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PRISM
06-15-2013, 05:47 PM
Post: #1
PRISM
Pretty sure everyone has heard of the recent PRISM/Snowden scandal, and all that entails.

While subject to the usual sensationalism in the technologically illiterate media, there are some disturbing findings, and there have been numerous essays and articles that articulate these issues far better than I. There is a lot of uncertainty, and questions to be answered about the scope of NSA surveillance, but from what we know and can infer, one of the most troubling aspects for me, as a non-US citizen, who is potentially having their data mined, is that we essentially have no protection. Obama's insistence that because only non-US citizens are allegedly targetted, this paranoid Orwellian programme is a-okay is quite frankly fucking bollocks. Here is why:

(1) Most reasonable people accept the need to have their rights curtailed to a constitutionally-limited degree for their protection or to prevent crime. However, this support is on the basis that the power to do such is only granted to the government, if it is both proportional and democratically-mandated.

(2) The problem for me as an Irish citizen is that it is neither of those things. These laws are not intended to help stop crimes that protect me, and it is most certainly not under my democratic control. The US government and its aliases can collect information en bloc, about Irish people, solely for US interests under the remit of a US court, and its usage is open to their interpretation of what constitutes, to quote them, a "valid foreign intelligence purpose" (far broader than terrorism).

It is certainly not "proportional" either. The reassurances offered ring hollow. It is not reassuring to me that the data is only accessed if there is a "valid foreign intelligence purpose" for doing so, when such purpose is defined entirely by an entity outside my control, and the doing of such, of course, presupposes the existence of data to examine in the first place i.e. bulk data collection. Even if we assume PRISM as it stands now, as a tool for analysing that data, is perfectly legitimate and used fairly, that large-scale data harvesting exists ipso facto allows for potential abuse in the future.

In other words, the people having their data collected have no rights, no recourse to a vote, no control. To my eyes, this is quite frankly utterly abhorrent. US citizens at least (nominally) have control over the governments they elect, and have the power to vote for change. We don't, and are stuck to deal with the foreign policy choices of whatever crappy government the US electorate decides to put in place.

What do you guys think of PRISM, and of the privacy versus security debate in general?
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06-17-2013, 11:13 PM
Post: #2
RE: PRISM
I'll talk a bit about PRISM specifically, but first I want to address a huge pet peeve of mine. Every time any government takes a step that curtails liberty in favor of security, an old quote by Benjamin Franklin gets dragged out:

Quote:Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

The people who use this platitude are usually trying to say that giving up any sort of freedom for governmental protection is always bad. As much as I love Ben Franklin, there are two problems with this quote. The first is that Franklin was writing in the 1760's, not the 2010's. Email, text messaging and even a fairly reliable postal system didn't exist, so espionage was really really primitive and not much of a threat to national security. Franklin would never have conceived of the threats we face right now, and since we can't revive him or retroactively ask his opinion, his single sentence out of context doesn't help.

Secondly, Ben Franklin was not talking about "liberty" and "safety" in general. He wrote this passage in response to a very specific situation, wherein his local legislature needed funds to create a militia to secure them for part of the French and Indian War. The legislature wanted to tax the lands of a local landowning family, but since the family had a disproportionate amount of influence, their attempts to do so kept being defeated. The family finally agreed to pay for the army if the legislature agreed that they did not have the power to tax their lands. Franklin hated this compromise, because they needed to give up the "liberty" to use their power for the temporary "safety" of a militia funded by the local nobility. Franklin did not at any time say this to mean that a government that restricts freedoms to protect its people is somehow tyrannical.

Some people might say "but the quote is good regardless of context," to which I say that if you want to quote someone over 250 years old to make a point in an argument, you'd better make sure that person would agree with you. Considering that Franklin was also famous for remarking that America would be a democracy only if we could keep it, I don't think he's one hundred percent behind that view.

As far as PRISM itself, it's the technological conclusion to instruments that have existed as long as the United States has. It's ultimately just one more step in the arms race, especially now that information is the most powerful tool a nation can have. That being said, just like people voted in Eisenhower because they didn't trust Truman with the Bomb, I don't trust this weapon with Obama because I don't think he's particularly competent, and whoever we have to replace him in three years is liable to not be any better.

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"Every man's heart one day beats its final beat, his lungs breath their final breath. And if what that man did in his life, makes the blood pulse through the body of others, and makes them believe deeper in something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized by the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory, of those who honor him and make whatever the man did live forever."
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12-13-2013, 04:18 PM
Post: #3
RE: PRISM
6 months later and it looks like some meaningless reforms are going to be passed to allow the situation to continue as normal. The technology companies have gotten off their ass and written a joint statement, but will they actually follow through.

(06-17-2013 11:13 PM)Truthordeal Wrote:  As far as PRISM itself, it's the technological conclusion to instruments that have existed as long as the United States has. It's ultimately just one more step in the arms race, especially now that information is the most powerful tool a nation can have. That being said, just like people voted in Eisenhower because they didn't trust Truman with the Bomb, I don't trust this weapon with Obama because I don't think he's particularly competent, and whoever we have to replace him in three years is liable to not be any better.

This really hits the nail on the head. Even if we were to assume at this moment in time that all these tools are being used purely for anti-terrorism, anti-child exploitation etc. good causes, what is there to stop some future government, NSA employees, etc. from abusing the power. I don't like the idea of some future authoritarian government having access to all my data from years back, particularly when it's a government I didn't even elect.

Quite frankly, I think everyone is getting fed up of the American government's paranoia and obsession with controlling everyone else. Though the UK are really no better. It's quite frightening how even now all they're concerned about is trying to shut everyone up and not have a debate on the issue.
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01-11-2014, 05:10 PM
Post: #4
RE: PRISM
This has been coming for a long time. If you live anywhere near a major city you should be aware that you are being watched most, if not all the time that you are outside of your home. Even within your home, things are not as private as you think.

Over the past 50 years we are living in a world that increasingly resembles a Panopticon. If you aren't familiar with the concept, you can check it out on Wikipedia but in case you are lazy, it's basically a prison in which one person can monitor each inmate at anytime without the inmate knowing if they are being watched or not. This results in the inmate assuming they are being watched at all times. Sound familiar?
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01-11-2014, 06:52 PM
Post: #5
RE: PRISM
(12-13-2013 04:18 PM)Chrome Wrote:  Quite frankly, I think everyone is getting fed up of the American government's paranoia and obsession with controlling everyone else. Though the UK are really no better. It's quite frightening how even now all they're concerned about is trying to shut everyone up and not have a debate on the issue.

This isn't a UK/US issue. The concept of spying and espionage dates back to the very first civilizations. There were spies mentioned in the Old Testament, and the concept became formalized in 1648 when the Treaty of Westphalia created "modern" diplomacy. Germany has spies in the US, and the US has spies in Germany, and both have spies in any other country they happen to deal with.

PRISM/the NSA to me isn't a moral issue anymore than having embassies and bases in other countries is, because they serve much of the same purpose: control and information. The issue is the scale of what's happening. If Germany had the technological infrastructure that the US and UK have, then we'd all be outraged at Angela Merkel listening in on Barack Obama's phone conversations, rather than the other way.

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Twitter: Truthordeal

"Every man's heart one day beats its final beat, his lungs breath their final breath. And if what that man did in his life, makes the blood pulse through the body of others, and makes them believe deeper in something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized by the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory, of those who honor him and make whatever the man did live forever."
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01-11-2014, 07:33 PM
Post: #6
RE: PRISM
Wanting privacy is not the same thing as having something to hide. Nothing is more infuriating than being told: "if you weren't doing anything wrong you wouldn't care if you were being watched."
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01-11-2014, 09:13 PM
Post: #7
RE: PRISM
^Absolutely true. I'm definitely a private person and would rather not have cameras following me. That being said, I'm not overly concerned about it because I don't feel the gov't has any interest in spending the money to follow me around.

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Twitter: Truthordeal

"Every man's heart one day beats its final beat, his lungs breath their final breath. And if what that man did in his life, makes the blood pulse through the body of others, and makes them believe deeper in something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized by the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory, of those who honor him and make whatever the man did live forever."
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01-11-2014, 10:49 PM
Post: #8
RE: PRISM
Security through Obscurity. I'm the same way. Though.. I also spend time every now and then day dreaming about how I would avoid security if I had to. I think that's a thought crime.
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