NSA Building America's Largest Spy Center
According a March 15 Wired feature, the National Security Agency is currently constructing the nation’s largest spy center in Bluffdale, Utah — a facility that, “once built … will be more than five times the size of the US Capitol.”
The $2 billion Utah Data Center’s purpose is to “intercept, decipher, analyze and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign and domestic networks,” writer James Bamford states in the article.
The article states that the facility will be equipped with the means to break encryption on most communications, including foreign military secrets, financial information, and personal correspondences. All data will be processed and saved in the facility’s one million square feet of servers and data storage, which are equipped to handle more than a yottabyte (one trillion terabytes) of data. More than 20 terabytes of data per second will be processed, streaming in from satellites, other NSA offices, and listening posts around the world.
The center’s aim is to monitor all communications of foreign interests and the more than one million people on the NSA watch lists. Authorized, standardized spying on U.S. citizens of this sort has not happened since the scandals of the Nixon administration, and never before on this scale.
Student Support Software Discussed
On Friday, April 13, members of Student Government heard a pitch for a program called College and University Thrive (CU Thrive), a web-based program developed by the National Association of Student Personal Administrators (NASPA).
According to NASPA presenters, the program aims to help students overcome personal problems by connecting them to resources, including articles, student stories and expert advice. CU Thrive categorizes these problems into seven sections: campus life; daily living; emotional well-being; fitness and nutrition; sexual health; dependency and relationships.
According to SG Vice President Phil Amsler and a later clarification email from Assistance Vice President for Student Affairs Dawn Soufleris, RIT is considering purchasing the program because pending federal recommendations may change how schools such as RIT can interact with at-risk students.
“There are a lot of students out there who are struggling, and they need a resource and don’t know where to go,” said SG President Greg Pollock. “It’s important to have a place where people can go for reliable campus sources.”
However, there was concern from the student body about whether people will actually use the service. Since the program is still in a preliminary testing stage, the company could not provide success or retention rates.
Another question that was raised was why RIT could not build a similar program of its own. “This website is so impersonal…,” said OUTspoken President Tristan Sparrow, mentioning that he could not see himself using the site. “I would rather see something that we, as a campus, put together for our students that has that information specific to RIT.”
Sparrow also questioned the site’s inclusiveness of the GLBT community. Responding to his and others’ concerns, NASPA presenters acknowledged that while the site features GLBT resources, it currently lacks transgender health articles and features little support for NTID students. They stated NASPA hopes this will be remedied once the program launches and students begin submitting their own articles.
At this point, RIT has not made a formal decision on whether to purchase the software.
Facebook's $1 Billion Acquisition
Social media behemoth Facebook announced its acquisition of smartphone photo-sharing app Instagram for “$1 billion in cash and stock deal,” reported the Huffington Post on Monday, April 9. The two-year-old San Francisco-based startup enjoyed a base, among Apple iOS devices alone, of 30 million users and recently released a version of the app for Android devices.
The purchase is described by the Huffington Post as Facebook’s “attempt … to maintain dominance in an area that has proved one of its stickiest and most popular features: photo sharing.” According to a late-2011SEC filing by the social media giant, users posted an average of about 250 million photos daily; a comScore report finds that users spent about “one-fifth of their time on the site browsing photos.”
Despite the acquisition of Instagram, Facebook CEO and
co-founder Mark Zuckerberg posted an update to his Facebook profile, mentioning the company’s commitment to “building and growing Instagram independently,” reports Huffington Post.
Thus, “Instagram users will continue to have the ability to share photos to other social networking sites besides Facebook (and also abstain from sharing Instagram photos with Facebook), and will be able to keep their Instagram follower lists distinct from their Facebook friend groups,” Zuckerberg wrote.
Santorum Ends Presidential Campaign
In a Tuesday, April 10, announcement, former Pennsylvania Senator and presidential hopeful Rick Santorum declared that he was ending his bid for the White House. According to CNN, the move followed the hospitalization of Santorum’s 3-year-old daughter, Bella, a special-needs child with the potentially fatal Trisomy 18. The announcement came amid increasing skepticism that there existed a tenable path forward for the Santorum campaign, as candidate Mitt Romney emerged as the frontrunner.
Coupled with the Pennsylvania primary, where poll numbers presaged an unfavorable outcome for the hometown politician, Santorum’s exit seemed inevitable.
Though his presidential race is over, Santorum averred, “…we are not done fighting,” and recounted his campaign’s victories: “Against all odds we won 11 states, millions of voters, millions of votes,” and added that he had developed a “deeper love for this country” over the course of his campaign. Pundits speculate about his interest in a 2016 bid for the White House, given his national rise this election season.