“Carney condemned the Amash Amendment as a “blunt approach” that “is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.” That was pretty funny, since Obama has been doing everything in his power to prevent ordinary Americans from learning enough about the government’s surveillance programs to decide for themselves whether they want to exchange their privacy for his promise of safety.”
I rarely say this as a one-liner but:
“In fact, the U.S. government is, right this second, pouring untold billions into what is ultimately an effort to monitor all digital communications; scan all mail; amass a fleet of surveillance drones that can hover in the sky for days on end; develop technology to scan all faces in crowds; assemble gigantic databases of biometric data; break all encryption efforts; indiscriminately spy on millions of citizens in friendly countries like Germany and Brazil; and share spy technologies with allies. None of that is in dispute. What’s hyperbolic is calling people hysterical because they see the endgame of various plans to impose ever broader surveillance on whole societies. There isn’t a government document somewhere titled, “The Plan to Destroy Global Privacy,” but that is exactly what Western intelligence agencies will do if adequately funded and left, unopposed, to their own devices. Anyone who can’t see that hasn’t adequately grappled with the implications of Snowden’s revelations, the history of spy agencies allowed to operate in secret, or the radical new capabilities that advances in data analysis and retention have given states (and are likely to give them in the near future if they aren’t stopped).”
Privacy “moderates”, those who are unwilling to finish the cognitive step to lionize the leakers and whistleblowers is incredibly worrying.
The privacy moderate is deeply uncomfortable with the implications of being allied with Snowden and Greenwald, and against Bush, Cheney, Obama, Clinton, Brennan, Feinstein, and Clapper. The privacy moderate “knows” that Snowden and Greenwald are the radicals; yet the privacy moderate can’t help but stumble toward a conclusion they’re desperate to avoid: the establishment’s policies have implications far more radical than the most strident voices opposing them.
My final take-away and a salient point is this one from the article:
We don’t live in Jefferson’s world. We live in a world where, even if the NSA was abolished, Americans would be far more secure from attacks foreign and domestic than in Jefferson’s day, when multiple foreign powers could’ve credibly invaded and conquered us, and Americans on the frontier were engaged in ongoing skirmishes with understandably hostile Native Americans.
People have good intuitions about the danger of indiscriminate collection and retention of their data. They’re not being hysterical. For the last decade, we’ve been concentrating on how to regulate the way this data gets used in the private sector. But now that the coercive power of the state has entered the picture, the stakes are much higher, and we have an opportunity to politicize the debate. David Simon tells us to resign ourselves to the consequences of technological change:
"The question is not should the resulting data exist. It does. And it forever will, to a greater and greater extent."
But I think that is wrong. Whether the data should exist, and for how long, is exactly the question. The answer is not a technological inevitability, but a political choice.
I believe a world in which everything is recorded and persists forever carries the seeds of something monstrous. It is in the nature of computer systems to remember things indefinitely, but there’s nothing difficult about programming machines to forget. It just requires laws to do it. We can’t treat it as a technical problem. And to get the laws passed, we need to politicize the issue.”
That the new normal is computers that will remember everything, forever, is not a technological inevitability. Libraries have already made this work. Not just paying lip service to temporary data, but actually not retaining patron records.
All it takes is a decision to discard data, and then to enforce it. We don’t have to give in.