The U.S. Government Has Lost Patience With Your Six Months of Privacy, It Needs Your Secrets Right Now — Part 2

I was writing about the loss of privacy for web-based e-mail last week. Then the PRISM news broke…

Some calm public discussion of government surveillance of citizens appeared before the PRISM story exploded.

As Bruce Schneier wrote for CNN in March of 2013, “The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we’re being tracked all the time.
[…]
Welcome to the end of private conversations, because increasingly your conversations are conducted by e-mail, text, or social networking sites. And welcome to a world where all of this, and everything else that you do or is done on a computer, is saved, correlated, studied, passed around from company to company without your knowledge or consent; and where the government accesses it at will without a warrant.”

In April Schneier wrote for The Atlantic, “But the government has figured out how to get around the laws, and collect personal data that has been historically denied to them: ask corporate America for it. It’s no secret that we’re monitored continuously on the Internet. […] Add data from your cell phone (who you talk to, your location), your credit cards (what you buy, from whom you buy it), and the dozens of other times you interact with a computer daily, we live in a surveillance state beyond the dreams of Orwell. It’s all corporate data, compiled and correlated, bought and sold. And increasingly, the government is doing the buying. […] Soon, governments won’t have to bother collecting personal data. We’re willingly giving it to a vast network of for-profit data collectors, and they’re more than happy to pass it on to the government without our knowledge or consent.”

Then in early May, still before the PRISM revelation, Schneier wrote about the need for transparency and accountability for The Atlantic. “Long ago, we realized that simply trusting people and government agencies to always do the right thing doesn’t work, so we need to check up on them. In a democracy, transparency and accountability are how we do that. It’s how we ensure that we get both effective and cost-effective government. It’s how we prevent those we trust from abusing that trust, and protect ourselves when they do. And it’s especially important when security is concerned.”

PRISM is not new. U.S. Government surveillance of its citizens’ communication has grown enormously after that horrific bombing on the East Coast killed 38.

Wait, what? 38?

Just three people were killed by the two bombs in Boston in April, 2013. But the noon-hour bombing in Manhattan’s Wall Street in 1920 killed 38 people. This was just part of a wave of bombings and dynamitings across the U.S. from the 1910s into the early 1930s, perpetrated by various anarchists and labor radicals. Dashiell Hammett’s
Red Harvest is based on a real incident. J. Edgar Hoover got his start secretly intercepting communications and correspondence with the Radical Division of the Bureau of Investigation in 1919.

There’s nothing new today. Violence and risk have dropped as surveillance has grown. Many say it’s an acceptable trade.

As I mentioned last week, U.S. cloud providers have made it clear since 2011 that they will silently hand over data to U.S. authorities,
even data physically stored in the EU.

The Congressional Research Service’s Cloud Computing: Constitutional and Statutory Privacy Protections outlines the legal issues. In Learning Tree’s Cloud Security Essentials course we discuss the negative impact the USA PATRIOT Act has on U.S.-based cloud providers. The PRISM revelations will just make that worse.

Bob Cromwell

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