This New York Times story on the NSA is very good, and contains lots of little tidbits of new information gleaned from the Snowden documents.
The agency’s Dishfire database—nothing happens without a code word at the N.S.A.—stores years of text messages from around the world, just in case. Its Tracfin collection accumulates gigabytes of credit card purchases. The fellow pretending to send a text message at an Internet cafe in Jordan may be using an N.S.A. technique code-named Polarbreeze to tap into nearby computers. The Russian businessman who is socially active on the web might just become food for Snacks, the acronym-mad agency’s Social Network Analysis Collaboration Knowledge Services, which figures out the personnel hierarchies of organizations from texts.
EDITED TO ADD (11/5): This Guardian story is related. It looks like both the New York Times and the Guardian wrote separate stories about the same source material.
EDITED TO ADD (11/5): New York Times reporter Scott Shane gave a 20-minute interview on Democracy Now on the NSA and his reporting.
Posted on November 4, 2013 at 1:39 PM •
I was interviewed for Technology Review on the NSA and the Snowden documents.
Posted on September 27, 2013 at 2:47 PM •
Last week, I gave a talk at Google. It’s another talk about power and security, my continually evolving topic-of-the-moment that could very well become my next book. This installment is different than the previous talks and interviews, but not different enough that you should feel the need to watch it if you’ve seen the others.
There are things I got wrong. There are contradictions. There are questions I couldn’t answer. But that’s my process, and I’m okay with doing it semi-publicly. As always, I appreciate comments, criticisms, reading suggestions, and so on.
EDITED TO ADD (6/30): Two commentaries on the talk.
EDITED TO ADD (8/1): To date, 14,000 people have watched the talk.
Posted on June 28, 2013 at 2:42 PM •
Ray Wang makes an important point about trust and our data:
This is the paradox. The companies contending to win our trust to manage our digital identities all seem to have complementary (or competing) business models that breach that trust by selling our data.
…and by turning it over to the government.
The current surveillance state is a result of a government/corporate partnership, and our willingness to give up privacy for convenience.
If the government demanded that we all carry tracking devices 24/7, we would rebel. Yet we all carry cell phones. If the government demanded that we deposit copies of all of our messages to each other with the police, we’d declare their actions unconstitutional. Yet we all use Gmail and Facebook messaging and SMS. If the government demanded that we give them access to all the photographs we take, and that we identify all of the people in them and tag them with locations, we’d refuse. Yet we do exactly that on Flickr and other sites.
Ray Ozzie is right when he said that we got what we asked for when we told the government we were scared and that they should do whatever they wanted to make us feel safer. But we also got what we asked for when we traded our privacy for convenience, trusting these corporations to look out for our best interests.
We’re living in a world of feudal security. And if you watch Game of Thrones, you know that feudalism benefits the powerful—at the expense of the peasants.
Last night, I was on All In with Chris Hayes (parts one and two). One of the things we talked about after the show was over is how technological solutions only work around the margins. That’s not a cause for despair. Think about technological solutions to murder. Yes, they exist—wearing a bullet-proof vest, for example—but they’re not really viable. The way we protect ourselves from murder is through laws. This is how we’re also going to protect our privacy.
EDITED TO ADD (6/18): The Onion nailed it back in 2011.
Posted on June 13, 2013 at 4:06 PM •
In this podcast interview, I talk about security, power, and the various things I have been thinking about recently.
Posted on June 7, 2013 at 2:22 PM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.