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7:41:11 PM
  • An Echelon BOTEC. Ever wondered how much of the world's telecommunications traffic Echelon is capable of harvesting? Fans of the back-of-the-envelope calculation are ever on the lookout for obscure numerical facts and rules of thumb to rub together. Today's Washington Post article on the overhaul of the NSA dropped this nugget:

    [NSA's] collections systems scoop up enough data every three hours to fill the Library of Congress.

    Three years ago the Morrisons estimated the Library's holdings (excluding movies) at 20 terabytes -- see The Sum of Human Knowledge? in the July 1998 Scientific American. From that same rich article we learn that speech telephony, worldwide, amounts to a few exabytes per year (i.e., a few million terabytes).

    So if the NSA is capable of intercepting and storing 6.6 terabytes per hour, what fraction of the world's real-time telephony is that?

    About one part in five.

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