Its an age-old metaphysical thought experiment: If a tree falls in a forest, and no-one is around to hear it, did it really make a sound? So if the metadata for your telephone account lives on a National Security Agency computer database, but nobody ever looks at it, have you really been spied upon? Lets look at this another way: You were quite happy with that same metadata existing on Verizon (or ATT, or US Cellular, etc.) computer databases. Companies that are owned and managed by people who are, by any reasonable measure, far less answerable than our elected representatives. (Hint, when was the last time you got to vote for the CEO or board member of a telecommunications company?) This isn't to say that the NSA's acquisition and trolling of phone company metadata isn't, at least on some level, an invasion of our privacy. But I'd argue that on the Big Brother scale (where a video camera peering into your home 24/7 is a hundred) - this ranks considerably further down the list. Not a zero, but probably not in double figures.