The NSA has just gifted the mapping industry the best advertisement for data maps ever. And the security agency has even created the perfect slogan: Boundless Informant.
In case you’ve been away on a different planet over the last few days, the world appears to have – surprisingly it would seem – woken up to the fact that the US is spying on every nation on earth. Or, more to the point, it is monitoring the digital communications data of whole countries.
Now, the spying bit is hardly a revelation. Spying is a much-practiced tradition that has been conducted with brio for millennia. What raises the current disclosures to near iPhone-launch levels of excitement is the scale on which it has been conducted.
The little available information there is (largely gathered by Britain’s Guardian newspaper) tells us that in just one month the NSA managed to pull 97bn “pieces of intelligence” from computer networks around the world.
You would need an awful lot of James Bonds – and quite a few vodka martinis, shaken not stirred – to get through that amount of data and present decent insights.
As ever with big data, the NSA’s challenge was not the gathering of information, but rather to present it in a digestible format (presumably to the people who fund its digital spying activities).
Well, wouldn’t you know it, the NSA decided to summarize its data collection activities in that most reliable of big data tools…the interactive data map. And here it is, courtesy of The Guardian (dark green = low level of monitoring, red = high level of monitoring):
It’s engrossing, isn’t it? The US and Germany just leap out of the map with their unexpectedly high levels of surveillance.
And what a title to give a map! Even at eSpatial, where we’ve been highlighting the benefits of data mapping for years, we wouldn’t have had the chutzpah to call any map we produce “Boundless Informant”. It’s like something out of a Transformers movie.
Although we don’t condone the NSA activities, we do appreciate the excellent example of both a data map and a heat map that they have produced.
It may inspire you to create a heat map of your own. So feel free (and it is free!) to download eSpatial.
No security clearance required.