Wednesday, September 11, 2013

NSA bleh

For lack of a proper blog title.

Details of the NSA surveillance project in the Guardian on XKeyscore and installation of back doors on encryption software left me breathless. Part of me was impressed - especially with XKeyscore. The first thought was "Is this is the same government whose computer upgrades at the FBI and IRS years ago was plagued by cost overruns and failure?" (For instance, see this and this.) The next thought was: "Hey I want to be in on that!"

The next series of articles that I read left me uncertain.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

are all signs of an (over?) zealous government working to protect its "territory" rather than the spirit of the program which is to save lives.

The installation of back doors to encryption technology reminded me that in  "Person of Interest". Here's the Wiki on the character Nathan Ingram:

Ingram came to realize that the people who were to receive the Machine were not entirely trustworthy. During a meeting with Alicia Corwin, he accidentally let slip that eight people knew about the Machine rather than seven. Later, he tried to convince Finch to make a back door into the machine, only for Finch to refuse. Just prior to shipping the Machine, Ingram used his administrative access to install a new function named "contingency". After creating the back door, the Machine was relocated to its new home. ("No Good Deed")
After the Machine is shipped out on a freight train, Ingram meets with Finch in their now empty laboratory. Finch tells him that he has been thinking about Ingram's desire to help people, and proposes they use their wealth to invest in new projects, such as clean water initiatives and sustainable farming. Ingram retorts that they built the "single most powerful technology known to man, a machine that knows when someone needs help, and you just gave it away." He tells him that they had their chance to help people and they missed it. Finch replies that "we built it, and it saves lives." Ingram argues that it doesn't save enough lives, and Finch responds that the machine is gone. Ingram implies he built a back door into it, which angers Finch as they had agreed not to. He tells Ingram that they agreed not to play God, but Ingram reveals that he isn't proud of that agreement. Finch argues that they did what they set out to do, and that "either we move onto the next thing together, or we don't." ("One Percent")

(Emphasis added)

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