If you were to compare the evil, reprehensible Stasi to the NSA side by side in a visual comparison, who’s the worse surveillance hawk? The people over at OpenDataCity have put together a nice visual guide with astonishing results. We tend to think of Stasi-scale surveillance as the epitome of evil surveillance, and have completely lost track of what today’s governments are doing to their people.
When you go to this page (in German), you are presented with a nice map that compares the size of the Stasi archives – a large building in Berlin – with the corresponding NSA archives. It’s clear that the NSA’s archives – if used with Stasi technology, for an apples-to-apples comparison – would be quite a bit larger:
However, this image isn’t very visually friendly for comparison – we want both buildings centered. Let’s pan to the right a bit to get the entire NSA building – or its comparative, fictive building – and the Stasi building centered in picture:
Perhaps we’ll need to zoom out a bit to get both buildings side by side in order to compare them properly and visually.
We obviously need to keep zooming out. The scale of what the NSA is doing compared to the “old, evil Stasi” is slowly starting to come across.
Ok, we give up: let’s just zoom out until we have the full picture. Turns out we have to continue zooming for quite a while until we have the full picture:
I think most people had a hunch that the NSA could be just as bad as the old Stasi, or possibly even slightly worse. This kind of visual apples-to-apples comparison is necessary to establish just how much worse. Humans are terrible at grasping orders of magnitude at an intuitive level.
So where the hated Stasi surveillance was a building in area, the NSA surveillance today is an entire continent.
As a final note, the word Stasi was a contraction of the East German surveillance agency’s full name, Ministerium für Staatssicherheit. It translates to National Security Agency.