transparent lives

Are secrets bad? They can sabotage a relationship or save a country. Who do we trust?

I read a gentleman named Bruce Schneier, a security expert. His monthly security newsletter provides technical reports, but also speaks of things like “Is TSA worth it, or are we more secure than before, and what is the cost.” His recent discussion of the internet and privacy below is worth considering.

Do I live a transparent life? Do you?

Here is a section from a recent newsletter:

Our Internet Surveillance State

I’m going to start with three data points.

One: Some of the Chinese military hackers who were implicated in a broad
set of attacks against the U.S. government and corporations were
identified because they accessed Facebook from the same network
infrastructure they used to carry out their attacks.

Two: Hector Monsegur, one of the leaders of the LulzSec hacker movement,
was identified and arrested last year by the FBI. Although he practiced
good computer security and used an anonymous relay service to protect
his identity, he slipped up.

And three: Paula Broadwell, who had an affair with CIA director David
Petraeus, similarly took extensive precautions to hide her identity. She
never logged in to her anonymous e-mail service from her home network.
Instead, she used hotel and other public networks when she e-mailed him.
The FBI correlated hotel registration data from several different hotels
— and hers was the common name.

The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves
or not, and whether we like it or not, we’re being tracked all the time.
Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to.
Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks
us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion
to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use
during one 36-hour period.

Increasingly, what we do on the Internet is being combined with other
data about us. Unmasking Broadwell’s identity involved correlating her
Internet activity with her hotel stays. Everything we do now involves
computers, and computers produce data as a natural by-product.
Everything is now being saved and correlated, and many big-data
companies make money by building up intimate profiles of our lives from
a variety of sources.

Facebook, for example, correlates your online behavior with your
purchasing habits offline. And there’s more. There’s location data from
your cell phone, there’s a record of your movements from closed-circuit TVs.

This is ubiquitous surveillance: All of us being watched, all the time,
and that data being stored forever. This is what a surveillance state
looks like, and it’s efficient beyond the wildest dreams of George Orwell.

Sure, we can take measures to prevent this. We can limit what we search
on Google from our iPhones, and instead use computer web browsers that
allow us to delete cookies. We can use an alias on Facebook. We can turn
our cell phones off and spend cash. But increasingly, none of it matters.

There are simply too many ways to be tracked. The Internet, e-mail, cell
phones, web browsers, social networking sites, search engines: these
have become necessities, and it’s fanciful to expect people to simply
refuse to use them just because they don’t like the spying, especially
since the full extent of such spying is deliberately hidden from us and
there are few alternatives being marketed by companies that don’t spy.

This isn’t something the free market can fix. We consumers have no
choice in the matter. All the major companies that provide us with
Internet services are interested in tracking us. Visit a website and it
will almost certainly know who you are; there are lots of ways to be
tracked without cookies. Cell phone companies routinely undo the web’s
privacy protection. One experiment at Carnegie Mellon took real-time
videos of students on campus and was able to identify one-third of them
by comparing their photos with publicly available tagged Facebook photos.

Maintaining privacy on the Internet is nearly impossible. If you forget
even once to enable your protections, or click on the wrong link, or
type the wrong thing, you’ve permanently attached your name to whatever
anonymous service you’re using. Monsegur slipped up once, and the FBI
got him. If the director of the CIA can’t maintain his privacy on the
Internet, we’ve got no hope.

In today’s world, governments and corporations are working together to
keep things that way. Governments are happy to use the data corporations
collect — occasionally demanding that they collect more and save it
longer — to spy on us. And corporations are happy to buy data from
governments. Together the powerful spy on the powerless, and they’re not
going to give up their positions of power, despite what the people want.

Fixing this requires strong government will, but they’re just as
punch-drunk on data as the corporations. Slap-on-the-wrist fines
notwithstanding, no one is agitating for better privacy laws.

So, we’re done. Welcome to a world where Google knows exactly what sort
of porn you all like, and more about your interests than your spouse
does. Welcome to a world where your cell phone company knows exactly
where you are all the time. Welcome to the end of private conversations,
because increasingly your conversations are conducted by e-mail, text,
or social networking sites.

And welcome to a world where all of this, and everything else that you
do or is done on a computer, is saved, correlated, studied, passed
around from company to company without your knowledge or consent; and
where the government accesses it at will without a warrant.

Welcome to an Internet without privacy, and we’ve ended up here with
hardly a fight.

If you would like to read more, Bruce is here:

by Bruce Schneier
Chief Security Technology Officer, BT

35 Comments on “transparent lives”

  1. This is a very good but unnerving piece. I understand this lack of privacy exists, yet haven’t given it much thought. For someone whose busy mind is always thinking; this is something I haven’t spent much time questioning. Every interaction – with every individual, leads to growth.

  2. Big brother is getting older and either over protective or just more controlling.

    • billgncs says:

      probably the best government is a benevolent dictator or king but those never last beyond a generation.

      Governments and agencies and companies tend to grow until the function becomes to perpetrate the entity. In companies, competition keeps it honest. If that happens a competitor will take it’s place. In government, we must depend up on the constitution and the phrase ” Whenever a government becomes destructive of these ends, [ Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness] it is the people to alter or abolish it…

  3. Ray's Mom says:

    Reblogged this on JUSTICE FOR RAYMOND and commented:
    This is the world we have created for ourselves

  4. Ray's Mom says:

    Interesting and frightening together. Good information. Thank you for posting,

  5. emjayzed says:

    Interesting and scary all at once.

  6. bert0001 says:

    I suggest you look for “eben moglen” on youtube – he is saying usefull things to do in order to preserve our freedom, a freedom that took more than 1000 years of fighting, and that we are now throwing away because we forget that we are society and we can make laws to limit all this spying.

  7. After reading this, I know I cannot do anything about it, except not use internet. After reading this I am not afraid F U world,I am me….. who else would I be? oh Bill, ….

  8. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words says:

    Good post…accurate in thoughts…
    Welcome to the New World…
    *sigh* and here I was hoping for simpler not more complicated…
    I stay within my chaotic crazy world….if big brother can discipher my thoughts where I wander
    I sure hope he will send me updates, I usually forget where I am much less where I am going or have been…
    Take Care…

    • billgncs says:

      thanks Maryrose — I am always glad when you stop by.

      I think it’s important for people to know that there can be no secrets on the internet. Thus we live transparently – and hopefully transparently is honorably

      • LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words says:

        you are welcome, it is always a learning of something when I scoot life away and catch up on the thoughts I like like to take in…
        My business law teacher told me once…if your life is an open book no one can use anything against you…I have chosen to live that way since I was 18 years olde…
        she also said my life is so strange no one will believe me or what happens so I might as well tell the truth, I can at least sleep and not have to keep a note book to remember the lies….
        Mrs. Wood was a very wise woman…
        this is such a good post Bill…

  9. I couldn’t read the whole thing, it freaks me out!

  10. Scary stuff. I can always hope they get bored with my emails and tracking me on my cell phone??

  11. Yikes! A very sobering post for a Monday morning. Big Brother on steroids. Perhaps I’m naive but I’d like to think that we regular folks sacrifice a bit of privacy while Facebooking and online shopping, but that very surveillance is what allowed the good guys to catch the bad guy in Boston last week.

  12. mindfuldiary says:

    Interesting and very thought provoking post! As mentioned in the article, we grown ups don’t have a choice when it comes to privacy. But,what I can’t understand, are parents who post their newborn/baby/children pictures on internet. It’s like the kids have no right for privacy and have no control over what parents post about them and who sees/uses those photos.That’s scary to think, that future generations don’t even have right to have privacy during their childhood. Maybe, I’m just too old school, but I like physical baby photo albums that are available only for few chosen viewers. Great, great post Bill!

    • billgncs says:

      I have always felt that the loss of innocence is tied to the identification of youth as a marketing target. as for “old school” — we might have to make you wait until you get a few wrinkles, hopefully laugh lines 🙂

      good for you for protecting your kids. No need to rush them.

  13. Eric says:

    I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, Bill, but you’ve finally gotten me to make a decision. I am packing up the corgis and a backpack, leaving all my technology behind and catchin’ a freight train to Timbuktu! Bye!

  14. Eric Alagan says:

    I might be wrong but these govts and corporations will collect so much data that they’ll choke on it – ala a python that tried to swallow a bull.

    Ultimately, they need to use a rifle approach – and yes, that we can’t run away from.

  15. Clanmother says:

    A thought-provoking post!

    “No social stability without individual stability.”
    ― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

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