Monday, December 15, 2014

Safe Google-Magnificent Undulations-Would you say Vivid?

 Sweet light on the California central coast.
more scenes follow below

     Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt opened the window on the tenuous world we inhabit at a Surveillance, Privacy and Civil Liberties conference Friday, but the light he let in captures a multi dimensional web where the map is being improvised as we go along and the perils are grievous.
     Schmidt explained how shocked he was to learn from the Washington Post that his own Google empire was being surveilled by the FBI.  Google now encrypts data between their data centers to protect privacy. Schmidt believes Google to be the safest information purveyor if you wish to avoid surveillance.
     The CATO Institute, a Libertarian think tank, sponsored the first Surveillance conference hosting experts across the disciplines and issues involved in surveillance, privacy and civil liberties. I spent hours at the conference, thanks to  C-SPAN, that special blessing of our information age.
      It appears all of us will move into a time of greater use of encryption. An affect of the Snowden NSA leaks is  everyone now knows a lot more about who is spying and how they are doing it thus the free market response is a series of applications, technology, services and methods of operation to protect privacy.  
     Schmidt observed the rules of this new world are hammered out in a cat and mouse game where governments seek and push Google and the other tech companies who then respond. Legal discussions or suits ensue and become  the process to negotiate a path to established policy. It's all new and the dynamic is ongoing.
     The Google leader said we could almost "end all criminal activity" with greater surveillance but said we should not allow that. Schmidt said even the kind of surveillance used in Britain, facial recognition and other means employed by GC Hq (General Communications Headquarters) is counter to the American way of life. He said we must be careful to protect information privacy.
     Law enforcement has never discovered a surveillance technique it does not like. It gives you pause to learn how many local and state police departments use the FBI developed Stingray technology. That's the system that mimics a wireless cell tower. It's a cell sight simulator that forces all phones in an area to connect with it where it then gathers all of the stored data on a phone.  It can also deny cell service.  Think about it for a moment. The police can turn on a Stingray, which penetrates into your home, car or pocket and makes your phone connect with it where all of your private information is gathered up. How do you think Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, George Washington and our other founders would respond to that?
      Don't American's equate privacy with freedom and liberty? We do not tolerate a loss of freedom nor should we which is why we continue to fight over civil rights, gender equality, economic fairness. We remember the Nazis, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, et al.  We even intervene in foreign wars to "spread democracy" or "guarantee liberty." How seriously then are we considering implications of our communication practices? Your phone, pad or computer are extensions of your life and often are repositories of your most private or valuable artifacts or information. Don't you have a reasonable expectation to privacy/freedom from surveillance?
      Already batches of metadata have been collected. Algorithmic data analyzers are at work. How long should that information be kept? Washington Post National Technology Reporter Eric Timberg asked Schmidt about what happens in 20 years, or sooner, when he is gone from Google. Schmidt deferred to  Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin saying they share values and a belief in privacy. Schmidt noted they are young men.
      So it seems that a "belief" by young entrepreneur tech capitalists is our firewall. The personal belief of the men and women who have created these marvelous systems and technologies is the wall protecting our privacy and information security? Sorry, being a rich inventor or genius seems a thin credential. Henry Ford, for example, was a notorious anti-Semite. Then of course this is a world with other players, China, North Korea, Russia, Isis, NSA, CIA, GCHQ, FBI, all of whom come with their own idea of privacy, freedom and liberty. 
      Still loving that cell phone or pad?

post rain greening

From a bluff near Harmony Headlands

    See you down the trail.


  1. The photographs are as uplifting as your commentary is disturbing. It would seem that far too many Americans do not equate privacy with freedom.

  2. Regarding the Stephen Hayes comment, without privacy we do not have freedom, for example, to think and discuss, to make our concerns known, or to do whatever we want to do, because, "they" are not just collecting emails, but also credit card use, travel data, phone content (which "they" deny, of course, because they are "our" government.)
    Regarding Tom's commentary, Good analysis by David Kaiser on the two kinds of war. I think, though, that David missed a critical example, or perhaps a third kind of war: government against its own citizens, which is illustrated extremely well in the movie "Citizen Four" about Ed Snowden. In brief, we are the enemy of the government that we elected to protect us. I believe Republicans see this as an unlimited war, while most Democrats, elected and unelected, see this as no war at all.
    Really, we should all see “Citizen Four." It's a documentary that has the heartbeat of a spy thriller by placing us all in the REAL place of the target of our government's spying (data gathering). And to those who say, "I got nothing to worry about because I done nothing wrong," sir or ma'am, you give up your citizen's rights far too easily. A lot of people have died over two centuries to give you those rights and hold them for you. From your first school days, you pledged allegiance to those rights and to defend them. And consider this: governments change; what will you do (or feel) when someone comes along who denies a whole bunch of your constitutionally "guaranteed" rights, as is happening now under the guise (think disguise) of safety and protection? You won't even be able to say, "Whoa, Nelly!" because the horse will already not only be out of the barn, but far, far down the road.

    1. Excellent response. I too urge everyone to see Citizen Four. It was the subject of a previous post as well. Now my assignment is to see the Kaiser article.

  3. Oops! I forgot to include the link to David Kaiser's excellent article on the two kinds of war, drawn from Clausewitz. Here is the link: