Tech tools: NSA yourself with Gmail, TSA’s Instagram account

How is the government using online tools? Here are a couple of examples. (And yes, there’s an NSA spying reference included here.)

First, MIT Media Labs has created Immersion, which lets users see what can be gleaned from their Gmail metadata — information about emails including sender, recipient(s) and time stamp, but not the content of the emails. “Metadata” has become quite the household word after recent revelations that Prism, the National Security’s broad surveillance program, routinely collects such information from people’s online communications. But of course, to use the tool you have to give the project access to your Gmail account. (Hat tip to loyal blog reader Andy, who notes that some are saying the tool allows people to “NSA yourself.”)

Meanwhile, if you think the TSA is no fun, think again. The Transporation Security Administration is certainly having fun with Instagram. It recently unveiled a new Instagram account that shows photos of confiscated items at airport checkpoints. Yes, gun and knives porn, basically. (OK, there’s a photo of fireworks, too.) The account, which has only 11 photos as of this blog post, already has more than 41,000 followers. A TSA spokesman told CNNMoney that the Instagram account helps the agency engage with the public. The TSA is quite social; it has made use of YouTube and Twitter as well.


Above is a photo of knives confiscated at airports. Last month, the TSA dropped a controversial plan to allow small knives on flights. (Associated Press archives)


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