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Inevitable? Really? - Elizabeth Unexplained
Lots of data but no answers
Inevitable? Really?
So, unless you've been completely ignoring the serious news lately you should be aware by now that the NSA is spying on millions or ordinary citizens, not to mention our allies and enemies alike overseas, the government has access to all sorts of cell phone metadata, they may very well be reading your email if (like me) you send any outside the country, oh and by the way the TSA is still irradiating you so they can see you naked every time you fly. Hey, they even have metadata on your old-fangled physical mail.

Most of the people I talk to aren't happy at all the intrusive intrusion. I think there is a consensus that a certain amount of domestic and foreign intelligence gathering is necessary, but there should be limits. My personal feeling is that we've gone way past those limits recently, and I don't think I'm alone there. I'm NOT HAPPY with the attitude we seem to be getting from Washington, which is this is all necessary and not new and nothing that innocent people should have to worry me about. It's all for our own protection and welfare. What really worries me, though, is the resigned attitude that a lot of people have that says that the increasing loss of privacy and rights is all inevitable.

I'll come right out and say that I do not know how to restore our rights, our privacy, our basic dignity. I do not personally have a plan to reverse this rather alarming slide towards police state that we seem to find ourselves in. I do know one thing, though, and that is that Step 0 of any plan to correct the problem is to believe that it is NOT inevitable. When a people start to believe things are inevitable they make it so. If we are to have hope we must believe that we have hope.

One thing I have learned from a love of science fiction is that we all create the future every day. I don't know about you, but the future I want to create is more like the Star Trek universe, where people and even institutions stand up for their ideals. The universes of 1984, Farenheit 451, and Brazil might make for better stories, but those are not the futures I want my kids and future descendants to grow up in. I don't want a world of Big Brother watching, and clerical errors that can lead to innocent people dying at the hands of the police. Let's believe that we can boldly go to where we want to be, and maybe we just might get there.
4 comments or Leave a comment
psychohist From: psychohist Date: July 22nd, 2013 04:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I would note several things.

1. I don't agree any domestic surveillance needs to be done without warrants. If the government is acting for the people, it need not fear that the number of people who are threats will be too large to get warrants for.

2. They are reading your email whether or not it's international. Warrants are required for email only before it is opened. Most people use IMAP servers for email, which leave the email on the server; this means the NSA can grab your email between the time you open it to read it and the time you delete it. Not that the NSA bothers with warrants anyway, since they don't do the prosecutions and thus don't care about the exclusionary rule.

3. There is a simple technological solution. Asymmetric key cryptography permits everyone to publish a public key which can be used to encrypt email to them in a form even the NSA can't break; standardizing email clients to encrypt all email before it is sent to the server would make it private again. Unfortunately, the big email providers, such as Google, are in bed with the NSA and so avoid providing any such option.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: July 22nd, 2013 02:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Since it seems it wasn't clear, I think warrants should be required for any interception of email/physical mail/telephony/etc. I am OK with law enforcement going and showing a judge probably cause and then getting a warrant for communication to and from a specific individual, like a suspected mob boss.

I would also prefer that email be standardized to encrypted. I am very aware that anything I send unencrypted could be packet sniffed and reassembled at any intermediate point. I know how to do that, though it's time consuming. I don't think the fact that the government could use it's ownership of internet infrastructure to do that (if they had tons of disc space and manpower) is an excuse for the large service providers to just give them access to their servers.

Just FYI one of the news pieces said that if you send your email encrypted that made it more likely that the NSA would store it and try to read it, because obviously if you are encrypting your email you have something to hide. (Never mind that various regulations require financial service providers and medical service providers to send all sorts of things securely.)
psychohist From: psychohist Date: July 22nd, 2013 06:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think that if a major email provider like Google started using cient side encryption by default, that would result in such a large volume of encrypted email that the NSA could no longer usefully focus on it.
dcltdw From: dcltdw Date: July 22nd, 2013 02:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, the usual way, right? By electing people who respond to us and not moneyed interests. Unfortunately, politics at most levels are captured by that.

Your post reminded me of this essay by Bruce Schneier: http://www.schneier.com/essay-427.html
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