Information about the NSA's data gathering efforts continues, with newly-released information of the agency's efforts on the social networking front. It's already been revealed that the NSA gathers information from many different sources, but this latest information gives us a clear idea as to the extent that this data can be used and interpreted.
For example, it's being said that entire maps have been created from social networking data that ties the person to a number of different sources: Their friends, locations, time of activity, traveling companions and so forth. With the unparalleled access to certain information that the NSA has had, we can imagine that these charts would be more elaborate than even your public Facebook profile, for example, would contribute to. It could be that posting to Facebook without location information embedded in the post would do nothing to prevent the NSA from gathering it regardless.
In 2006, a Justice Department memo stated that such gathering could lead to the potential of misuse, and to counter that, a spokeswoman went on the record to say that any data gathered on Americans absolutely has to involve foreign intelligence of some sort. I'm not sure about you, but given all the NSA has hid from us, I'm not quick to believe any assurance like this.
Perhaps the most upsetting thing about this latest revelation is that it's not much of a revelation at all. The number of leaks that have involved direct data gathering on Americans and foreign folk alike has been so large, it's just no longer surprising. What will be surprising is if new policies come into effect that definitively prohibit this sort of data gathering in the future.