Tags: FBI | NSA | Edward Snowden | Yahoo

Silicon Valley Stands Up to NSA

By Friday, 03 October 2014 02:26 PM Current | Bio | Archive

It's been a year and a half since Edward Snowden revealed to the world just how much private information the National Security Agency has been collecting on just about everyone. The massive spying operation raised privacy and Constitutional concerns and set off alarms with reports that some employees had used the system to keep tabs on their love interests.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, the government has done little to reform the program and reassure the public. Even relatively weak legislation that fails to address core concerns has stalled in Congress.

Action has come, however, from Silicon Valley. The new Apple iPhone 6 includes an encryption program that could take years to break. Even more important, Apple won't have access to the password. That way, it will be impossible for government officials to pressure the digital giant to violate their customer's privacy.

The importance of that protection was recently revealed in court documents showing that government officials threatened Yahoo with a $250,000 daily fine if they didn't turn over user data to the NSA. The fine was set to double every week.

Public demand for action on privacy issues led Google to quickly announce that it, too, would offer smartphone users additional protection. The Washington Post notes that this "is part of a broad shift by American technology companies to make their products more resistant to government snooping."

Many government officials are aghast at the notion that a private company would offer such privacy protections to consumers. The head of the FBI suggested it might prevent officials from finding a kidnapped child. Others raise concerns about terrorists.

A number of security experts dismiss those concerns, particularly because the agencies can access so much other information. But discussing only the law enforcement angle misses the larger point. The privacy issue is not just about catching bad guys; it's about the threat to good guys as well.

Seen from that perspective, the cost of giving government agencies easy access to everyone's smartphone data is extraordinarily high. Smartphones carry all the details of our daily lives in the form of pictures, texts, contact lists, emails and more. That includes fond memories and great moments, but embarrassing gaffes and painful mistakes are also recorded.

In the wrong hands, such information could be used for a variety of nefarious purposes. To grasp the potential harm, your imagination doesn't have to stretch beyond those NSA officials spying on love interests and ex-spouses.

In fact, it's easy to imagine that giving government agencies unrestricted access to the digital lives of more than 300 million Americans would lead to far more crimes being committed than solved.

Seen from that perspective, the iPhone 6 is providing a valuable public service.
This entire episode highlights an often overlooked part of the public policy debate in America. Change does not come from political leaders or the political process. It comes from popular culture and technology. Politicians lag behind. By the time any NSA reform legislation passes Congress, technology advances will have already addressed the key issues.

In the case of the privacy debate, those key issues eventually come back to what kind of society we want to live in.

Scott Rasmussen is founder and president of the Rasmussen Media Group. He is the author of “Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System,” “In Search of Self-Governance,” and “The People’s Money: How Voters Will Balance the Budget and Eliminate the Federal Debt.” Read more reports from Scott Rasmussen — Click Here Now.


© Creators Syndicate Inc.

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Many government officials are aghast at the notion that a private company would offer such privacy protections to consumers.
FBI, NSA, Edward Snowden, Yahoo
Friday, 03 October 2014 02:26 PM
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