back to article Snowden: You can't trust SPOOKS with your DATA

Irony meters exploded when NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, addressing the SXSW conference via video link today, urged programmers to encrypt their data to protect it from, er, prying eyes. snowden SXSW Snowden wraps himself in US constitutions Snowden, a former CIA technician, addressed the audience in Austin, Texas, in …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IMO the only real option here is to completely disband the NSA and start new, with new people - if it's even necessary. From the reports it seems like the only thing the NSA is good at is wasting money and spying on the wrong people.

    When an employee is lying and doing what he shouldn't, you can't just issue a slap on the wrist and expect a complete behavior turnaround.

    1. Vociferous

      Why?

      They've only done their job as mandated by US politicians, and done it well. Disbanding and reforming would achieve nothing except temporarily destroy the US expertise in signal surveillance.

      1. Ole Juul

        done it well?

        "They've only done their job as mandated by US politicians, and done it well. Disbanding and reforming would achieve nothing except temporarily destroy the US expertise in signal surveillance."

        I'm not understanding what you mean by doing their job well. For one, they haven't been very successful at increasing or maintaining national security. In fact one could argue that they have seriously decreased everybody's security. Also, doing "one's job" without questioning the ethics is often looked down upon in civilized society. A person (like Snowden) who's got guts, does not continue down the wrong road once they realize what's going on. And then there's the little matter of what they've been doing being illegal.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: done it well?

          "I was only obeying orders." has not been a valid legal defence for, what, seventy years?

          Though the problem of some poor chap at the pointy end actually having the knowledge to decide whether what his boss tells him to do is legal or not is moot: easier for them to assume the boss knows the law better than them.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: done it well?

          "For one, they haven't been very successful at increasing or maintaining national security"

          And you know this how?

        3. Vociferous

          Re: done it well?

          > For one, they haven't been very successful at increasing or maintaining national security

          You don't know that. In fact, none of us have the slightest inkling of a clue what they have reported or how things would have played out without NSA, GCHQ & friends.

          > one could argue that they have seriously decreased everybody's security

          No, one could not. They have decreased everyone's privacy, but risk is unchanged or decreased. Lack of information, for instance leading to inability to determine that an informer is lying or if Iran is close to obtaining nukes, increases risk.

          > doing "one's job" without questioning the ethics is often looked down upon in civilized society

          Yes, but this isn't civilized society: this is national security and war.

          > then there's the little matter of what they've been doing being illegal.

          Some of it sure, but since they did it at the behest of the politicians no one will ever be sent to prison for it. Except for the spying on that Senate committee, that is the one single thing in the Snowden files which will lead to heads rolling.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: done it well?

            "> one could argue that they have seriously decreased everybody's security

            No, one could not. They have decreased everyone's privacy, but risk is unchanged or decreased. Lack of information, for instance leading to inability to determine that an informer is lying or if Iran is close to obtaining nukes, increases risk."

            Or maybe the intelligence that allows them to launch drone attacks in foreign countries might annoy the foreigners enough to make them want to attack back (and make it easier to recruit for that purpose), thereby decreasing security.

            So one can argue it, because I just did.

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        They've only done their job as mandated by US politicians, and done it well.

        Even in a purely US-centric view, compiling dossiers like Hacker Heydrich on US people in full violation of anything their mandate and the constitution says about these kind of activities as well as alienating "overseas friends" (more like useful idiots kept in line by greenback splurges, amirite) by basically behaving like Greys coming back night after night for a good probing is NOT "doing your job well", except in Restaurant-Serving-Stray-Cats-For-Expediency kind of way.

    2. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Disband? only when hell freezes over... probably

      There's never going to be enough political pressure for that.

      The only example of that kind of action is Northern Ireland, when the RUC(Royal Ulster Constabulary) was replaced with the PSNI(Police Service of Northern Ireland) in the aftermath of the 'troubles' in order to reassert public confidence.

      There is just not enough of the public that either understands (or cares) enough about the political ramifications of the spying revelations to prompt any action of that kind.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      if you read this Wash Post article you can see it's not just the NSA...

      we might need to completely disband the NSA & the CIA & the..., trustworthy souls all...?

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/transcript-sen-dianne-feinstein-says-cia-searched-intelligence-committee-computers/2014/03/11/200dc9ac-a928-11e3-8599-ce7295b6851c_story.html

      Transcript of statement to Congress about CIA 'disappearing' documents! - at least it's just documents not %random{snipers:fundamentalists:dr.kelly:lockerbie:truth:justice:kennedy:etc} this time!

  2. Ole Juul

    The government has changed its talking points

    The government has changed its talking points on this away from the public interest to the national interest," he said.

    He speaks well. I'm just so disheartened at the seeming impossibility of convincing the great majority that "national interest" does not include them any more.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: The government has changed its talking points

      The "national interest" hasn't included the common person for a long time. The "national interest" is and has been for quite some time about power. Big business = money = power for those who take the lobby and campaign monies. Take the king's shilling, do the king's bidding.

      The elected official will tell us (the voters) anything to get elected. Once in, follow the money and you'll see how they use their power.

      Lastly, since information is power, having a good intelligence operation is important. Using it on your citizens gives those in power that edge. It also gives those in the intelligence operation the power of pulling strings to keep their power.

      So is it in the best interest of "government" to disband the NSA? The answer to that is "no". Which puts it in the "national interest" category and "public interest" be damned as "public interest" doesn't serve those in power.

      1. Vociferous

        Re: The government has changed its talking points

        > The "national interest" hasn't included the common person for a long time.

        I would argue that it never has.

        > The "national interest" is and has been for quite some time about power. Big business = money = power

        That was always the case.

        Nationalism is irrational, it is, literally and completely, nothing but powerful people's mindgame to get less powerful people to act against their own best interest.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: The government has changed its talking points

          >Nationalism is irrational, it is, literally and completely, nothing but powerful people's mindgame to get

          >less powerful people to act against their own best interest.

          So the best interest of the poor downtrodden prole is not to support his own country is it?

          That's an interesting point of view - care to elaborate?

          1. Sherrie Ludwig

            Re: The government has changed its talking points

            >Nationalism is irrational, it is, literally and completely, nothing but powerful people's mindgame to get

            >less powerful people to act against their own best interest.

            So the best interest of the poor downtrodden prole is not to support his own country is it?

            That's an interesting point of view - care to elaborate?

            Not the OP, but I see it as in the interest of the "prole" to seek to advance the rights of the individual over the state, to insist upon having the right to not just disagree with the state but to change it if it conflicts with the rights of individuals. For this to happen, it requires that the proles be informed of the actions of the state, and to have both the will and the ability to effect changes. When people realize that the only "state" that matters is this wet pebble we have to coexist upon, as I hope the people will sometime realize, then the states are the entities that will need to be disbanded.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The government has changed its talking points

              @Sherrie Ludwig

              "When people realize that the only "state" that matters is this wet pebble we have to coexist upon, as I hope the people will sometime realize, then the states are the entities that will need to be disbanded."

              As Arthur C Clarke sagely noted "its is perhaps comforting that flags don't wave in space".

          2. Vociferous

            Re: The government has changed its talking points

            > So the best interest of the poor downtrodden prole is not to support his own country is it?

            It is in the best interest of the poor & downtrodden to not die, at least when all that's on the line is the interests of rich and powerful people. There are situations when it is in the best interests of the poor & downtrodden to fight -- for instance, to rid themselves of an oppressive dictator, or in defense against an oppressive or genocidal invader -- but in those cases you do not need nationalism to get them to fight. You need nationalism when they otherwise would not have fought. Fighting for < insert country here > was always a bullshit reason, emotive language designed to tug at the heart strings in order to bypass the brain.

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          @Vociferous

          "Nationalism is irrational, it is, literally and completely, nothing but powerful people's mindgame to get less powerful people to act against their own best interest."

          Careful now, you're starting to sound like a socialist

          And you know what Americans think of them.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Vociferous

            Not necessarily accurate matey-bob. The posit that Nationalism is irrational etc. is a sound one in the view of many, other than the socialists alone. Libertarians, anarchists, anarcho-capitalists and other non-state-loving types will readily agree. Individual sovereign liberty is far, far more important than any 'security' consideration of the bloated and flailing state.

            This is why the tea-party types in the US are onto a loser. They're so in thrall of the stars and bars yawn bore, that they can't see the woods for the trees. The state is the problem. The state is always the problem. The state as has been discussed in the article, looks out only for the state. This self-interest, and the zealous prosecution of its continued existence, is the real root of all evil.

            Anon natch. They're fucking everywhere.

    2. boltar Silver badge

      Re: The government has changed its talking points

      >He speaks well. I'm just so disheartened at the seeming impossibility of convincing the great

      >majority that "national interest" does not include them any more.

      Perhaps the great majority don't want to be lectured to on morality from some self regarding narcissist who makes a big deal about internal state spying then fucks off to a country run by a dictator in all but name that's just invaded a sovereign european nation 1939 style. The US might not be perfect, but I'll take it over Putins oppressive russia any day. Snowden is just another in a long line of Useful Idiots.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: The government has changed its talking points

        " fucks off to a country run by a dictator in all but name that's just invaded a sovereign european nation 1939 style."

        I didn't know he was back in the US, where did you hear that?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The government has changed its talking points

      "He speaks well. I'm just so disheartened at the seeming impossibility of convincing the great majority that "national interest" does not include them any more."

      One just man can become an army.

  3. solo

    Stop who?

    "..he had no problem with commercial companies collecting personal data.."

    Well, may be he's well intentioned and wants to tackle 1 problem at once, but how an 8-pixel-font-aggreement link unique on every site in the world is less of a problem than a constitutional statement with almost the same content?

    And if availability of opt-out is your excuse, then you can opt-out of the Internet as a whole as well.

    But, a big thanks for your suggestion on encryption.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Stop who?

      I can't opt out of my government. Or out from under the thumb of the USA. I can opt out of Google. There are tools that let me defeat a Google. I can install them on my computer. I have fucking nothing that will defeat people who have the legal power to tap trans-oceanic fiber or install MITM equipment in telecoms closets.

      So yeah, I've got no big beef with corporations tracking things. Or rather, I do...but that is a technological arms race that I can win because they are limited to the same scope of powers I myself posses.

      I have a great many issues with governmental surveillance, especially by my own country and our allies. I don't care about targeted surveillance; that's requisite and sane. Dragnet surveillance, however, places too much power in the hands of petty bureaucrats and border security agents. Both these categories have minimal-to-no oversight and unchallengeable authority.

      Maybe China and Russia have similar programs. Oh well. Who cares? Their spying programs won't impact me or mine unless I try to enter their country. The same cannot be said of my own country spying on me, or of allied nations spying on me.

      Allied nations share their surveillance with my nation enabling my country's petty bureaucrats to make my life miserable at will. Obey or be destroyed.

      Allied nations are also where I am most likely to want to engage in business or travel for leisure. Again we encounter the real world impacts of mass surveillance, too much power and information given tot he petty thugs left to man the borders.

      If they want to create terrible societies that is up to them. We claim we're "better" and more "free", we should damned well prove it. Liberty is not an acceptable price for the illusion of freedom.

      1. Scorchio!!

        Re: Stop who?

        "I can't opt out of my government."

        Yes you can. You can fly to Ecuador, you can fly to Belarus (assuming they'll let you in), you can jet off to a country with a jungle and live there. Indeed you can, like Eddie baby, fly to Mother Russia and lose almost all of your 'freedoms' in exchange for living under an autocracy that is just barely better than the dictatorship that preceded it. If, on the other hand, you mean 'I can't opt out of my government whilst retaining the comfy life that I have, complete with electrickery, gadgets, organised health and welfare, police officers to prevent people from assaulting me, intelligence and security agents to intercept bomb plotters" you are probably right. We lose much in exchange for these things and, in case you had not noticed, you have an approximation to freedom only once every five years, when you put a X on a ballot paper. You may want to argue that that does not approximate very much to freedom, but that is about as good as it ever gets and is probably better than the 'freedoms' experienced by the like of Snorri Sturluson and others (and note that even Snorri Sturluson's 'liberty' and freedoms were curtailed by a murderer).

        As to freedom itself, it is a myth. From a statistical perspective there are only degrees of freedom, meaning the choice between a limited number of alternatives, ranging from one set of outliers through the middle to the other set of outliers. Try living off the land in a place far away from government - the outback will do if you like - and see what freedom means.

        1. Flyberius

          Re: Stop who?

          You summed it up rather nicely.

        2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Stop who?

          With enough effort I *might* be able to convince another government to accept me into their country. At which point I've replaced my current government for another. I have no choices which involve "no government" excepting (possibly) Somalia. Even there, the local warlords that have eeeked out territory constitute a government of sorts. You are subject to the whims of those who claim the land upon you live and seek to rule you unless you are so much stronger than they that you form the ruling class on your own.

          Your entire argument is a statement of "this is how it is, so learn to like it." I call that cowardly bullshit. You may be roughly accurate in describing how limited our options are - though I believe you are overly optimistic about how many options the average person realistically has - but we always have the choice to resist.

          I don't accept the status quo. The status quo is inadequate and doesn't benefit me or mine. I will resist the status quo and seek change.

          People, like you, who believe that the illusion of security is an acceptable trade for liberty are those against whom I the struggle must be directed. Your misguided beliefs must be changed so that the people can stand united against those who would seek to rule us.

          Governance of populations is necessary, but I am no slave. I will allow no man to rule me. There is an important difference between the two concepts. Governments are servants to their people. Rules make servants of the people.

          And to be perfectly clear: I'll die before I allow someone to rule me.

          1. Hit Snooze
            Trollface

            Re: Stop who?

            And to be perfectly clear: I'll die before I allow someone to rule me.

            You've never been married have you?

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: Stop who?

              "You've never been married have you?"

              Almost 2 years now. Quite happily. The wife doesn't rule me, I don't rule her. The cats, on the other hand....they might well be my masters. I'm down with that, however. Cats are superior in every way. All hail our feline overlords.

              1. I am not spartacus

                Optional

                Well, this is getting increasingly sticky with the general populace. But, at least the plan with the cats worked.

            2. Vociferous

              Re: Stop who?

              > You've never been married have you?

              Not in a GOOD marriage, at least. Insisting on deciding everything is possible, but so very not worth it.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Stop who?

            > There is an important difference between the two concepts. Governments are servants to their people. Rules make servants of the people.

            So we're all servants then since ALL governments have rules - aka laws.

            Since you don't "accept the status quo", why don't you stop following all the rules and see what happens? You sound like a spoiled teenager whining about doing their chores and having to live under their parents rules, which is natural, but as an adult you sound pathetic. Have you ever lived in a place without rules? Just for fun why don't you babysit your friends kids for a weekend and let the kids know that there are no rules, they can do ANYTHING they want. You'll learn very quickly that rules are a good thing.

            If you do not like the laws, do what you can to change them legally. If you can't change them, as suggested by a poster above, move to a country where the laws are more acceptable to you.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: Stop who?

              "> There is an important difference between the two concepts. Governments are servants to their people. Rules make servants of the people."

              There is a typo here. This SHOULD read:

              "> There is an important difference between the two concepts. Governments are servants to their people. Rulers make servants of the people."

              A subtle difference that totally changes the meaning.

              Understand me clearly: I do not mind that laws exist. I do not mind the existence of rules. I do mind someone who seeks to rule me. I am nobody's subject. I am nobody's slave.

              Rules that exist to prevent tragedy of the commons, this I accept. Rules that help maintain order, this I accept. Rules that exist in to instill fear in a population or to surveil their every move...these I do not accept.

              Rules must exist for a society to function. But no man belongs to another, nor does any man belong to their government. Governments belong to their people. I

              I have little real issue with most laws. There are too many and they are overly complicated to the point that a good cleanup could benefit us all, but for the most part they serve society. Even where laws are stupid, outdated or brought about through corrupt practice they usually have narrow impact and the existing processes allow for their redress, alteration or nullification.

              This isn't the case with laws aimed to allow dragnet surveillance, remove the right to face one's accuser, strip citizens of the rights against unreasonable search and seizure or those which alter "innocent unless proven guilty" to "guilty unless we allow you to attempt to prove your innocence (which is unlikely.)" These are laws that fundamentally affect the balance of power in our nations.

              These are laws that make "the national good" and "the good of the people" separate and distinct items. Those are the laws I have trouble with, and those are the laws that must be fought. The national good must always be the same thing as the good of the people. When it is not, it's time to rebuild.

          3. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Potty Re: Stop who?

            ".....I have no choices which involve "no government" excepting (possibly) Somalia....." What, all we have to do to stop your constant stream of Yank-envy is find you somewhere free of "government"? Easy! Buy a boat, you'll find a nice patch of government-freeness out in International waters either mid-Atlantic or mid-Pacific.

          4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            @Trevor_Pott

            How intriguing.

            3 down votes for a reasonable statement of a PoV? And a continuing pattern of 3 all the way down.

            How many real, how many sock puppets?

            Yet no actual argument.

            I will note that cynicism is the simplest political posture.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: @Trevor_Pott

              "I will note that cynicism is the simplest political posture."

              Personally, I'd argue that "faith" is the simplest political posture, but we're really arguing two sides of a coin there: the extremes of the concept "trust" are far simpler than dealing with the messy reality of the middle.

              I am a cynic by nature, but I put actual effort into not allowing that to drive my political views. It's hard to be both a cynic and a socialist! Most people, I think, are inherently good...but most people are also too overwhelmed with the business of daily life that they don't have the means or the time to engage in political discourse about larger items. Fear plays a role: if they keep their heads down they may be left alone to tend their own issues.

              It is faith to believe that those in power over us will do what is good and right. It is cynicism to believe they will do what is wrong. It is faith to believe that we can make the world a utopia. It is cynicism to believe that we can have no effect at all. These beliefs are trite and easy to be passionate about. They are views that feel intuitive, and thus it is easy to become attached.

              Reality is a lot more murky. Those in power will not do what is good and right...but rarely do they set out do evil, either. In truth, humans build complex systems that they cannot control and a single enterprising malefactor can take control of the machinery to bend it to their own ends. Our entire history is examples of this happening again and again.

              The fight for balance will never be over. Pick any two poles (liberty/security, right/wrong, etc) and there will always be forces tugging society to either end.

              The price we pay for being part of the governing structure - even peripherally - is that we must remain perpetually vigilant. We must take note when the needle slips too far to one side and take action immediately to remediate the situation.

              Sadly, you will never convince those who are currently content with their life to do anything excepting defend vigorously the status quo. Society as it is currently structured has obviously provided them with a life they enjoy and thus any change in these circumstances risks being to their detriment. They will oppose change with what borders on an elemental force.

              "I've got mine, so fuck everyone else" is all too common an ideology.

          5. Scorchio!!

            Re: Stop who?

            "Your entire argument is a statement of "this is how it is, so learn to like it." I call that cowardly bullshit. You may be roughly accurate in describing how limited our options are - though I believe you are overly optimistic about how many options the average person realistically has - but we always have the choice to resist.

            Perhaps you were addressing me, I don't know. However, and as far as the subjective material is concerned, you are reading a crystal ball that does not work. For one thing I do not recommend that you like it. How you respond is up to you. Hate it, love it, like it, dislike it, ignore it, I could not give a tinker's cuss; your projections and imagination are of no consequence nor of relevance. As to the cowardice, I have worked in dangerous occupations that have nearly killed me - including a year on active duty - and no one has ever accused me of cowardice, whatever that means; in fact, cowardice probably means something to the effect that an individual places its well being over that over others. Now the interesting thing here is that the group security that I outlined is the opposite of cowardice, because people are called on to make sacrifices, but I don't give a damn, and that is not surprising. I once nearly died of losing more than half my blood supply, never mind the narrow escapes, including one or two defending a country whose citizens are completely clueless when it comes to the meaning of the word 'freedom'; but there again, it's whatever wobbles your trossachs, whatever gets your rocks off, whatever helps you to vent your imaginary spleen, all the while ignoring the fact that coming together as a group a) makes you a target b) reduces the number of variables (degrees of freedom) that you have and c) requires you to do something that psychopaths cannot; follow rules, engage cooperatively, work as a group, something which probably emerged in human behaviour once the opposing thumb and forefinger evolved, thus encouraging hominids to develop the concept of working together.

            Perhaps you don't understand that, but I could not give a farking damn. I certainly am untroubled by the silly notion that you seem to harbour that governments should bend for you, when in fact they are made to respond first to protecting the maximum number of people; that means your petty desires are unimportant whilst the bigger issues of the day exert greater pressure.

            Meanwhile your 'I bow to no man' speech is belied by your failure to piss off into the bondu and look after yourself, independently and out of range of a government. That if anything is the message behind my words. It is of the shape up or shove off variety that I learned as a soldier. Now perhaps you'll go and find yourself an alternative; go on, be brave. Meanwhile I'll continue my own quest. The one which has nearly killed me on several occasions.

            HTH.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: Stop who?

              I never said a government should bend to me. I said said that governments are instruments of the people. People are not instruments of the government.

              Unlike your antiquated and simplistic advice I don't believe in simply "me for me." Upping stakes and going elsewhere because I don't like the choices made by governments elected by a minority of individuals would be cowardice.

              Bravery is found in driving change. In putting one's time, effort and resources towards achieving the desired outcome. I find no valour in meekly accepting what is. I see no honour in capitulating. Right and wrong are not dictated by those in power; especially when those in power are emphatically not elected by a majority. (There's a proportional representation discussion to be had here.)

              I certainly don't see any bravery in allowing foreigners (Americans, Brits) to dictate to my nation - and thus to me - what will be, what is right or what to believe. Instead, I choose to push for change. To stand up for what I believe and to encourage my nation to stand up to those others who would have us compromise our values.

              I am defending my home using the only means I have available to me. I will not run and hide. I find it incomprehensible that anyone could advocate such under the guise of bravery."

              1. Titus Technophobe

                Re: Stop who? @Trevor Potter

                Unlike your antiquated and simplistic advice I don't believe in simply "me for me." Upping stakes and going elsewhere because I don't like the choices made by governments elected by a minority of individuals would be cowardice.

                Bravery is found in driving change. In putting one's time, effort and resources towards achieving the desired outcome. I find no valour in meekly accepting what is. I see no honour in capitulating. Right and wrong are not dictated by those in power; especially when those in power are emphatically not elected by a majority. (There's a proportional representation discussion to be had here.)

                Hmmm it is nice to see you accusing somebody else of cowardice again or at least implying it. That said this really doesn't add to the discussion and really just annoys those of us responding to your posts.

                I certainly don't see any bravery in allowing foreigners (Americans, Brits) to dictate to my nation - and thus to me - what will be, what is right or what to believe. Instead, I choose to push for change. To stand up for what I believe and to encourage my nation to stand up to those others who would have us compromise our values.

                Yet your quite happy to let China etc spy and gain advantage?

                I am defending my home using the only means I have available to me. I will not run and hide. I find it incomprehensible that anyone could advocate such under the guise of bravery."

                You really believe this, I mean really? I have seen stuff where you argued similar points for anonymous I guess you really do consider yourself brave and the rest of us cowards. Oh well.

      2. Vociferous

        Re: Stop who?

        > Maybe China and Russia have similar programs.

        They do.

        > Oh well. Who cares? Their spying programs won't impact me or mine unless I try to enter their country.

        Except, of course, they use what they find to blackmail you or steal vital secrets from the company you work for (or own).

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Stop who?

          "Except, of course, they use what they find to blackmail you or steal vital secrets from the company you work for (or own)."

          I don't' do business with them. So what do I care if they attempt to blackmail me? As for stealing vital secrets...so what? So they can make what I make or do what I do? Oh well. Let them. Their society needs people and companies that do what I do. By the time they get tooled up to match me and have enough presence to reach out of their market and compete against me in the markets I occupy I'll be several evolutions beyond them onto "the next thing."

          Risk is part of life and it is certainly part of business. Vain attempts to minimize risk at the expense of freedom are pointless. Our own governments and their allies are far greater threats to the average person and business than the Russia/China boogeyman.

          1. Titus Technophobe

            Re: Stop who?

            People, like you, who believe that the illusion of security is an acceptable trade for liberty are those against whom I the struggle must be directed. Your misguided beliefs must be changed so that the people can stand united against those who would seek to rule us.

            So how is that one working out? Speaking as one to whom you have already directed a stream of abuse .... evil, cowardly etc etc. I find your extensive rhetoric and arguments unconvincing.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: Stop who?

              So far we've managed to defeat several bills aimed at expanding the surveillance state, gotten all of the opposition parties onside with the idea of completely redesigning our surveillance system and even gotten commitments towards greater civilian oversight.

              We've raised millions of dollars towards awareness and lawsuits to challenge the status quo. We've organized letter-writing campaigns that encompassed a noticeable percentage of our population and triggered investigations and mediation. We've even driven down the popular acceptance of the conservative party to such an extent that if the election were held tomorrow they would lose and lose badly.

              Fundraising is going well, both from the spying-on-your-own-citizens and the telecoms reform groups. Enough that each has become a powerful lobby in this nation of their own right; given that they share very similar goals and are purchasing political capital with abandon we actually stand a decent chance of making a dent.

              Additionally, we've sent some of our top organizers to the states to train their groups. They are responding well and they are seeing an uptick in responsiveness and funding. Enacting change in the US will take a lot longer - and it is a hell of a lot more expensive - but there is every reason to believe we will ultimately be successful.

              The UK is a whole other ball of wax. Canada and the US don't have popular support for dragnet surveillance. But he UK has a strongly authoritarian society. Libertainism (either right or left) isn't very deeply embedded into the psyche of the nation and so steering them away from such a path will take decades. First, we must change the society as a whole...that takes time and even more money than lobbying in the US.

              But as for how it's going? Well. Piece by piece, bit by bit, the pressure is mounting. The discussions keep occurring and popular support is growing. As for "abuse"...I stand by what I've said, sir. I do hold that your beliefs are in fact evil. You have the right to think of me what you want. It is that right - the right to think what you will and express it openly - that I am fighting for. If you choose to hate me for it, so be it.

              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: Potty Re: Stop who?

                ".....We've raised millions of dollars towards awareness and lawsuits to challenge the status quo....." LOL! You were duped, you mean! All that cash will do is allow a load of free-loading "intellectuals", lawyers and politicians to live the high life whilst they promise you "freedom".

            2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

          2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            Re: Stop who?

            "Risk is part of life and it is certainly part of business. Vain attempts to minimize risk at the expense of freedom are pointless. Our own governments and their allies are far greater threats to the average person and business than the Russia/China boogeyman."

            Or as Mary Shaefer put it "Insisting on perfect safety is for people without the balls to live in the real world"

            The present system gives the worst of both worlds.

            No actual security and very little actual privacy.

          3. Vociferous

            Re: Stop who?

            > So what do I care if they attempt to blackmail me?

            If you ask yourself why you care if NSA is spying on you, you likely also answer the question what the FSB or Chinese secret service could do to you.

            > As for stealing vital secrets...so what?

            I am of course happy to see that you are so on the ball. Wind power, solar power, and IC circuits were industries which weren't able to do what you can -- when they had their technologies stolen and copied, they got outcompeted.

            > Our own governments and their allies are far greater threats to the average person and business than the Russia/China boogeyman.

            How do you reckon? I've never even heard of anyone getting arrested by the NSA or based on NSA evidence; the number of cases must be very easily counted.

            Like I've said before: the focus on NSA/GCHQ is a bit unfortunate, not just because it ignores the equally big threat from other countries, but especially because it ignores that most people are under much greater threat from the rising capabilities of "standard" law enforcement agencies. NSA and FSB wont give a crap that I've got a copy of the "Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars" DVD on my computer, but the FBI or Metropolitan Police would kick my door down and haul me off to prison.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: Stop who?

              "If you ask yourself why you care if NSA is spying on you, you likely also answer the question what the FSB or Chinese secret service could do to you."

              I care that the NSA is spying on me because what the NSA finds they share. I don't give a shit what Russia or China knows about me because they aren't going to affect my life in any meaningful way.

              "I am of course happy to see that you are so on the ball. Wind power, solar power, and IC circuits were industries which weren't able to do what you can -- when they had their technologies stolen and copied, they got outcompeted."

              Americans and Brits conduct economic espionage against other countries too. Don't pretend otherwise. Political machinations at this level are way beyond "the average guy". Defending home infrastructure is exactly the sort of job the NSA should be fucking doing, and this is exactly the sort of shit they should have prevented. Had they not been pissing away their resources on surveiling their own citizens for drug crimes they might just have been able to.

              Strategic companies and tactical government investments need defense. The best defense that the nation can afford. That's the job of the spooks. It's not the task they're currently engaged in.

              "How do you reckon? I've never even heard of anyone getting arrested by the NSA or based on NSA evidence; the number of cases must be very easily counted."

              Your inability to actually read the news isn't my problem. They have passed along all sorts of info to the DEA, the FBI, etc. They snoop, they pass along, regular joes get nabbed for petty shit.

              "Like I've said before: the focus on NSA/GCHQ is a bit unfortunate, not just because it ignores the equally big threat from other countries, but especially because it ignores that most people are under much greater threat from the rising capabilities of "standard" law enforcement agencies. NSA and FSB wont give a crap that I've got a copy of the "Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars" DVD on my computer, but the FBI or Metropolitan Police would kick my door down and haul me off to prison."

              I don't disagree with this, but I think you live in a fantasy world where you envision a separation of powers here that doesn't, in fact, exist.

              If the NSA/GCHQ/CSIS/etc were to limit their snooping to national security issues, I wouldn't have a problem with them at all. Hell, I'd cheer them on and might even want to work for them. They don't. Not even remotely. They backchannel shit to other enforcement agencies all the time.

              Therein lies the problem. As a society we decided that "regular" law enforcement should have X capabilities and national security interests should have Y capabilities. This is because we believe that there is a difference in priority between the two. Breaking some laws just isn't as important as breaking others. (See also: criminal versus civil division.)

              And yet, people selling mary jane are being picked up because the machinery of national security is hijacked to fill quotas. City councils abuse CCTV installations to catch people putting out an extra bag of trash.

              You argue that the concept of the NSA is necessary and good. I don't disagree with you one whit. Where we disagree is in our acceptance of how this concept has been implemented, and how much corruption of the basic separation of enforcement capabilities we are willing to tolerate.

              The state should not be able to tap an undersea cable to catch me downloading Farscape. That falls into the realm of "petty crimes" for which the state should have to have reasonable suspicion and there is the whole concept of "innocent unless proven guilty" to cope with.

              The state should, however, be able to install equipment required to detect spying from international interests. Foreign govenrments don't get the benefit of "innocent unless proven guilty." I do, however, argue that allied citizens should.

              And there's the rub. Innocent unless proven guilty. When the government can spy on everything that everyone does how does that concept apply? How do we enforce it? Where do we enforce it?

              From what I see today it is largely being ignored "because we can." And that, sir, I have a huge problem with. That is the bit that needs some real fixing. And that is why I decry those who would support dragnet surveillance as "evil."

              I believe in "innocent unless proven guilty" as a fundamental concept. A idea of such importance that it is, in fact, worth dying for. Those who advocate abridging it for convenience or the illusion of security, well...I find it hard to express the true vehemence of my disregard.

              1. Vociferous

                Re: Stop who?

                > I care that the NSA is spying on me because what the NSA finds they share.

                To standard law enforcement? They don't. They have a very limited set of interests, which do not extend to, for instance, my pirated Farscape DVD. The reason they don't pass material to law enforcement is that they have a task considered more important than catching murderers, tax evaders, or even software pirates, and passing on information would expose them and harm their ability to carry out that more important mission.

                If the Metropolitan police early one morning kick down my door for that pirated DVD, it will not be because NSA or GCHQ intercepted this conversation and tracked it back to me. It will instead be because the Metropolitan police did, all on their own.

                > Americans and Brits conduct economic espionage against other countries too.

                Military secrets yes, commercial ones not so much. Mainly state surveillance comes into play during arms deals or bidding for very large contracts, as in the west patents are enforced. If a start-up wind power firm in the UK stole vital technical details from the market leader they would be sued. When start-up firms in China did it, the Western market leader, Vesta, got harassed by the Chinese government until they signed away their patents.

                > The state should not be able to tap an undersea cable to catch me downloading Farscape. That falls into the realm of "petty crimes"

                I agree. And so do, to the best of my knowledge, all defense intelligence organizations. There have been calls recently that the GCHQ should use its surveillance to catch pedophiles; I oppose this because it isn't their job, and using military capabilities against citizens sets a bad precedent. Of course, soon standard law enforcement will have capabilities similar to those of the military organizations -- and then what?

                > Innocent unless proven guilty. When the government can spy on everything that everyone does how does that concept apply? How do we enforce it? Where do we enforce it?

                The answer to all three of your questions is "randomly". That is effectively how it works. The entire population is criminalized by this approach, and police, politicians and journalists randomly pick citizens for prosecution.

                If I was feeling charitable I'd say the "random sampling" approach is intended to reduce crime by making examples, but I don't believe it. I believe the "random sampling" is the result of an unattainable ideal of zero crime colliding with the reality that it is not possible to go through life without committing petty crimes on a daily basis, often without even knowing.

                1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
                  Unhappy

                  Re: Stop who?

                  "I agree. And so do, to the best of my knowledge, all defense intelligence organizations. There have been calls recently that the GCHQ should use its surveillance to catch pedophiles; I oppose this because it isn't their job, and using military capabilities against citizens sets a bad precedent. Of course, soon standard law enforcement will have capabilities similar to those of the military organizations -- and then what?"

                  In a word. No.

                  The NSA has supplied information to the DEA about drug deals and DEA agents have lied about the source of that information.

                  You seem to have a problem with the idea that people oppose the idea of dragnet surveillance because a)It fosters a view that "Everyone's guilty." Or as the GRU used to put it in Stalin's time "We never make mistakes." b)It's grossly disproportionate. c)It's not my problem as they've never come for me.

                  The point is you don't have to do anything to have a file constructed about you on-the-fly by these organizations for what is effectively no reason.

                  I guess your so used to having no privacy in whatever job you do or have done that you've forgotten that normal people might get a bit p**sed off about that.

                  I suspect you won't "get it" until someone actually waves a full file in your face and shows you exactly how much data can be be collected on a nobody.

                  1. tom dial Silver badge

                    Re: Stop who?

                    The Reuters article describing the DEA Special Operations Division does not state, anywhere, that NSA referrals derive from collection of US domestic data.

                    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/05/us-dea-sod-idUSBRE97409R20130805

                    See also:

                    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/05/us-dea-sod-nsa-idUSBRE9740AI20130805

                    Nothing I have seen reported comes close to suggesting that the NSA builds dossiers about anyone "for what is effectively no reason." Indeed, a number of the Simply Shocking Documents consist of extremely detailed rules for determining when data that are scanned may be retained for a database, when they may be shared with other agencies, and when, in the event they are shared, the names of US residents or citizens need to be purged from what is shared.

                    It is entirely reasonable to think that what is being done is excessive, or that it should be controlled more tightly or ended, but it is not reasonable to make up "facts" to support those opinions.

                  2. Vociferous

                    Re: Stop who?

                    > The NSA has supplied information to the DEA about drug deals and DEA agents have lied about the source of that information.

                    I'm sure things like that happen -- corruption is nothing new -- but that the DEA agents lied about it should tell you it is not standard procedure, or even legal.

                    > You seem to have a problem with the idea that people oppose the idea of dragnet surveillance

                    People oppose all sorts of things, not always for good or even rational reasons -- see e.g. the anti-vaccination movement. If people are not in any risk from the "dragnet surveillance", then yes, I do think there are more pressing matters. Like the very real and actually dangerous dragnet surveillance from corporations and ordinary law enforcement.

                    Also, stop fucking projecting on me. Seriously.

      3. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Stop who?

        While I don't have much disagreement with this in general, a couple of minor points are worth noting.

        First, as Snowden states, properly applied encryption can protect communication privacy against signals intelligence collectors, and that would include protection against those who can tap international data links. (He is simply wrong about the surveillance, though; most of that derives from metadata.) Encryption is unrestricted in the US as to both use and type. As far as I know, that is basically true in the other Five Eyes countries, although in many others it is not, specifically including Russia and China, which among other restrictions authorize use only of government approved encryption methods.

        Petty bureaucrats here in the US (including border guards) certainly do not require anything CSEC or others might pass to them through NSA to harass me if they wish; I doubt things are much different elsewhere. And so far, reports of actual harassment of citizens based on signals intelligence analysis seem to be pretty much absent. The closest thing I recall in the US is of NSA passing information to the DEA about smuggling of illegal drugs. Both the utility and the existence of oppression based on signals intelligence have been enormously overstated.

        Based on reading some of the documents rather than only the news articles, the degree of oversight, at least of the NSA, appears to have been seriously understated or even suppressed. The New York Times article this morning describes loosening that the FISC approved in about 2002, with accompanying documents that describe restrictions that still are fairly restrictive on release of US "person" identifiers to law enforcement officials. One may wish to argue that the NSA did not adhere to the restrictions. There are known cases of that, but they appear to be aberrations, ones that were known because the NSA internal oversight organization reported them.

        Probably the best argument against collection of domestic data by the likes of NSA and the like are that the costs probably far exceed any conceivable benefit.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trust

    Even if you could get the majority to care enough to participate - questionable in the UK - we have a huge problem to overcome with trust. If we can't trust the software we're using to encrypt, all the measures we try to take might well be a complete waste of time and we'd never know, and that I find profoundly disheartening.

    I think its telling that some prominent people are asking searching questions of Truecrypt, because it seems a logical place to start with pushing the idea of more widely used encryption. But the fact these questions weren't being asked before in spite, for many I suspect, of nagging doubt says a great deal about how far trust has collapsed, and what a gargantuan task it will be to rebuild it to the point that we can have some reasonable level of confidence that the systems we use are not compromised.

    Sadly, I suspect that dearth of confidence works to the advantage of the NSA and chums - 'divide and rule' writ large.

  5. Salts

    Yep...

    Snowden is right, make it expensive by encrypting everything, at the moment they can just hoover up any old shit and make it look to be important, bullshit baffles brains as they say.

    Problem is he is also right with, how the F%$K do we get people to understand, just encrypt your email to granny it's keeping your freedoms safe!

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Yep...

      The majority of the intelligence value probably is in the metadata, which normally would be tough to encrypt. Tor may help there.

      Despite the current hysteria, I have little hope, however. I have been trying for years to persuade my family and friends to use PGP, with only one taker, who found it on his own.

  6. Forget It
    Joke

    A bit of a cryptic message don't y'think?

  7. Persona non grata

    I know the Reg hates Google but

    "rony meters exploded when Snowden, a former CIA technician, addressed the audience in Austin, Texas, in a live broadcast using Google Hangouts, given the web giant's involvement with surveillance of the population."

    Except that's bollocks:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/10/internet-companies-nsa_n_3896097.html

    for example. None of these companies have a choice in 'co-operating' with the NSA, it's all done at the end of a metaphorical gun barrel. Point your hate in the right direction, the US and UK govs.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: I know the Reg hates Google but

      You deny that Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other similar companies conduct planetary-wide mass surveillance up to - and in some cases over - the limit of the law?

      1. Howverydare

        Re: I know the Reg hates Google but

        I don't see the poster saying that at all?

        I see the poster saying that Google weren't willingly handing stuff over left, right and centre. That's decidedly different to them denying that Google slurp data.

        Definitely a tinfoil hat subject though. Whilst I agree we should be making it difficult for these agencies, I doubt what I do on the internet really interests them that much. And if you think your internet activity is that interesting to them, might I suggest a room with nice, soft walls and a big jacket?

        1. Titus Technophobe
          Thumb Up

          Re: I know the Reg hates Google but @Howverydare

          Thumbs up from me How! Mind I suspect you may have touched a nerve and am now expecting a conflated and massive polemic on the evils of anybody Trevor doesn't agree with ...... regardless of the reality of the situation.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: I know the Reg hates Google but @Howverydare

            >I doubt what I do on the internet really interests them that much. And if you think your internet activity is that interesting to them, might I suggest a room with nice, soft walls and a big jacket?

            True, what I do as an individual doesn't interest the NSA. However, it gets insidious when you consider that political groups are monitored - The US gov has been happy to subvert democracy in the past by undermining legitimate political groups that have been deemed to be 'un-American'.

            Of course, one man's political group is another man's bunch of nutters. And one man's political group can be painted as a group of nutters if that serves another man's interests.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I know the Reg hates Google but @Dave 126

              "Of course, one man's political group is another man's bunch of nutters. And one man's political group can be painted as a group of nutters if that serves another man's interests."

              The principal is as old as the hills, but I recall there was a story during the Iraq invasion about a guidance memo issued by (I think it was) CNN to crews covering demonstrations in Washington against Bush/the war. The suggestions included that camera angles should focus on "misfits" including "those with beards or tattoos" or who were wearing "unpatriotic t-shirts".

              A generation earlier, the BBC famously reversed the order of footage at the "Battle of Orgreave" during the 1985 miners strike. The edited footage showed the miners pelting police with bricks and the police responding to the provocation with a baton charge, rather than the exact opposite.

              I personally threatened resignation rather than allow one of my images to be selectively cropped to fit a narrative that suited my editor, but grotesquely distorted the events I witnessed. It is absolutely everywhere, and done trivially.

          2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            Re: I know the Reg hates Google but @Howverydare

            "Mind I suspect you may have touched a nerve and am now expecting a conflated and massive polemic on the evils of anybody Trevor doesn't agree with ...... regardless of the reality of the situation."

            I don't have a huge problem with the corporate collection of data. I am, however, aware that many others do.

            Yes, these companies have no choice but to hand over the data they collect. That's merely a statement of fact. Those companies, however, make a choice as to ho much data they collect. There is no evidence to say that they have been directed by national agencies to specifically collect more data than they otherwise would have.

            That means that whilst I don't personally have a huge issue with the fact of corporate data collection, there is a legitimate case to be made by those who do. That means that aversion to the amount of data collected by these companies can be part of a rational decision making process that entails choosing not to use these companies.

            Thus the fact of their collection - and how much they choose - to collect is relevant. As relevant (if not more so) than the fact of national dragnet surveillance. Corporate collection makes the job of the national spy agencies easier and cheaper. The companies in question can choose to collect less, or to collect in a manner that makes that collection useless to the spooks. (Unless and until ordered otherwise.)

            Me, personally, I wouldn't have a huge issue with corporate collection if the spooks weren't a threat. I can choose to avoid corporate collection with simple tools. Google, Microsoft et al provide me valuable tools in exchange for my privacy, and I honestly believe many of them put effort into doing a good job to protect my privacy from everyone except the spooks.

            So if I've a beef with the original poster here it is merely that one cannot realistically separate the fact of corporate collection from governmental collection in today's world. They are deeply intertwined.

            Personal privacy will best be regained by curtailing and limiting the powers of our national security agencies and dialing back the surveillance state. Once the spooks are prevented from using dragnet surveillance and properly restricted to targeted surveillance then we as citizens can set about choosing how much of ourselves to reveal by choosing which corporations we interact with.

    2. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: I know the Reg hates Google but

      None of these companies have a choice in 'co-operating' with the NSA, it's all done at the end of a metaphorical gun barrel. Point your hate in the right direction, the US and UK govs.

      No, you are absolutely right, when the NSA comes to those companies, they have to obey. Except those companies do have one thing they can do - they do not have to have physical nor corporate presence in the US. If google were *so* upset about it, after the first order came in they could have announced that they were upping sticks and moving everything outside of NSA's explicit reach.

      "Due to the current political climate and state intrusion we can no longer operate in the US. Please direct all queries to Fort Meade."

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        @Tom 38

        "Except those companies do have one thing they can do - they do not have to have physical nor corporate presence in the US. If google were *so* upset about it, after the first order came in they could have announced that they were upping sticks and moving everything outside of NSA's explicit reach."

        You forget that THE PATRIOT Act puts any US registered company in the NSA's pocket.

        That law is the core that drives the bending of the FISA courts and a bunch of other stuff.

        It could have been repealed.

        It has not.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: @Tom 38

          No John, I did not forget that the patriot act puts any US registered company in the NSA's pocket.

          You however failed to grasp that the entirety of my post was that US registered companies choose to be US registered. They could choose to not be a US registered company, if what the NSA asked them for was so abhorrent - they make out that it was, now that we know about it.

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            Re: @Tom 38

            "They could choose to not be a US registered company, if what the NSA asked them for was so abhorrent -"

            True.

            They could also use some of their enormous profits to lobby to have THE PATRIOT Act scrapped.

            After all as US corporations are "people" shouldn't they fight for their country as well?

            But you're right. They chose not to do that either.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Snowdon: Defending Press Freedom...

    ... from the capital of Tsar Putin's new Russian Empire.

    You can't make this up.

    1. Mephistro Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Snowdon: Defending Press Freedom...

      "You can't make this up."

      No need to. Having 'democratic' and 'liberty protecting' western governments helping most dictatorships in the world is a more extreme instance of the same old trick. My enemy's enemy etcetera...

      Now, compare what Snowden did - i.e. getting asylum in Russia and making public some info the Russians, in all probability, already knew - with, as an example, the Western support for Shaddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war. Compare the ethics, the scope and the consequences.

      Lots of shades of grey here, but IMHO Snowden's actions are almost a pure white, compared with what our beloved governments often do.

  9. Joe 48

    Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

    I still don't really have an issue with any of it. Its not like anything I do is top secret. So someone reads my email to my Nan. So what, I was only asking her how she was and what the weather is like.

    My issue isn't them accessing all our information it's more a case of them missing the ones they should be catching because they aren't focused enough. Its a hard task to be fair and I don't think there is a right answer.

    I do have a worry but its more around criminals working on the internet, taking peoples bank details, distributing child porn etc. We make the internet difficult to monitor and those people become much harder to catch and them and terrorist types are the ones we need to catch. A more locked internet makes it harder. Just open it all up.

    As per the title I'm quite sure they are damned if they do and damned if they don't. They miss a terrorist and we'll nail them to the wall, they read our emails and we'll nail them to the wall.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't. @Joe

      You may not mind now, but you might in years to come when the data, whatever it is, is used against you in ways that you cannot imagine.

      Nobody is squeaky-clean. Everybody does something at some point or other that is marginally illegal (speeding, stopping in a no-parking zone, littering, jay-walking, visiting unusual web-sites etc), or anti-social, If there is a record of it, no matter how trivial it may be, it could be used against you to build a case for further investigation if you suddenly do look interesting.

      I presume that you know for a fact that your Nan has never been involved in any protests or pensioner activist movements, or a member of the Communist party or UKIP, or was an unused Russian sleeper agent, or even someone who worked at Bletchley Park and is not allowed to talk about it that may warrant investigation (wild speculation, I know, but are you sure).

      The only way to prevent this is to stop the data collection in the first place!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't. @Joe

        "I still don't really have an issue with any of it."

        You are assuming that you only have to worry if you have done something illegal (or are planning to).

        An example off the top of my head:

        You work in the security industry and require SC clearance for you job - you work at the MoD.

        One of your kids starts taking an interest in politics, and without you knowing it, signs up to Sinn Fein newsletters and makes the odd donation.

        In a total surveillance society, how long do you think you would still have a job?

        Another one: You may not be a powerful person today, so you don't worry about the kinds of things that would ruin a political or top level business career. Even so, you don't post embarrasing stuff on the internet. However, one day you are a politician and about to assume a highly powerful position, but somehow someone managed to get some dirt on you from your past that no-one could possibly know (perhaps you took out a porn subscription to 18yr-old virgins or something) - something that was legal then, but isn't now. Now they decide to let you be, but now they own you. Perhaps one day you will be in a position to approve a budget, or bury a bill that could hurt them.

        Bottom line: It doesn't matter whether or not _you_ mind or not, it's about whether or not the information _can_ be abused. Because if they can, they will.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't. @Joe

          And how is that different to the muck raking currently done by the press? Like the daily mail and some labour MPs and PIE?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't. @Joe

            "And how is that different to the muck raking currently done by the press? Like the daily mail and some labour MPs and PIE?"

            It isn't. I suppose you know the source of all the info that the press use do you? Can you say for certain that this hasn't already happened?

        2. Joe 48

          Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't. @Joe

          Considering my views are pro snooping who's to say I don't already work in the trade. I still fail to see how any of my data can be used against me by my own government.

          As long as you are honest for SC clearance you'll have no issues. Honesty is the key, it's why I don't care what information I send over the internet is snooped. If you smoked a joint as a kid and are honest about it you'll sail through SC clearance. Heck one day you may even run the country.

          If I want something to be said in private I'll go talk to them. After all life outside the web is quite a pleasant place at times.

          I'd be more annoyed by identity theft than I would GCHQ/NSA or similar holding a few emails, phone calls and SMS conversations.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't. @Joe

            "Considering my views are pro snooping..."

            Whilst I respect your rights to hold your opinion, your use of "snooping", by it's very definition, does infer that you support the right of a government, organisation or sponsored individual to pry into the private affairs of any individual on whim. To me, this is a little unsettling. Not unsettling in the sense that you hold such an opinion, but unsettling that such opinion, once accepted as the default norm within society at large, will likely lead to a highly corrupt system. One corrupted by human nature, corporate lobbying and it's own inherent potential for abuse.

            In real life, and elsewhere on the internet, I accept that whatever I say, do or post will likely be monitored, whether by CCTV, behaviourlal advertising systems, GPS location, or whatever. Because I accept such a reality, it does not however mean that I believe it is right to sanction or support the right of any organisation, whether governmental or corporate, to operate systems that 'snoop' on the private thoughts, communications and activities of the individual on a wholesale, whim-driven basis.

            As others have stated, targetted surveilance? Fine. Wholesale capture? Not good, counter-productive and downright wrong.

            1. tom dial Silver badge

              Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't. @Joe

              What I never have seen mentioned is that much, if not all, of the general surveillance data really is useful only for targeted investigation of past events, and probably is used only for that. The notion that the security plods sort and process the bulk data or go through the video camera images with facial recognition algorithms to identify plotters and thereby prevent terrorist attacks is pure rubbish. Once they have a clue from targeted surveillance (whether signals or other) the bulk data has obvious uses in identifying the scope of any plot and rolling it up.

              The bulk data allows investigators and analysts to look back into the past and see whom a suspect was in contact with and who, therefore, might also be involved in whatever the suspect is believed to be doing or have done. Without it there is much less capability to do that.

              The important question concerns what a suspect is believed to be involved in. Bulk data of the type being collected by the NSA and other Five Eyes agencies, and by whoever collects street camera video, is dual use. Use to identify and prosecute terrorists or other criminals may be beneficial; use to identify and persecute political opponents or those with unorthodox political views is unacceptable in a democratic regime.

              Controlling use of this information is a difficult problem, more difficult some places than others. In the Five Eyes countries government misuse of bulk surveillance data appears to be quite rare despite the availability of the data. The same is true in the remainder of the EC and a number of other countries, some of then known to collect a good deal of data. These regimes probably merit their citizens' trust, even in respect of bulk surveillance data. In some other countries, governments routinely prosecute or otherwise make life difficult for those with unorthodox political views. We all know pretty much which they are, and although they have not experienced a Snowden event, we can be fairly sure some of them conduct surveillance at least on a par with the worst imaginings about the NSA, and that they use it in ways the US government does not.

          2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't. @Joe

            "As long as you are honest for SC clearance you'll have no issues. Honesty is the key, it's why I don't care what information I send over the internet is snooped. If you smoked a joint as a kid and are honest about it you'll sail through SC clearance. Heck one day you may even run the country."

            I see..

            So yo don't have to fear you're loss of privacy.

            Because you already gave it away for your job.

            And for the rest of us?

          3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't. @Joe 48

            By contrasting identity theft with wholesale surveillance, you are confusing the argument. I, too would like a world where identity theft is prevented. But this won't happen by the government watching what everybody does.

            Having concentrated data is more likely to cause identity theft if the information that is kept by GCHQ/NSA ever leaks. Imagine what damage could be done if in one information dump, miscreants get health records, bank details, loan information, social security data, work history, email trails, especially if this data contains access credentials to all of your on-line systems gathered through state-sponsored data gathering and cracking of the very cryptography systems that people believe keeps them safe on-line.

            After all, we all know how good governments are at keeping such data safe!

            I may come across a bit paranoid here, but it is probable unsafe to be too complacent.

            BTW. Honesty is not enough to get/maintain SC clearance. If your honestly reveals the fact that there are serious concerns about you having a blackmail vector (serious debts, family members working in unstable areas of the world etc), or even if it shows that you've been out of the country for extended periods, then you will get SC clearance denied. I've seen it happen, and the first time I applied, the clearance was seriously delayed because I gave as a personal reference an upstanding professional member of the community who happened to have been born in Kenya during the Empire days (I did not think that it mattered - turns out it did).

            And who knows how the rules may change in the future. It would be perfectly possible for those in control to make smoking dope in your history an automatic fail. It probably won't happen, but we cannot be sure.

        3. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't. @Joe

          These "examples" are, of course made up for the purpose of hypothetical argument. I, on the other hand, about 1970 counted a number of Maoist Communists among my friends and on occasion attended their meetings and rallies. Perhaps there were government agents there; I do not know. I do know that I had no trouble obtaining clearance to work in the DoD a couple of years later.

          As an aside, the NSA was enjoined a couple of days ago from purging 5 year old data from its databases due to a pending lawsuit by the EFF.

    2. Joe Harrison

      Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

      For years the average Danish person had no problem with people knowing their religion, in fact it was written on their birth certificates. Maybe some were uneasy and thought it was a bad idea but there were too many others who said "I still don't really have an issue with any of it."

      Sadly none of them could predict the future and in 1940 Denmark got invaded by an army whose first action was to grab those records to select people for death camps.

      1. Joe 48

        Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

        Fair example. Quite possible they'd have suffered the same fate regardless though.

        If I had a belief in that way then I'd not hide away. Even if it wasn't written down on a piece of paper I'd stand up and fight for it anyway.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

      "I do have a worry but its more around criminals working on the internet, taking peoples bank details, distributing child porn etc. We make the internet difficult to monitor and those people become much harder to catch and them and terrorist types are the ones we need to catch. A more locked internet makes it harder. Just open it all up."

      You equate a real loss of privacy with a potential improvement in the crime rate.

      This has nothing to do with real threats and everything to do with the creating and maintaining of a state of fear which justifies this rubbish.

      BTW neither the control of child porn or computer fraud are in fact part of the remit of intelligence agencies. Their supposed remit is the control of terrorism and intelligence gathering by foreign nations.

      It is the former that "requires" they spy on everyone forever.

      If you don't know this the basis on which you're making decisions is completely inaccurate.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

        @John Smith 19

        A better way to state the point would be that a random citizen is far more likely to suffer damage from a criminal than from misuse of information gathered by foreign intelligence agencies. That is especially true in the US due to the antiquated card systems and POS terminals in use, but I know no reason to thing the intelligence services in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the UK pose a measurable risk to randomly chosen citizens.

        It is, of course, completely true that foreign intelligence agencies such as NSA are not purposed to reduce child porn or computer fraud. Indeed, the NSA is not tasked with a large role in identifying or preventing domestic terrorism, mainly a job of the FBI. I do not recall seeing it reported, but it would be unsurprising if the FBI could request queries of the NSA metadata databases.

        1. Joe 48

          Re: Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

          It might not be common place but GCHQ do provide assistance to the police in some cases when investigating child porn or other general computer crimes. I can think of two examples in the last few months where they have been involved in information gathering as the police simply don't have the skills to do it. I'm unsure about the NSA to be fair but GCHQ do this at times, although I agree its certainly not the primary focus.

          My example of identity thief wasn't related to the main issue per say, it was more to highlight what the general public perceive as 'internet risks'.

          A good debate all, always enjoy hearing other peoples views and you know you've done a good job commenting when you get voted down on the reg :)

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Meh

          @tom dial

          "A better way to state the point would be that a random citizen is far more likely to suffer damage from a criminal than from misuse of information gathered by foreign intelligence agencies. "

          No.

          My comment was that a) The control of identity theft and/or child pornography is nothing to do with the signals intelligence agencies and b) the real threat of an actual terrorist incident is grossly disproportionate to the effort made in spying the citizens of their own country.

          In 2007 MI5 stated they had 2000 islamist terror terror suspects. That's 0.0032% of the UK population who might perhaps maybe possibly commit a terrorist act.

          I'll try to say it one more time. A US or UK citizen has every chance to be spied on by their own spy agencies for no reason, some chance of being a victim of a for-profit crime and almost no chance of being a victim of a terrorist act,

          Yet those agencies are (supposedly) focused on the leastliekly event.

          It's a simple idea, yet you appear to have trouble understanding it and try to re phrase it what seems more palatable to you.

          Why is that?

          1. tom dial Silver badge

            Re: @tom dial

            "A better way to state the point would be that a random citizen is far more likely to suffer damage from a criminal than from misuse of information gathered by foreign intelligence agencies." - Clearly related, not to your comment, but the the one you were responding to - I overlooked the quotes. It still is a true statement about US/UK/Canada/Australia/New Zealand and quite a few other countries.

            As you state, bulk communication surveillance data is of little use in preventing terrorism or any other crime such as child pornography. It is likely to be useful in the investigation of terrorist acts or other crimes after the fact.

  10. JDX Gold badge

    "setting fire to the future of the internet."

    Oh jeez. That's on a par with hand-wringing "but you're killing the planet" types.

    And did he really get so cheesy to have the Bill of Rights behind him (based on the image, I don't have an hour to watch it)? A leaf from Saul Goodman's book?

    1. Andrew Harvey

      Re: "setting fire to the future of the internet."

      Except that the bit about "killing the planet" is pretty much true in the "build everywhere, kill off other species, pollute endlessly, consume much" sort of way. Or do you really think it's going to all be okay even in 100 years time?

      Just sayin'

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Or do you really think it's going to all be okay even in 100 years time?

        a)I bet people were prophesying the same thing 100 years ago.

        b)Things are going to change so fast in the next 100 years, you wouldn't believe it

        c)The whole "killing the planet" line is imbecilic. The worst we can do is make it a bit dirty.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Or do you really think it's going to all be okay even in 100 years time?

          Actually, the worst we can do is fuck it up so badly that all the humans, possibly all the large mammals die.

          Give it a couple of million years, the old girl will get going again.

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: Or do you really think it's going to all be okay even in 100 years time?

            That is still "a bit dirty" by planetary standards. And I doubt we can even do that, except possibly through massive radioactive contamination. Climatologically speaking, large mammals were around in vastly different conditions to what we have now both in terms of temperature and atmospheric makeup. And larger mammals survive, thrive even, in conditions ranging from -20 to +40 degrees. And you only have to look at some of the worst polluted cities (China) to see that even when things are 100X worse than we've got anywhere else, people and other mammals carry right on living. You get illness and shortened lifespan but that's not uninhabitable by a LONG chalk. And all of this is without any technological intervention - animals don't have that but people do so we're probably now at the point we could survive just about any conditions we create for ourselves. Not in our current numbers, but again that is not the same as wiping the species out.

    2. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: "setting fire to the future of the internet."

      "A leaf from Saul Goodman's book?"

      That's exactly what I thought. Frankly, 'wrapping oneself in the constitution' so blatantly is a tactical error, and detracts from the content of one's arguments. When Saul Goodman sits in front of a blow up of the US Constitution, are viewers invited to find him reliable and upstanding, or a cheesy shyster?

  11. msknight Silver badge

    Surveilance is not my primary concern

    I am far more concerned about censorship and mission creep on those systems than I am about surveilence.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Surveilance is not my primary concern

      Newsflash: Too late.

      You can relax now.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Surveilance is not my primary concern

        What? It's not too late?

        Tell you what:

        1) Go into a company

        2) "IMMA HUV PROBLEMS WITH MUH MAIL"

        3) "Ok, why not move everything to the Microsoft cloud...."?

        4) "But what about the NSA?"

        5) "Yeah, but think of the CONVENIENCE, man!"

        6) ....

        7) SOLD!

        8) Your face when.

  12. Amiga500

    Snowden: You can't trust SPOOKS with your DATA

    Amiga500: You can't trust SNOWDEN with DATA either

    Pot calling Kettle

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Snowden: You can't trust SPOOKS with your DATA

      I saw what you did there.

      Next time try and compare like with like and you won't look like your being a weasel.

      1. Amiga500
        Thumb Down

        Re: Snowden: You can't trust SPOOKS with your DATA

        Sir Runcibald Ferrit

        Pray do tell why you would trust data with Snowden? He can't have it both ways you know.

        It's like the Police are supposed to uphold the law, doesn't always work out that way.

        Next time stop trying to score silly points that way you won't look like a toothless ferrit

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: Snowden: You can't trust SPOOKS with your DATA

          "Pray do tell why you would trust data with Snowden? He can't have it both ways you know."

          I don't give a shit, I wouldn't particularly trust or distrust Snowden based on what he has done, but I do know that saying you can't trust spooks with YOUR DATA, doesn't equate to 'can't trust Snowden with DATA'.

          I'm not interested in Snowden, I'm rather more concerned about the NSA and GCHQ getting out of hand and having their hands up the politicians arses.

          Oh, and it's 'Ferret'

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Trollface

          Re: Snowden: You can't trust SPOOKS with your DATA

          "Next time stop trying to score silly points that way you won't look like a toothless ferrit"

          Hello Mattie.

          You're a bit transparent if you don't mind me saying so.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: John Smith IQ of 0.19 Re: Snowden: You can't trust SPOOKS with your DATA

            "....Hello Mattie...." Guess again. Unlike you sheeple, I don't sock-puppet or use multiple accounts to try and not feel lonely.

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Happy

              Re: John Smith IQ of 0.19 Snowden: You can't trust SPOOKS with your DATA

              ""....Hello Mattie...." Guess again. Unlike you sheeple, I don't sock-puppet or use multiple accounts to try and not feel lonely."

              Well that's good to know. I'll take your word for it.

              Personally I view sock puppeting as a public service.

              It gives us so many more opportunities to downvote people.

              1. Titus Technophobe
                Thumb Down

                Re: John Smith IQ of 0.19 Snowden: You can't trust SPOOKS with your DATA

                MMmm John I didn't know you cared. So yes took that opportunity to give you a richly deserved down vote ..... have a nice day and enjoy :).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Snowden: You can't trust SPOOKS with your DATA

        Next time try and compare like with like and you won't look like your being a weasel.

        It is a bit ironic that Snowden is saying trust me with your data when he was just a typical admin who abused his position and stole thousands of documents from his employer. Would you trust him in your network? I wouldn't for fear of all of our sensitive documents being handed over to China and\or Russia!

        What is very worrying is that "experts" are asking Snowden, who is not an expert in security, how to protect themselves.

        I wouldn't be surprised if some of those documents identify informants who will end up dead.

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Snowden: You can't trust SPOOKS with your DATA

            > I guess you ARE retarded.

            Wow, your intelligence has no equal sir. You are truly one of Snowden's most favored and zealous firefighters!

  13. David 45

    Encrypt everything?

    As has been inferred (and I have posted a similar thought elsewhere in the past) encryption has to be somehow seamless. I've played around with it for e-mail, and it's too complicated at present for the average user in my opinion. This is always assuming that world governments don't promptly pass laws making encryption, VPN's, etc. illegal! Nothing would surprise me, looking at the antics of the NSA and GCHQ of late.

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Gimp

    The point is that you no longer have to *be* anyone "important"

    Processing and storage have become so cheap that and data sources available to these TLA's so plentiful that should you become someone your history can simply be checked through to find any useful "biographical leverage" as John Brunner euphemistically put it.

    This has nothing to do with proportionate targeted surveillance against an actual individual or organized group.

    It appears to have rather more to do with various government con-tractors and con-sultants (or maybe we should just call then conslutants) whose first answer to the question "Can you identify all X threats world wide" will always be "yes."

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Google is not the NSA. I don't use Google, so Google can't spy on me" arguments...

    True Google is not the NSA, but it is a facilitator in this let-us-spy-on-ourselves social culture. To those that claim Google can't spy on them! Google-API's are on half the websites on the internet. When you use the internet 50% of the time per session info is sent to Mountain View including sufficient info to build super-cookies to TRACK YOU!

    In addition, about a third of all email addresses are Gmail at present, and every gmail is lovingly scanned. Plus, there is no way to tell if an email will eventually end up at Mountain View because of redirection. When one writes to a .com or a university address, that email may ultimately be redirected to a Gmail or a Google hosted service. A lot of people have been caught off guard by this, but the Reg points that out all the time!

    For those championing AdBlock / NoScript etc. Please stop making assumptions and wake-up! Server side scripts can still send all your per-session info to Google for deep analytical probing! Study up on Super-Cookies, and run panopticlick off the EFF website.

    Snowden defended Google et al today. But that is ultimately a mistake because they are all complicit in this data dragnet! People are making many assumptions, but assumption is the mother of all f'-ups!. This is a tech website, why is it so few people are championing the point about Google being so widely interconnected into the internet food chain?!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    National Interest vs. Public Interest can be summed up in one word...

    The Elite. Everything boils down to the special interests of the Elites and their self-preservation society. Think of all the Monies flowing to campaigning, spying, pet projects, lobbying, the Industrial Military Complex etc etc. Simply put, the National Interest is those of the Elites. That applies to every country. Elite Politicians, Elite Business Leaders, Elite Corporations, Elite Banks, Elite Lobby Groups, Elite PR etc... The people are often found at elite sports Clubs and of course the WTO / G8 / G20 / WEF / Davos etc.

    The spying programs only benefit the Elite too! They don't exist for safety or security, that's all choreographed illusion. In fact, this type of Dragnet spying only works to spy on the innocent, as Criminals and Terrorists are much too mindful. Whereas, if I'm a politician trying to position myself for a G20 issue, I want to know where my opposite number stands. If I'm a diplomat awaiting an important outcome at the UN, I want to know how the vote is looking. If I'm a US business leader competing for a tender in France, Mexico or Brazil I want to know what the competition is bidding... This type of abuse of spying power has been well documented. A journalist at the BBC even calls it The Wild West, because there are no laws, no marshals!

    Film courses teach us they are no good or bad guys. A bad guy doesn't ever see himself that way, he's just a guy trying to get through his day (to paraphrase Lee Marvin). Its the same for the Elites. They're just getting through their day. We (the public interest) are just another factor to be managed, gotten in front of, fed background, and ultimately.... mushroomed!

  17. Inachu

    security for real

    Not just spooks but when you offshore your equipment to china for your products to be built then make mandatory rules that all pc/OS related hardware gets formatted.

    So yes even though you think you save money offshoring then declare all the info on those systems a complete loss because 99% of the time all the hardware will be infected.

    Why chance your company on infection when you setup strict policies to keep your network clean from attacks from spooks and hackers alike?

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