I just read something interesting from the Backblaze blog, which made me think about something I learned from spycraft. Call it the evidence of things unseen.
The way the planet Uranus was found was not through direct observation, but rather through the perturbations it made in the orbits of known planets. If you wanted to know how much of your data the government might be able to store, you might try to figure out how much you can't store because of tight supply of hard drives. Or you might try to figure out the size of the hard drive market and pie chart it. These methods could only give some odd approximations because the NSA forces you to lie. As well, of course, there is no perfect information. But if the spy agencies are using a great deal of hardware, you can bet they're not building it themselves and the details are in the supply chain. There are money trails to be followed.
When SGI bought super-computer maker Cray in 1996, our CTO who worked there at the time said the running joke was, “SGI sold no units this quarter, but made a healthy profit.” That wasn’t magic accounting. It was the NSA requiring purchases not be disclosed. The problem was, revenue still had to be reported.
Now I remember not long ago, because I have several terabytes at home, that the price and availability of external USB drives went pear shaped. Prices went up and availability went down. The story that was largely circulated was that some floods put some Asian factories out of commission. I never saw a picture of that flooded Asian hard drive factory and I never suspected the story until a couple weeks ago when I added three more terabytes to my little farm. The shelves at Fry's were practically empty. So how many years is this shortage supposed to last?
Being a TNPer I have followed a bit about 'Firearmageddon', the depletion of guns and ammo from American retail stores. We know that Homeland Security is buying historical levels of bullets. If we can forget 'why' for a moment, it becomes apparent when we add these two phenomena together that this is something of a zero-sum game. It's us vs the hungry government agencies when it comes to buying sophisticated hardware because neither of us can build it ourselves.
If We The People could figure out what the government wanted next and buy it all first, we could limit it.