What we have learned about the NSA’s capabilities suggests a move toward programmatic, automated surveillance previously unfathomable due to limitations of computing speed, scale, and cost. Technical advances have both reduced the barriers to surveillance and increased the NSA’s capacity for it. We need to remember that this is a trend with a firm lower bound. Once the cost of surveillance reaches zero we will be left with our outdated laws as the only protection. Whatever policy actions are taken as a result of the recent leaks should address the fact that technical barriers such as cost and speed offer dwindling protection from unwarranted government surveillance domestically and abroad.

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