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Big Data: Why the Government Doesn’t Need a Gun Registry Any More


NSA Data Center Utah
By User: ParkerHiggins (Electronic Frontier Foundation) – Own work

By Christian Greiner

I am an Internet marketer by trade and in my industry it’s the companies with the most data that stand to make the most money. At my disposal I have over 200 million email addresses in the United Stated with over 3 billion points of data. From your email address alone there is a good chance I can tell you your age, sex, location, race, and interests. And yet my information pales in comparison to what companies like Google know about you.

If you use the Google Search Engine or Chrome Browser, Google knows everything you have searched for online. If you use Gmail they read contents of your inbox. If you use Google Drive they know the contents of your documents. The very reason they are so profitable is because they know so much about you.

Yet, as off-putting as it is to visit a website and have their ads follow me around all day via Google’s cookies AdSense, that’s not what I’m most concerned about.

What bothers me is the view from my bedroom window every morning. About a mile away from my home, the NSA has built the world’s most powerful data center. It’s heavily fortified, cost over $2 billion to build, and is five times the size of the US capital.

NSA Data Center
Courtesy Christian Greiner

According to Wired Magazine:

Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter.’

In other words, if you’ve ordered a magazine for your AR-15 from Brownells there’s probably an order confirmation currently sitting in your inbox that the government has all the authority it needs to read. If you’ve performed a Google search for “AK47 replacement stock,” the government can easily gain access to that information. And what website are your reading right now? I believe that’s what’s known as a “red flag.”

Think the search engines will hold your data private? Not likely. Since 2001 Yahoo! has worked with the Chinese government in handing over user information on Chinese government critics, resulting in their trials and convictions.

In 2009 Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt offered some advice for all of us . . .

If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines—including Google—do retain this information for some time and it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.

Technology has become an increasingly invasive aspect in our private lives. I doubt anybody believes the opposite. As a result, the government has access to ever increasing amounts of personal data.

I’m not suggesting they currently read all of your text messages and emails. But I’d argue the reason they aren’t isn’t because they don’t want to, have any moral qualms about it, or a law prevents them from doing so. Rather, it’s simply because they currently lack the required resources. New data centers will continue to be built, algorithms created, and the art of data mining will be continually improved.

My point is that if even Internet marketers like me have access to data that lets me know you like Jeeps, guns, and college football, I can’t imagine it would be too difficult for our friends in the intelligence community to piece together — with the help of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T and a 1 million square foot data center — which guns in particular you own.

If a law is passed outlawing a specific firearm I own and its confiscation is mandated, we’re not far from the point at which, whether or not my firearm is registered will be a moot point.

I will continue to oppose anti-2A policies, including universal background checks and registration. I can’t help but think, though, that in many ways these battles have already been lost. Moving forward, we must oppose laws that infringe upon our right to privacy and support laws that right these wrongs.

In this day and age we cannot separate our Second Amendment rights and our right to privacy. The destruction of either would lead to the downfall of both and eventually all our rights.


Christian Greiner is a digital marketing and SEO specialist.

This article was originally published in 2013.

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