Tuesday, June 18, 2013
NSA-proofing their communications is not practical for ordinary people as a "safety" measure
Timothy B. Lee has a large amount of information on the practicality (or lack thereof) of ordinary home users’ circumventing possible government spying through encryption (almost a small book) in the Business Section of The Washington Post, Sunday, June 18, 2013. Online, the heart of the matter starts with this link.
The technology to “spy proof” ordinary communications has existed since the early 1990s, but the economic practicability of ordinary people doing so has not. There have been some back-and-forth iterations, politically speaking, with this capability for years, but a lot of it happened during the Clinton years, before 9/11.
One of the most basic concerns is ease of use. People need to get to their stuff quickly, both at work and at home. They cannot afford to be put in the position of losing everything if a password gets lost. But that’s would happen if, for example, Google or Facebook or any similar site did not have “internally secured” access to your stuff, even with https. That “weakness” allows the possibility of a government’s getting some information about non-public communications, and apparently with the NSA the volume of information expected from major providers (without citizens’ knowing) has been substantial. But without that access, how could service providers control spam, mediate complaints or enforce TOS, or run any of the services that they do?
It would seem that the best point of regulation is to control more precisely when the federal government or police can access “pen register” data at these critical infrastructure points.
The practical effect is probably more serious overseas.
Lee also lists “5 Way to Prevent NSA Spying”, which are probably unnecessary for most people in the U.S. (But see my postings June 16 and 17 on the “BillBoushka” blog about the “political” danger.) I don’t need to use Tor, and I don’t think I need to remove my cellphone battery. But what if I was a gay man in Russia, given the recent political climate there? In fact, given my online reputation, what if I visit Russia the next time I go tor Europe?
The bottom line is that, to an extent, a government has to be somewhat trustworthy, and that the people, among themselves, need to thinking about their social contracts with one another, beyond the narrow ideas of personal responsibility that have evolved with hyperindividualism. But that’s for other blogs, or for a book.
I met Tim Lee in 1998 through the Libertarian Party of Minnesota shortly after I had moved to Minneapolis in 1997. I gave a speech at Hamline in February 1998 arranged by another student there, but Tim was a freshman at the University of Minnesota at the time. I would give a similar talk at “The U” in Minneapolis (on the “East Bank”) in 1999.