There’s been a lot of talk about the NSA and its data-gathering policies. The news sounds kind of scary. But you might be thinking that the NSA can’t have literally every foreign and domestic call made in the US. That would be a crazy amount of data right? Well, yes, it would be, and it kind of seems like it has it. Or at least it could afford to keep it if it wanted to.
Brewster Kahle, one of the engineers behind the Internet Archive who has a good track record of not handing private user information to the feds, made the spreadsheet above to calculate roughly how much it would cost the NSA to store a year’s-worth of comprehensive US call data. And the number he comes out with is less than $US30 million. Given that the NSA’s estimated budget is $US10 billion that sounds doable. Even storing years and years of call archives could be feasible.
Kahle is obviously just looking for a ballpark figure, and notes where he is attempting to overestimate so that if anything his conclusions will be too high, not too low. His calculations indicate that the NSA would need 405sqm to store the call data assuming that each American logs 300 call-minutes per month, there are two sides to each call, there are 315 million Americans, a phone call contains 8000 bytes/second of data, a petabyte of cloud storage costs $US100,000, it takes 5kW to power a petabyte, and the cost per kW-hour of electricity is $US0.15. Kahle’s fast maths may just be an estimate, but it definitely puts things in perspective. $US30 million sounds like the most money ever and a drop in the bucket all at once. [Cost to Store All US Phonecalls Made in a Year so it Could be Datamined via CNET]