Spying leftovers

Sorry for the sparse posting. I’ve been spending time with family and friends over the Christmas/New Year’s period. I was away for New Year’s with some of my family and am currently away again, staying with a friend. I will be home later this week and should then be able to start posting regularly again.

Over the past few months, I took note of a number of stories regarding how the US and UK were spying on essentially everyone. Many of them have already been posted (see here, here, here and here) but I still have a couple more that were not always focussed on the spying themselves or which were particularly interesting in light of the NSA’s actions. I’m posting all of them together here.

Most attention on the NSA spying has focussed on their intrusion into privacy and attitude that they have the right to do whatever they want. Ben Grosser took a different stance, instead creating a programme that would deliberately include words that the NSA is likely to search for in his emails. It’s an interesting, and amusing, take on the spying scandal as, if many people copied the same approach, it would render scanning email useless. Although, since it’s all at the bottom of the email it might be easy to exclude. Of course that would mean you could include real messages in the random text and evade spying algorithms that way.

I also found it fascinating to watch how the US and UK governments hacked and surveyed various people and companies around the world while simultaneously punishing those that did the same to them. Lauri Love, in the UK, and Jeremy Hammond, in the US, were both arrested and charged for hacking governmental and military servers and stealing confidential data. Yet when the government does the exact same thing, they think it’s perfectly okay.

Of course a state would give its own interests priority but when one would not like those same things to be done to one’s own country then perhaps it should reconsider how it behaves to others. We know the US was monitoring Angela Merkel’s cellphone while at the same time spending a lot of effort to secure Obama’s phone. Surely one would consider that if they would object to his phone being monitored that others would object to their own phone being monitored? What happened to the golden rule?

As a major world power, the US does set the tone for how countries will act. They should at least be making an attempt to better the world, rather than promoting paranoid, totalitarian regimes? Even if their intentions are good, it’s very easy for those intentions to be subverted and other places do not have good intentions. Governments in Turkey, China and Vietnam have all recently imposed restrictions on the internet, either blocking material they find objectionable or that is critical of the regime. It’s not too much of a stretch for countries to decide merely banning such content on the internet isn’t enough and that the people that try to produce such content should be removed. In such a situation, US-style surveillance and monitoring, particularly with weakened encryption, would leave people incredibly vulnerable.

Yet instead of working to improve security for everyone, something that will likely become more important as our lives are increasingly linked to the internet, they continue down the same path. There are known plans to both build new spy planes and to develop a quantum computer that could crack any encryption in almost no time at all. That would all be added to an already massive spying operation that is both damaging to human rights and could leave us less safe than before.

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