The Changing Economics of Surveillance
Cory Doctorow examines the changing economics of surveillance and what it means:
The Stasi employed one snitch for every 50 or 60 people it watched. We can’t be sure of the size of the entire Five Eyes global surveillance workforce, but there are only about 1.4 million Americans with Top Secret clearance, and many of them don’t work at or for the NSA, which means that the number is smaller than that (the other Five Eyes states have much smaller workforces than the US). This million-ish person workforce keeps six or seven billion people under surveillance—a ratio approaching 1:10,000. What’s more, the US has only (“only”!) quadrupled its surveillance budget since the end of the Cold War: tooling up to give the spies their toys wasn’t all that expensive, compared to the number of lives that gear lets them pry into.
IT has been responsible for a 2-3 order of magnitude productivity gain in surveillance efficiency. The Stasi used an army to surveil a nation; the NSA uses a battalion to surveil a planet.
I am reminded of this paper on the changing economics of surveillance.