Sunday, August 3, 2014

Let's continue talking about privacy and surveillance

It's been 14 months now since the Edward Snowden story broke.

During that time, there has been a conversation of sorts. I wish that more had participated; I wish that more had resulted.

But I'm pleased, at least, that the conversation continues.

Some have been focusing on the economic and commercial aspects of the conversation:

  • Personal Privacy Is Only One of the Costs of NSA Surveillance
    The economic costs of NSA surveillance can be difficult to gauge, given that it can be hard to know when the erosion of a company’s business is due solely to anger over government spying. Sometimes, there is little more than anecdotal evidence to go on. But when the German government, for example, specifically cites NSA surveillance as the reason it canceled a lucrative network contract with Verizon, there is little doubt that U.S. spying policies are having a negative impact on business.
  • Report Says Backlash From NSA's Surveillance Programs Will Cost Private Sector Billions Of Dollars
    Also directly affecting US companies is a future full of increased compliance costs as countries move towards data sovereignty. This means tech companies like Facebook and Google will need to build local data centers if they wish to keep citizens in affected countries as users. The European Parliament's new data protection law could easily result in massive fines for US companies.

Others have been looking at the changing relationship between the American scientific community and its most important patron, the U.S. Government:

  • Mathematicians Discuss the Snowden Revelations
    The only reason I am putting these words down now is the feeling of intense betrayal I suffered when I learned how my government and the leadership of my intelligence community took the work I and many others did over many years, with a genuine desire to prevent another 9/11 attack, and subverted it in ways that run totally counter to the founding principles of the United States, that cause huge harm to the US economy, and that moreover almost certainly weaken our ability to defend ourselves.
  • The Mathematical Community and the National Security Agency
    We face a variety of threats -- from car accidents, which take about as many lives each month as the 9/11 tragedy, to weather (ranging from sudden disasters, such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, to the dangers from climate change), to global avian flu pandemics. The moves taken in the name of fighting terrorism, including the intrusive NSA data collection that has recently come to light and more generally the militarization of our society, are not justified by the dangers we currently face from terrorism.
  • NSA and the Snowden Issues
    NSA's intelligence activities stem from a foreign-intelligence requirement -- initiated by one or more Executive Branch intelligence consumers (the White House, Department of State, Department of Defense, etc.), vetted through the Justice Department as a valid need -- and run according to a process managed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
And still others are looking at other aspects of the privacy-vs-surveillance debate:
  • Why were CERT researchers attacking Tor?
    CERT was set up in the aftermath of the Morris Worm as a clearinghouse for vulnerability information. The purpose of CERT was to (1) prevent attacks by (2) channeling vulnerability information to vendors and eventually (3) informing the public. Yet here, CERT staff (1) carried out a large-scale, long-lasting attack while (2) withholding vulnerability information from the vendor, and now, even after the vulnerability has been fixed, (3) withholding the same information from the public.
  • Cryptographer Adi Shamir Prevented from Attending NSA History Conference
    As a friend of the US I am deeply worried that if you continue to delay visas in such a way, the only thing you will achieve is to alienate many world-famous foreign scientists, forcing them to increase their cooperation with European or Chinese scientists whose countries roll the red carpet for such visits. Is this really in the US best interest?

    Best personal wishes, and apologies for not being able to meet you in person,

    Adi Shamir

  • US State Department: Let in cryptographers and other scientists
    I’ve learned from colleagues that, over the past year, foreign-born scientists have been having enormously more trouble getting visas to enter the US than they used to. The problem, I’m told, is particularly severe for cryptographers: embassy clerks are now instructed to ask specifically whether computer scientists seeking to enter the US work in cryptography. If an applicant answers “yes,” it triggers a special process.
  • The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control
    The lack of official oversight is one of Binney’s key concerns, particularly of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa), which is held out by NSA defenders as a sign of the surveillance scheme's constitutionality.

    “The Fisa court has only the government’s point of view”, he argued. “There are no other views for the judges to consider.

None of these topics are simple; none of these conversations are easy.

We must keep the discussion going.

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