I have an old friend who is remarkably unguarded and open about himself. He’ll tell you just about anything, even things that would make lesser humans wither with embarrassment.
We follow each other on Instagram. He has three kids under the age of four, so naturally, his feed consists mostly of their cute little faces.
Recently, he posted a cute photo of his young ones splashing naked in a kiddie pool. It made me squirm. Not for the image itself—which was as innocent as could be—but because he had an unlocked account. There was a photograph of his naked kids that anybody could access on the Internet. He had, hypothetically, opened up his kids to a globe full of pedophiles.
Or had he?
Read more. [Image: Alexis Madrigal]
After noting Ladar Levison’s new effort to build an NSA-proof email service that protects users from the prying eyes of the surveillance state, I wasn’t surprised to see a reader object. Its creators “might want to ask the public if they really want this service, a service which will undoubtedly make it much easier for radical anti-US elements anywhere in the world to much more easily plan and wreak their proverbial havoc against the American government,” she wrote. “I expect the rabid Tea Partiers will be dumping lots of dough into Kickstarter to help Levison pump up those who might be anxious to repeat 9/11, but this time with 4 planes aimed at the White House in order to rid them of their, the Teas, arch enemy. I for one do NOT want such a service, which will make it impossible for the government to do what it is supposed to do: protect the U.S. against all types of attacks.”
Remember when President Bush was in power and dissenters on the left were the ones accused of empowering the terrorists? But my purpose isn’t to dwell on the anti-Tea Party attacks. Instead I want to concede one point. My reader is right that, if the NSA can’t hoover up and analyze every piece of email sent in the world, they may miss some conversations between terrorists intent on doing us harm. Privacy prevents authorities from seeing all sorts of things, some of them bad.
Read more. [Image: Loren Kerns/Flickr]
Does the legislation put the privacy of Americans at risk? More than progressives acknowledge — in part due to ham-handed conservative critiques.
Read more. [Image: Tedeytan/Flickr]
In Berlin this week, I’ll be trying to better understand how Germans are thinking about the surveillance debate that has roiled the free world in recent months. Conventional wisdom has it that citizens of this country are particularly attuned to the importance of privacy due to Stasi excesses during Communist rule. Has the resonance of the issue been overstated, as some observers suggested after the recent parliamentary election, when Chancellor Angela Merkel triumphed even as privacy advocates in the Pirate Party seemed to lose ground?
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
We’re number one!
As an old reporter who has from time to time outed classified information, I have watched the cases of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden with professional interest.
What troubles me about them is not that they broke the oaths they swore when they took their classified government jobs, the thing that makes them liable to prosecution. Government finds all kinds of dubious reasons to keep secrets, sometimes nefarious reasons, and conscience can force one to break a promise. My problem is with the indiscriminate nature of their leaks.
These are young people at war with the concept of secrecy itself, which is just foolish. There are many legitimate reasons for governments to keep secrets, among them the need to preserve the element of surprise in military operations or criminal investigations, to permit leaders and diplomats to bargain candidly, and to protect the identities of those we ask to perform dangerous and difficult missions.
The most famous leakers in American history were motivated not by a general opposition to secrecy but by a desire to expose specific wrongdoing.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Comparing the number of queries to the number of rules violations isn’t a very useful metric.
Read more. [Image: John Pavelka/Flickr]
And if the NSA doesn’t trust a piece of hardware, you probably shouldn’t either.