“How. . . are they going to automate the protection of our privacy?”

Robert Cringely writes thoughtfully and at length about the numerous vulnerabilities of new governmental info-tracking schemes. Problems are unavoidable, both because of the vast scope envisioned for these databases and because they will be created and administered by government officials who will lack both the incentive and the ability to prevent theft and misuse of sensitive data.

No sane person is in favor of terrorism or lawlessness. But at a time when intelligence agencies are under fire for being not very intelligent, when our leaders are sometimes in too big a hurry to cast blame and take credit, we are building huge information gathering systems that we can’t completely control, we can’t completely validate, that can be turned against us by our enemies, and that can ultimately be used to justify, well, anything.

Of course he’s right. CARNIVORE, CALEA, TIA, etc. have been and are being driven by concerns about organized-crime and terrorism. Most citizens are unaware or unconcerned about problems with these systems, government agencies have lobbied vigorously for them, and legislators have consequently brushed aside concerns in allowing them (though TIA’s status is uncertain). But the existing systems are all vulnerable to hacking — and have been hacked, as Cringely points out — and the proposed TIA system, which promises to be much bigger than the previous systems combined, is likely to be at least as vulnerable to such problems and to false positives as well.

(Link: Don Luskin)

UPDATE: This is encouraging, though I think it’s too early to know if the level of public opposition will prove sufficient to stop the government’s data-mining program for good. TIA legislation has been “killed” at least once before, yet the security bureaucracy and its legislative supporters got it reintroduced in slightly different form. Time will tell.

1 thought on ““How. . . are they going to automate the protection of our privacy?””

  1. nail on the head. We’re going to be lead to believe that anything pumped out of this database is true and reliable. When, in fact, it won’t neccessarily be either. As a student social science I would be supremely interested in seeing the coding methods for the processing TIA or Carnivore data. I think that this is another potential area of danger. Coding and processing will involve human interpretation of actions and their meanings. Once a certain behavior is designated “threat behavior” how are we to appeal that classification.

    Furthermore, so much of this issue will be discussed in methodological and technological terminology that the general public will have very hard time remaining informed and aware and any resistance or opposition hard to organize.

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