More good stuff on surveillance – 5/13

We are past the day-by-day dribble of compromised companies and products. The daily revelations of vaporized integrity have slowed to weekly or monthly. What is appearing now is a gradual realization that the companies running the tech we use every day just can’t be trusted, no matter what they say.

Here is my twelfth list of good stuff on our surveillance society that I’d like talk about but only have time to recommend with a quick comment.

3/31 – Schneier on Security – The Continuing Public/Private Surveillance Partnership– Public posturing by tech giants is merely that – posturing. The surveillance continues. There are 4 major sources of authority for the government surveillance.

When a federal player says a particular action isn’t taking place under a particular law, it is probably a true statement. How can that be?

That comment means the activity is being conducted under a different authorization.

When a private player says they didn’t participate in program X, it is very likely the comment is true. Either they provided your data in a different program, didn’t know it was called “X”, or didn’t know the government was tapping their data. Mr. Schneier says those denials from any private party could better be translated as:

“Your data is safe from governments, except for the ways we don’t know about and the ways we cannot tell you about. And, of course, we still have complete access to it all, and can sell it at will to whomever we want.”

4/7 – USA Today – Silicon Valley scares Americans – Glenn Reynolds explains the tech giants in Silicon Valley have seriously damaged the trust Americans have in them in particular and high-tech in general. A survey he cites claims a large portion of people in the US are reducing their internet usage and cutting back their on-line shopping because of privacy fears.

Now several of the tech players have become political activists – they have publicly chosen sides in current events. How safe is your data when a tech company has an explicit agenda to push their personal agenda? You may be fine with that now, but it is only matter of time until one of the tech supergiants who has huge amounts of data on you takes a position that is opposite of your beliefs. What then? He expects regulation to counter their power.

5/12 – Schneier on Security – Internet Subversion – In undercutting technology to allow their spying, the NSA has devastated the trust needed to use lots of internet tools. Mr. Schneier says we used to trust the technology would perform as intended, even if it wasn’t great.

Through cooperation, bribery, threats, and compulsion, the NSA — and the United Kingdom’s GCHQ — forced companies to weaken the security of their products and services, then lie about it to their customers.

Mr. Schneier ponders: If products from America have intentional backdoors in place forced to be there by our government, do you have any doubt that products produced in China or Russia or France or Israel are trustworthy?

Compromising companies and their products hurts everyone:

We can’t both weaken the enemy’s networks and protect our own. Because we all use the same products … The same vulnerabilities used by intelligence agencies to spy on each other are used by criminals to steal your passwords.

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