from the hey-they're-talking-to-me-too! dept.
It’s common knowledge the NSA collects plenty of data on suspected terrorists as well as ordinary citizens but the agency also has algorithms in place to filter out information that doesn’t need to be collected or stored for further analysis, such as spam emails. Now Alice Truong reports that during operations in Afghanistan after 9/11, the US was able to analyze laptops formerly owned by Taliban members and according to NSA officer Michael Wertheimer discovered an email written in English found on the computers contained a purposely spammy subject line: “CONSOLIDATE YOUR DEBT.” According to Wertheimer, the email was sent to and from nondescript addresses that were later confirmed to belong to combatants. "It is surely the case that the sender and receiver attempted to avoid allied collection of this operational message by triggering presumed “spam” filters (PDF)." From a surveillance perspective, Wertheimer writes that this highlights the importance of filtering algorithms. Implementing them makes parsing huge amounts of data easier, but it also presents opportunities for someone with a secret to figure out what type of information is being tossed out and exploit the loophole.