Peter Coyne

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Pardon the Latin. After a few burgers, beer and coleslaw, we began to see the world clearly yesterday. Today, we’re still at it, asking a very old, as yet unanswered question: Who, precisely, watches the watchers?

Enter the MIT Web app project called “Immersion: A People-Centric View of Your Email Life.”

You enter your email address into it and it will show you your email’s “metadata” as seen by the NSA. And it shows who you “collaborate” with. For entertainment purposes, we decided to spy on ourselves. Here, take a look:

The bigger the circle… the more communication between you and the known collaborator. The wider the connecting bar… the more often there is communication between shared contacts.

For reference, Addison Wiggin, as you may know, is our founder. Greg Kadajski, you may also be aware, is The Daily Reckoning’s managing editor. Joseph Schriefer is our publisher. Kate and Katie help get the day’s issue from our computers to yours… (Martin and Patrice are dad and mom, and Camila, over in the green circle, is my girlfriend. Sorry to drag you into this, Cami.)

Harmless enough, right? Sure, all in a day’s work. But here’s the rub. Each person here has their own Web, and their Web’s Webs have Webs. Until the map of collaborators looks something like this…

There’s bound to be at least one malcontent in that knotty mess. And that’s the tangled beauty of “metadata mining.” We’re all suspects now — the NSA only has to cast a wide enough net.

“Patrick Henry,” Bill Bonner observed earlier in the week, “could have crossed the Blue Ridge west of Charlottesville and never seen another government agent again.” Today, you don’t have that option.

And while your Web of collaborators is being tracked by the NSA, your financial transactions are being collected by an agency even more opaque than the NSA — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

“Bureau researchers are assembling data from across the financial landscape,” Bloomberg confirms:

“Credit card information from nine banks will be stored and analyzed by Argus Information & Advisory Services LLC, a White Plains, N.Y.-based consultancy that won a $15 million contract for the work, procurement documents show.

“As part of a separate industrywide review, banks are being ordered to provide records of credit card add-on products, including credit monitoring and debt cancellation, according to two people briefed on the matter. And last year, the bureau persuaded banks to submit data on checking account overdrafts.”

In addition, the CFPB is buying additional records like payday loans and mortgage information from outside companies.

Of course, the bureau’s director, Richard Cordray, says you have nothing to worry about. “The notion that we’re tracking individual consumers or invading their privacy is wrong,” he told the Senate Banking Committee in April. What else is he going to say?

If the Snowden incident has shown the NSA to be even more secretive than popular imagination had formerly allowed… the CFPB might be even worse.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created under the auspices of the now infamous Dodd-Frank financial reform bill in 2010. It is funded by the Federal Reserve, not Congress. The president appoints the CFPB director for five-year terms, though he could stay there indefinitely. It’s nearly impossible for Congress to remove him because of policy decisions.

In other words, the bureau is a secret, shrouded in opaqueness and wrapped in unaccountability. “Lies are more valuable, to them, than the truth,” Bill Bonner suggests in today’s essay below. And with that, we come full circle from the Idea of America, with which we kicked off the week.

(Sigh.)

Regards,

Peter Coyne
for The Daily Reckoning

P.S. According to a recent TED talk by Daniel Suarez, there exist software programs already that can identify the “big” circle in any social ring like we showed you above and then target it for removal with automated drone strike. (Heh. Better watch out, Addison.)

For what it’s worth, there are specific steps you can take to “make your circle smaller.” Tuesday, the Laissez Faire Club released a new, free report called Make Yourself Invisible to the NSA that outlines all the measures you can take to restore privacy in your life. If you’re interested in reviewing a copy, click here.

You May Also Like:


The Reality of America

Bill Bonner

Poor Edward Snowden. The man performed a valuable public service. He should get a medal on this Independence Day. Instead, he will have to face the music.

Peter Coyne

Peter Coyne is the managing editor of The Daily Reckoning. He received his degree in economics and political science from Loyola University Maryland where he studied under the Austrian economist, Tom DiLorenzo. Before joining Agora Financial, Peter worked in Congress for Dr. Ron Paul until he retired in 2012.

Recent Articles

Addison Wiggin
Profit from Global Warming, Even if You Don’t Believe In It

Addison Wiggin

Global warming is one of the most debated subjects of the last few years. But regardless of whether you're a "true believer" or a merely an unconvinced skeptic, there are significant ways to make serious money from this controversial topic. Today, Addison Wiggin brings you three of them. Read on...


Don’t Drink the Tap Water (It’s Not What You Think)

Chris Campbell

Under the auspices of benefiting public health, the government has been administering medication to you and your family for generations. But is it really necessary? Or worse... Could it actually be harmful? Chris Campbell takes a closer look at this, and other personal health decisions the feds don't trust you to make...


One Metal to Watch in the Current Commodity Crash

Greg Guenthner

Commodities have been in freefall lately. Everything from corn to soy beans to precious metals is headed lower right now. But is this just a brief downturn, or is this the beginning of a long-term trend? Greg Guenthner explains, with a closer look at one specific precious metal that could snap back violently before heading lower. Read on...


Addison Wiggin
The Central Bank Experiment that’s Destroying the Economy

Addison Wiggin

When it comes to central bankers and the global economy, you might say the inmates are running the asylum. Today, Addison Wiggin sits down with Jim Rickards to discuss the ever-changing world of finance, the likelihood of hyperinflation hitting the U.S., and the massive economic experiment being conducted by the world's central bankers. Read on...


What the Reboot of the US Budget Means for Your Money

Byron King

Big government doesn't come cheap. And right now the U.S. government is one of the biggest in history. So far the budget writers have been able to move money around to keep the machine moving. But as Byron King points out, that will soon become much more difficult. Read on for the full story...


Laissez Faire
The Real Reason ISIS Wants You Dead

Chris Campbell

ISIS is a radical terrorist organization wreaking havoc across Northern Iraq. But its members come from all over the world - including many from Western Countries. The question no one's asking is why... Why are foreigners flocking to the Middle East to fight alongside ISIS? And how far does Obama really want to go? Chris Campbell explores...