Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Permission to Spy

I’ve been watching The Wire (currently halfway through season 3) and the thing that I’ve been thinking about most is how amazing it is that the police department gets the amount of information they do. In this way, the show seems a lot more accurate than the other cop dramas on TV which go around finding clues on their own (I assume at least). Basically, these cops just walk into a bunch of places (stores, phone companies, etc.) and ask for info on people. If any of these spots were to turn them down (which, to my knowledge, they’re fully in their right to do) they’d be shit out of luck.

Now it’s easy to find this valuable on the show where they’re using the information to bust drug dealers and the such, but it’s also quite frightening to imagine it happening to you or I. If we were suspected of something how quickly would the services we trust (phone company, email provider, etc.) turn over all their records. I know there was a hubub about this a few years ago with Yahoo!/Google, but I guess I never thought of it in these terms.

December 22, 2008