Aug 13

Spying on terrorists is hard so the NSA spies on Americans instead

One thing I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet about the current NSA scandals is how easy it must be for the NSA to spy on Americans compared to our enemies. ¬†I imagine that’s why the they does it.

Terrorist groups are secretive, private and rarely speak English.  Americans are culturally extroverted, have both burning (and boring) secrets equally matched with a fervent desire to express them without being judged negatively, and speak passable English in most cases.

If you were being judged on the number of “Possible” catastrophes averted, who would you rather spy on?

Dec 05

More NSA

So now the NSA is under fire in the media for using cookies? Speaking as a web developer it’s difficult to do anything interesting without using them.

On a more troubling note, it seems to have occurred to no one in the punditsphere as to why should the NSA eavesdrop on Americans at all? I recall reading somewhere a while back that there was a reciprocal arrangement with the British version of the NSA that would allow the NSA to eavesdrop on Britons and the Brits would eavesdrop on Americans? It was all nice and legal, and accomplished the same objective.

As I said before, I had just assumed they were already doing this.

Two reasons come to mind as to why not:

  1. They didn’t want the British to know, which doesn’t really seem that likely
  2. They’re using, if not a new technology, then a new technique to determine who to wiretap, and they were applying it retroactively to already recorded conversations. Also they’re monitoring patterns more than anything. This would allow them to profile effectively, without actually saying the word profiling, which makes everyone happy.

Oct 05

Not caring

I read this wired article Phone Tap: How’s the Traffic? and found it interesting in a technical way and telling in a social way. Short summary: Missouri plans to monitor traffic by the amount of cell phone signals that pass over the roads.

The usual privacy advocates are up in arms, the state government has promised that none of the info will be individualy identifiable (for now of course). Naturally the plan is proceeding. (One of the firms involved in the industry, Airsage, seems to be located in my old stomping grounds of Marietta).

There do seem to be some good technical reasons to arrange traffic monitoring this way. Everyone is videotaped 20 times a day on the highway anyway so that open road is not really the place for anonnmity.

All of this makes me wonder, who is this really going to affect. Modern cell phones can be pinpointed via GPS anyway, and if the rumor that the microphone on a cellphone can be activated remotely is true (it seems quite credible) and talented amateurs can listen in to supposedly private conversations, then what privacy concerned person would use a cell phone?

That would make a lot of us not concerned about our privacy, which would also explain why nobody encrypts their email, which I thought everyone would be doing by now.