Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Grassley, and members of the Committee, I thank you for the opportunity to testify about technical issues related to surveillance.
My name is
Throughout my career, I have worked to help policymakers respond effectively to technological change. In 2011-12 I served as the first Chief Technologist at the
Today, I will provide an overview of the tools and methods that computing technology can bring to the broad collection and analysis of metadata. I am not an expert on the law and I offer no opinion on the legal status of any program. Nor do I presume to say how best to balance the legitimate goals of conducting foreign intelligence surveillance against the legitimate goals of protecting privacy and promoting civil liberties. I hope that my testimony will help you appreciate the power of metadata and control its use appropriately, consistent with the need for effective foreign intelligence.
Metadata can now yield startling insights about individuals and groups, particularly when collected in large quantities across the population. It is no longer safe to assume that this "summary" or "non-content" information is less revealing or less sensitive than the content it describes. Just by using new technologies such as smart phones and social media, we leave rich and revealing trails of metadata as we move through daily life. Many details of our lives can be gleaned by examining those trails. Taken together, a group's metadata can reveal intricacies of social, political, and religious associations. Metadata is naturally organized in a way that lends itself to analysis, and a growing set of computing tools can turn these trails into penetrating insights. Given limited analytical resources, analyzing metadata is often a far more powerful analytical strategy than investigating content: It can yield far more insight with the same amount of effort.
Advances in technology have transformed the role and importance of metadata. When focused on intelligence targets, metadata collection can be a valuable tool. At the same time, unfocused collection of metadata on the American population gives government access to many of the same sensitive facts about the lives of ordinary Americans that have traditionally been protected by limits on content collection. Metadata might once have seemed much less informative than content, but this gap has narrowed dramatically and will continue to close.
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