbit.
Two new satellites will now have to be ordered and launched into space.
This is quite a big setback for the Galileo which aims to provide an alternative to the United States GPS and the Russian Glonass location systems. The setback comes on top of Galileo member countries have been rowing about the project which started in 2008, delaying the launch of the first satellites for years.
All in all, thirty satellites will be fired into orbit for Galileo by the end of the decade, all going well.
While the Europeans struggle with their spacey stuff, the Indians are approaching Mars with the Mangalyaan mission.
Also known as the Mars Orbiter Mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said, on Facebook of all places, that Mangalyaan is "just" nine million kilometres from the red planet. https://www.facebook.com/isroofficial
That's pretty amazing stuff, and good on India for making it that far.
It's the Internet, but not quite how we know it
China is a giant in every respect. Most numbers out of the Middle Kingdom look outsized compared to the rest of the world, and it's no surprise that the country now has 632 million Internet users according to
All those millions Chinese internetizens live a monitored and potentially dangerous life though. Activist Virtual Private Network provider IVPN put together a summary of what goes and what doesn't on China's Internet and... it's pretty restricted to say the least.
Putting it perspective, Iran, Saudi Arabia and The Sudan have more free Internet access than China. Only North Korea "bests" its giant neighbour in that respect.