Schneier on Security
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April 29, 2005
The Emergence of a Global Infrastructure for Mass Registration and Surveillance
The International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance has issued a report (dated April 2005): "The Emergence of a Global Infrastructure for Mass Registration and Surveillance." It's a chilling assessment of the current international trends towards global surveillance. Most of it you will have seen before, although it's good to have everything in one place. I am particularly pleased that the report explicitly states that these measures do not make us any safer, but only create the illusion of security.
The global surveillance initiatives that governments have embarked upon do not make us more secure. They create only the illusion of security.
Sifting through an ocean of information with a net of bias and faulty logic, they yield outrageous numbers of false positives and false negatives. The dragnet approach might make the public feel that something is being done, but the dragnet is easily circumvented by determined terrorists who are either not known to authorities, or who use identity theft to evade them.
For the statistically large number of people that will be wrongly identified or wrongly assessed as a risk under the system, the consequences can be dire.
At the same time, the democratic institutions and protections, which would be the safeguards of individuals’ personal security, are being weakened. And national sovereignty and the ability of national governments to protect citizens against the actions of other states (when they are willing) are being compromised as security functions become more and more deeply integrated.
The global surveillance dragnet diverts crucial resources and efforts away from the kind of investments that would make people safer. What is required is good information about specific threats, not crude racial profiling and useless information on the nearly 100 percent of the population that poses no threat whatsoever.
Posted on April 29, 2005 at 8:54 AM
• 11 Comments
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I think that privacy activists, Bruce included, are worried about the encroachment of this global surveillance infrastructure. And rightly so.
What I would like to add is that trying with all our might to prevent this system from coming into being might eventually prove impossible, and we should also give some thought to the flip side: How do we cope with the existance of this system.
IMHO, it is going to be an arms race. The powers that be will tighten the system, and privacy-hackers will find new ways around it - just like in the computer security field.
Yes, indeed. I do not think anybody is pro-encroachment. But there are certainly people who advocate for better detective controls.
The question still goes back to what and how data should be classified as private and/or confidential, and how you can establish integrity/trust.
The information age is a trickle of data that inevitably ends up in a big puddle surrounded by people with buckets. This raises many concerns beyond just privacy. The exposure warrants examination, but it also needs to be put in context of the overall shift in culture and technology. Sometimes the inevitability of exposure (through trust and openness) can have positive results that are factored into calculated risks. In addition other mitigating controls can help address sufficient privacy.
While the study is probably correct that presently deployed government surveillance technology does not make us safer, this certainly does not mean that surveillance technology is UNABLE to make us safer.
Consider that personal camcorders have been repeatedly lauded as an effective control to protect citizens against government abuse...so what's the best path forward? Who gets to film what, when? And of course how will it be regulated?
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