Privacy and Security – Not a “Zero-sum Game”

Are you concerned about privacy in the US? Worried that the government is coming to harvest your secrets? Well you damn well should be!

Warrantless wiretapping merely tested the waters; Data siphoning by NSA was just a prelude. Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell has got plans for every bit that flows in the US, plans that were hinted at by a member of the team putting together the new Cybersecurity Initiative:

In order for cyberspace to be policed, internet activity will have to be closely monitored. Ed Giorgio, who is working with McConnell on the plan, said that would mean giving the government the authority to examine the content of any e-mail, file transfer or Web search. “Google has records that could help in a cyber-investigation,” he said. Giorgio warned me, “We have a saying in this business: ‘Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.'”

The New Yorker

Supported by the same false dichotomy used for every power grab since 9/11—privacy must be traded to achieve security—McConnell plans to turn the Internet into one vast government overseen database. Consider that for a moment. Every email, every IM, every VoIP, every transaction (even presumably the “secure” ones) will be available to the NSA, CIA, FBI, IRS, TSA, DHS, and whomever else can get a hold of the data.

And to defend this nonsense, the Feds use an intellectually dishonest argument, the little lie that goes: “The US government can be trusted not to abuse such expansive authority.” Though, we already know that this is not the case. Hell…Bu$hCo wants to grant retroactive immunity to telcos for participating in sweeping abuses of the 4th Amendment. (Remember you only need immunity when you’ve done something wrong. The law already indemnifies you if you had reason to believe what you were doing was legal.)

But let’s cut to the chase: A ‘zero-sum’ relationship between security and privacy only holds water as long as GOVERNMENT ITSELF IS NOT THE THREAT. Clearly here, as in other modern democracies, this is no longer the case.

12 thoughts on “Privacy and Security – Not a “Zero-sum Game””

  1. Amen to that! And don’t forget that these telcos were paid money – for our information! With our money (taxpayer money!) And with an overwhelming amount of data to sift through, they make it even more difficult to analyze it for any useful purpose.

    So in essence we are paying to be robbed and spied upon – on both ends of the transaction!

  2. You know my argument on privacy froggy my friend, to wit: either bury your head in your arsehole of overload them with data.
    I prefer the second approach. Okay, as a systems guy you know they can design systems – but the quality is as good as a) the designer b) the user.
    I say lets set a a swamping system for the data gatherers.

  3. Alicia… Good to see you here. Thanks for stopping by. You bring up an excellent point that I’d forgotten. Damn I hate to pay to be robbed!

    Cartledge… You are of course, correct. It’s a profound problem sifting that much data, and I’m not really worried about the incidental stuff. But the Feds sweeping up a couple million SSL transactions and then using it to create an “uber-hit-list”? That, I do worry about.

  4. Kvatch, the sad reality to all this is that many people have already traded their privacy for security under the false notion “I’ve got nothing to hide. I’ve done nothing illegal.” I hear this all the time and I wonder how many of these people were asleep during that lesson on constitutional amendments given in high school American history class.

  5. Spartacus…They WERE asleep during that lecture.

    Those Americans are the most frustrating to me.

    I try and try to explain that those who determine what is “right and wrong” can change those definitions at any time. Making something “wrong” of something that was until recently “right.” Context loses importance, and personal beliefs become irrelevant. Data can be tweaked anyway that you want, and made to say exactly what you want.

    A slight change in the definition of terrorist could result in the imprisonment of thousands, a shift slightly more to the left or right would incriminate thousands more.

    Ultimately those, “I don’t care, I haven’t done anything wrong” people will find themselves carelessly packed in a cell with the ones they thought were the “real” bad guys.

    It’s all a matter of degrees, but the key is that unless you are setting the definition, in a data harvest, you are only as “good” as the person that is setting the search terms.

  6. Just to riff on that further, with nothing new or constructive to add, I see that mindset a LOT more pervasive than I had feared.

    Anytime I would say to even centrist type relatives or acquaintances that “no one has the right to know who I talk to or where I go,” I get that you-must-have-something-to-hide look. It doesn’t matter that 95% of the time I’m either at work or at home. The other 5% on the bus. Ha.

    So the wingnuts can understand, I’ll give them a Jack Bauer scenario: if the price of freedom is a potential bomb going off in my town, then give me death. Liberty will always win. You can keep your police state. I’ll take my chances.

  7. Randall, Spartacus… There was an essay–might have been by Bruce Schneier–that basically made the argument that some danger in the form of terrorism was the price of our liberty. Not very popular that notion.

    Gary, for just about every crime one can imagine, somewhere in the world, he penalty is death. Definitions of “criminal”, “terrorist”, and “punishment” are such malleable things.

  8. The triumph of dichotomy over dictionary levels the playing field so much so that a ninny like Bush could stand on par with a genius like Al Gore.

    We should be teaching kids logic.

  9. Dang, mang! err, I mean, Frog! You really know how to remind me that my stomach should always be sinking…

    Honestly, this is why I’m supporting OB. I totally see Hillary going along with this kind of crap. Not that OB encourages me all that much yet. Still too soon to tell dagnabbit.

  10. SA… Now that’s a scary thought: The man that was “appointed” (“anointed”?) president on the same playing field as the man who actually won.

    Michael… Welcome to Ragebot! I can’t support OB, and I’m not keen on Senator Clinton. In fact, I’m only hours away from voting and still don’t know what I’m going to do.

  11. It’s already started. AT&T has been caught red-handed turining over every single bit of data that passes through their lines to the government. An AT&T whistle blower reported it.

    “A former technician at AT&T, who alleges that the telecom giant forwards virtually all of its internet traffic into a ‘secret room’ to facilitate government spying, says the whole operation reminds him of something out of Orwell’s 1984. Appearing on MSNBC’s Countdown program, whistleblower Mark Klein told Keith Olbermann that all Internet traffic passing over AT&T lines was copied into a locked room at the company’s San Francisco office — to which only employees with National Security Agency clearance had access. ‘Klein was on Capitol Hill Wednesday attempting to convince lawmakers not to give a blanket, retroactive immunity to telecom companies for their secret cooperation with the government. He said that as an AT&T technician overseeing Internet operations in San Francisco, he helped maintain optical splitters that diverted data en route to and from AT&T customers. ‘”

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