For too long, the field of privacy has been becalmed by religious fealty to a concept propounded by two New England aristocrats who were annoyed by paparazzi taking pictures of a party in a home. The ill-considered explosion set off by the NSA in its zeal to prevent all future acts of terror has opened up space for new thinking on the subject.
An op-ed in the Washington Post is a good example:
This is an anonymity problem: The NSA cannot create a dossier on you from your metadata unless it knows that you made the calls the agency is looking at. The privacy question is all about data-gathering: Should the NSA have access to nationwide metadata? The right answer to that question is yes. But identities should be hidden.
Suppose the NSA had access to all the metadata of every call a certain person made over the past five years — but didn’t know who that person was. Instead, the NSA knew only that individual “H4QQ9F” made the calls in question. In that world, there’s no Orwellian surveillance.
But suppose that individual H4QQ9F made a call to a known al-Qaeda safe house in Yemen. Then the NSA should be permitted to pierce the veil of anonymity and find out who H4QQ9F is.