Government Spies Are Now Using Lolcats to Explain How They Psychologically Profile Us

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Jan. 27 2014 5:59 PM

I Just Had the Weirdest Dream About the NSA, Squeaky Dolphins, and Angry Birds

One of the weird NSA slides I must have just dreamed.
A key slide in the surreal NSA PowerPoint presentation I must have just dreamed.

Screenshot via NBCNews.com

I must have been very tired at my desk this afternoon because I was just clicking on a link to an NBC News story and the next thing I knew I had slipped into the oddest dream.

In my dream Glenn Greenwald had come out with some new Snowden revelations, only this time for some reason he had written them for NBC, and it turned out the British government had been spying on everyone’s YouTube watching habits and Facebook likes and such. The program was code-named “Squeaky Dolphin” and of course someone at the NSA had made a slideshow about it.

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But instead of regular old ugly flow charts and corporate logos, this PowerPoint was full of all the weird, slightly outdated Internet memes that must have been floating around in my head when I passed out, like lolcats and doge, interspersed with pictures of angry Muslims and the Mars Rover and sexy Muslims and Sully Sullenberger’s disembodied head floating over the Hudson River. And then there were some random slides that just had, like, the number “100bn” spelled out in giant gray letters, or a picture of an empty driveway with some snowy tire marks on the grass, or a big inspirational-poster-type picture of the ocean with the word “OCEAN” on it and then some other words like “openness” and “contentiousness” and “neuroticism.” I can’t for the life of me imagine what it all means.

Weirdest of all were the infographics, like one that showed an endless cycle in which “liking” (Facebook liking maybe?) led to “certainty” and then “disclosure,” or the one that showed all the major Internet browsers and the personality profiles of the people who use them. I can’t recall all the details, but I seem to remember being unsurprised that Internet Explorer users ranked low on “openness to experience.” Finally there was one with a fat red arrow pointing through these concentric circles with labels like “superficial,” “intimate,” “personal,” and “core.” I felt like I was in some alternate universe where instead of inventing a religion, L. Ron Hubbard had pursued a career in intelligence and taken a cover job designing motivational management webinars.

The next thing I knew it turned out the NSA and GCHQ had also been spying on people playing Angry Birds, and all the tracking tools were named after different smurfs, like “Nosey Smurf,” “Tracker Smurf,” “Dreamy Smurf,” and “Paranoid Smurf.” Seriously, where does my subconscious even come up with this stuff?  

Anyway, thank goodness I woke up. The world of that dream was not one I’d care to inhabit for very long. 

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Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer. Email him at will.oremus@slate.com or follow him on Twitter.