I am aware that the NSA collects unheard of amounts of data via cable-tapping programs such as OAKSTAR/STORMBREW/BLARNEY/FAIRVIEW and by other means. I also know that the NSA has very large and expensive data centers that can store a lot of information. In the light of that, how long do they actually keep this data? I feel very uncomfortable (and I am sure I am not the only one) thinking that they have all of my personal details and sensitive information in their data centers.

Most likely none of that would be ever made public or even peeked upon by anyone, because I am nothing but a drop in the sea, but say that I become a significant politician at some point. They could have blackmail material from some distant point in my past. I think that will be a concern for this entire generation of internet users, because in the past there was no such thing as the internet and privacy concerns.

Is information security even a thing anymore? With methods of bypassing encryption and so on... but that's another topic.

  • 2
    Secretive agency stores secret data, secretly, for <redacted> period of time. :) I don't think anyone can answer such a question, short of "probably forever".
    – Steve
    Mar 29, 2017 at 18:14
  • Re blackmail, the biggest worry is what a sitting president might do while in office - like direct the IC to collect information that might be used against future presidents of the other party. The NSA does not make those kinds of decisions themselves. They are subordinate to the chief executive.
    – SDsolar
    Mar 30, 2017 at 18:17
  • I see your point, @Steve. As they say, those who are talking don't know, and those who know aren't talking. Although, through journalism, we definitely now know that the previous administration was unmasking US Persons. Someone should go to jail for that.
    – SDsolar
    May 17, 2017 at 7:51

1 Answer 1


According to General Alexander when he started the digging for the Utah facility, he said the goal was to "capture as much as we can, and keep it as long as we can"

In other articles, I have seen discussion that they are especially interested in keeping encrypted communications longer, so if one day they get the key they will have the whole history of communications of a specific target. And you can bet they or the FBI keep a special eye on Tor communications.

They do utilize minimization, so they don't have to store irrelevant information. So your letters to grandma are probably not stored very long at all.

Now, keep in mind that as of the latest legislative move, it is the phone companies themselves that store most of it. It hasn't been made clear exactly what the NSA stores, other than that they have said they will request information from the phone companies for specific targets at specific times, following legal procedures involving the special Foreign Surveillance court.

Sure, information security is a thing. But mostly it is not the NSA you want to worry about.

The big worry is the idiots like those kids that sniffed credit card numbers from a large store from their car in the parking lot. Or someone sniffing packets at an airport. Or at a McDonalds.

You definitely want to use HTTPS-Everywhere in Chrome, at the very least. Or maybe a VPN service like Tunnelbear. Just enough security to keep the casual script kiddies from getting into your business.

  • They are patriots who are working to protect our country. I keep seeing this from you. It's kind of disturbing.
    – forest
    Dec 10, 2017 at 8:33

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