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Needle in a Haystack

What’s the probability that the NSA examined the metadata for your phone number in 2013?

According to John Inglis, Deputy Director at the NSA, it’s about 0.00001, or 1 in 100,000. A surprisingly small number, given what we’ve all been reading in the media about NSA’s massive data collection effort. Of course, that’s an unconditional probability – if you make lots of calls to and from, say, Yemen, the odds are probably higher for you.

The calculations: Inglis said in a Jan. 10 NPR radio interview that it examined metadata (information about location, number called, duration, etc., but not the contents of the call) for about 6000 phone numbers in the US in 2013. Estimates vary, but there are at least 600,000 phone numbers assigned in the US. 6000/6,000,000 = 0.00001.

The Inglis inverview: