Utah Residents Torn Over Construction of NSA Data Center: Jobs VS Privacy

The new NSA data center currently in progress in Bluffdale, Utah, has sparked some controversy among local residents. Not surprisingly, most of the details for this government building have been kept a secret. Only recently the blueprints were revealed, allowing experts to make some conjectures regarding the capacity of this data center.

According to an estimate by Internet Archive engineer Brewster Kahle and given the expected size of the building, if every phone call made in the U.S. this year was recorded and stored there, it would take up about 20% of the redundant storage. This enormous project is estimated to cost about $1 billion, and is reported to cost $20 million a year to maintain after construction is complete.

The primary purpose of the NSA’s new data center is to house the data the agency collects. With a data center, the NSA will be better able search and organize its information. The data stored here has been gathered from “citizen data,” outlined on NSA’s official website for the Utah data center as “website visits, Internet searches, phone calls, Skype calls, emails, text messages, credit card information, financial information, legal documents, travel records, [and] health records.” The website also noted that this information will be used in the Utah data center for “Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR)” and “Terrorist Screening Center Alert.”

It is not surprising that the NSA chose Utah as the prime location for one of its data centers. Now the home for many other technology companies, such as Adobe, Utah has recently been dubbed the “Silicon Slopes.” There are many reasons why Utah would be so appealing to technology companies and data centers: great research universities, low costs for businesses and employees, a large number of entrepreneurs, and a multitude of foreign-language speakers.

The Salt Lake Tribune recently reported the results of a survey done by the Libertas Institute that found that while 46% of Utah residents surveyed oppose the NSA’s surveillance on citizens, 54% of the same group supports the construction of the data center in Utah. Most of those who were against the NSA’s actions disliked it because they felt it violated the fourth amendment of the Constitution. The disparity between these two results suggest that although Utah residents feels the NSA has gone too far, they are in favor of the job opportunities created by the new data center.


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Burr, Thomas. “New poll: Utahns back NSA’s Utah Data Center, object to spying.” http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/blogsoutofcontext/56709594-64/nsa-percent-center-poll.html.csp. (9 August 2013).

Hill, Kashmir. “Blueprints Of NSA’s Ridiculously Expensive Data Center In Utah Suggest It Holds Less Info Than Thought.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/07/24/blueprints-of-nsa-data-center-in-utah-suggest-its-storage-capacity-is-less-impressive-than-thought/. (9 August 2013).

“Utah Data Center.” http://nsa.gov1.info/utah-data-center/. (9 August 2013).

Henn, Steve. “On Utah’s ‘Silicon Slopes,’ Tech Jobs Get A Lift.” http://www.npr.org/2012/03/12/148252561/on-utahs-silicon-slopes-tech-jobs-get-a-lift. (9 August 2013).