Privacy vs Security

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  • #1
Hurkyl
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I recently stumbled across this:

http://www.darpa.mil/iao/TIASystems.htm


As one might expect, this prompted harsh criticism!

http://www.acm.org/usacm/Letters/tia_final.html
http://news.com.com/2100-1023-981945.html
http://news.com.com/2100-1023-981753.html


This is a recent example of the pecular American belief that the government is supposed to go looking for criminals, crooks, and terrorists... but it can't look at me!



Why do Americans think this way? Do other nations' populaces act similarly?


Interestingly, the TIA would not decrease privacy; it would merely organize vast quantities of information. Still fears arise, such as in the report from the USACM:

"Because of serious security, privacy, economic, and personal risks associated with the development of a vast database surveillance system..."

But the only thing the TIA would do is provide the organization required for data-mining. If a person targetting you is competent enough to hack into a compartmented Department of Defense databse, surely they would be competent enough to gather the information directly. It's difficult for me to see any substantiation for privacy concerns.


Another fear raised by the USACM:

"A single individual who has a personal or political vendetta, or who has been compromised by blackmail or greed, could do great harm. Yet, tens of thousands of systems administrators, domestic law enforcement staff, and intelligence personnel will be able to access the data; the security of the data will depend on the trustworthiness of every one of them. "

and similarly:

"Because TIA would combine some types of automated data-mining with statistical analysis, there would be a significant personal cost for many Americans. Any type of statistical analysis inevitably results in some number of false positives - in this case incorrectly labeling someone as a potential terrorist. As the entire population would be subjected to TIA surveillance, even a small percentage of false positives would result in a large number of law-abiding Americans being mistakenly labeled."

Is there any factual backing for such cynicism of the U.S. government (in this respect, I mean, not in general )? Intelligence agencies are favorite sources of villany in Hollywood, but when's the last time you've actually heard from a reputable news outlet that an intelligence agency was acting irresponsibly in real life?

When you really think about it, it isn't realistic to think that people are going to get erased from a bad database entry.

And just how small do people think these agencies are? There are tens of thousands of people now with access to more damaging secrets than your credit card number, but somehow pubilc security is maintained.



And realistically, just how much do we care that we're being watched? Be honest, how many of you use your local supermarket's bonus savings card, or a gas station's credit card? How many of you have your phone number listed in the white pages and have all cookies enabled in your web browser?

We're "supposed" to care greatly about privacy, but is it really appropriate to be so pedantic about it?


What are your thoughts!
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Evidence? Didn't the earlier attempts to monitor Americans get shut down because of rampant abuses? And, as we've seen with the clumsy attempts to filter Internet access for school libraries, it is too easy to screw things up, or else not be efficient enough to matter.
 
  • #3
russ_watters
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People need to get over the idea of privacy. It simply does not exist for people who choose to live anywhere except in caves. What TIA does is no different from what marketing companies do.
 
  • #4
Originally posted by russ_watters
People need to get over the idea of privacy. It simply does not exist for people who choose to live anywhere except in caves. What TIA does is no different from what marketing companies do.

Just for teh record, I'm against that too...but the difference is, the government has the power to ACT on this information. And, from personal experience, I can tell you that the government WILL screw it up; that's what big bureaucracies do, isn't it? This should be an issue that everyone should be together on. Civil rights groups, small-government proponents, anyone who values freedom.
 
  • #5
if the government doesn't already have the power to hold people indefinitely without due process based on results of spying, i bet they soon will.

what happens if data gets mixed up? lets say their computers say i'm a terrorist, even though i'm not (i don't think so anyway). they could throw me in jail forever for something untrue.

and who's keeping g-dubs from using this to silence his opponents? there's ways of making senate democrats black market arms dealers overnight.
 
  • #6
Hurkyl
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But can either of you actually substantiate your claims?

Ignoring Tinseltown, we here stories of the FBI spending years painstakingly gathering information to form a solid case allowing them to make a conviction stick on some nasty bad guy. I never hear a story of the FBI rushing in with weak evidence and getting an American citizen locked away indefinitely without a trial.

What justification do you have for your belief that having a database for pooling existing information will suddenly cause the government to start locking people up on a weak collection of circumstantial evidence? Just how many courts do you think will uphold a conviction based entirely "AI model #391 said that this person resembled a terrorist"?


And how would it enable something like "making senate democrats black market arms dealers overnight"? The redundancy inherent in the system would make it more difficult, because you have to change the TIA and the databases from which it gathers information, not to mention the fact that they are researching technology to more accurately log access and usage of the data, which would make it even harder to accomplish such a feat than it is now.
 
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  • #7
Dissident Dan
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I'm willing to bet that TIA would include information on what books we read, and monitoring what books everyone reads is a bunch of bull. I don't want 1984 in America. It's one more step towards that kind of society, and somewhere, we need to put our feet down and say "That's enough."

People always abuse information and power. That's why we have things such as the Fourth Amendment. The "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003" would take away certain limits on the police's ability to gather information that were put in place because of illegal spying.
 
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  • #8
Something ironic, at least to me, is the same administration that doesn't trust teh government to handle health care, education, or any other social program, on the other hand wants us to hand over our civil rights, on teh assumption that they won't misuse their power.

The reason that restrictions exist is because of past abuses...there is nothing to guarantee that future offenses won't occur if restrictions are lifted.
 
  • #9
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But do you have anything to substantiate your claims? If I wanted to hear people chant "government is bad" over and over I'd just do a google search.


There's a knee-jerk opposition to anything that would give the government more knowledge and power. I would coin the term 1984 syndrome, but people have beaten me to it! :frown:

Is it not self-evident that the very definition of a government requires such an entity to have the knowledge of what needs to be done and the power to do it? Since a government needs knowledge and power to govern effectively, arguments that amount to "Knowledge and power is bad so the government shouldn't have any more" can hardly be called enlightened.


The threats we expect our government to protect us from have grown more frequent, more subtle, and far more dangerous, yet privacy advocates would be happy if law enforcement hadn't matured a day in the past two hundred years.


Police video surveillance is a hot issue. Show of hands, how many of you would really like to see a police officer nearby as you're walking the streets New York at night? Yet for some reason, it's not okay for a video camera to capture the same thing. This resentment of allowing law enforcement to use public surveillance would totally dumbfound me if it weren't for the fact that most people take advantage of the underfunded police departments in their driving habits.

For a more interesting example, how about some examples from
http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1997/08/18/time/pmain.html

Small-scale privacy atrocities take place every day. Ask Dr. Denise Nagel, executive director of the National Coalition for Patient Rights, about medical privacy, for example, and she rattles off a list of abuses that would make Big Brother blush. She talks about how two years ago, a convicted child rapist working as a technician in a Boston hospital riffled through 1,000 computerized records looking for potential victims (and was caught when the father of a nine-year-old girl used caller ID to trace the call back to the hospital). How a banker on Maryland's state health commission pulled up a list of cancer patients, cross-checked it against the names of his bank's customers and revoked the loans of the matches.

Is it really reasonable to expect the government to protect us from these things, yet have to rely on lucky coincidences to even have a clue that such things might be occuring? I would be entirely unsurprised if other companies are pulling the same kind of schemes or worse, but how could we possibly expect the FBI to detect it without a database that can detect this sort of thing?


Another example comes from the USACM letter:

Federal, state and local governments already have information systems in place that could play major roles with highly focused "terrorist spotting". However, many of these information systems are only partly functional and/or being ineffectively used. An example is the computer system run by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms which, according to the New York Times, was unable to link bullets fired in three sniper shootings in Maryland and Georgia in September, 2002. Serious improvements in the use of current operational systems could significantly enhance homeland security without creating the major new risks noted in this letter.

You get one guess as to why the existing database systems were insufficient. :wink:


For once, I'd like to see a privacy advocate to actually address these sort of issues rather than simply pointing at a 55 year old work of fiction.
 
  • #10
The real difference, of course, is whether you expect the government to protect you or not. I don't. I certainly know beter than to think that more government power will equal anything besides more corruption. Remember, the blocks against government snooping are there specifically because the government agencies abused the power teh last time they DID have it.

I prefer to be free. You may prefer to be safe. You really can't have both.
 
  • #11
russ_watters
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Originally posted by Hurkyl
But can either of you actually substantiate your claims?
No, thats why baseless claims, absurd hypotheticals and conspiracy theories are so popular these days. All you have to do is SUGGEST a negative outcome and its reality to a lot of people.
Police video surveillance is a hot issue.
Have you heard of the microphones placed around LA to pinpoint gunshots? It works VERY well.
Federal, state and local governments already have information systems in place that could play major roles with highly focused "terrorist spotting". However, many of these information systems are only partly functional and/or being ineffectively used. An example is the computer system run by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms which, according to the New York Times, was unable to link bullets fired in three sniper shootings in Maryland and Georgia in September, 2002. Serious improvements in the use of current operational systems could significantly enhance homeland security without creating the major new risks noted in this letter.
Do you know how the FBI sends pictures from one place to another? FedEX!! Seriously. Any high school kid in the country knows how to use email and a scanner, but the FBI takes DAYS to send information from one place to another.

And people are AGAINST our law enforcement getting into the 21st century [?]

I prefer to be free. You may prefer to be safe. You really can't have both.
Wrong, Zero. The two are inexorably linked. You can't be free unless you are safe. You're buying into the fallacy of anarchy. Is it freedom to not be able to leave your house without fear of being shot? No, it isn't.
 
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  • #12
New technology is fine by me...information mining is not. Like I said, the government has a lousy record as it is, do we want them to have more power to screw up?
 
  • #13
Originally posted by russ_watters

Wrong, Zero. The two are inexorably linked. You can't be free unless you are safe and you can't be safe unless you are free. You're buying into the fallacy of anarchy. Is it freedom to not be able to leave your house without fear of being shot? No, it isn't. [/B]

Actually, I WAS wrong...there is no such thing as safety either way.
 
  • #14
Originally posted by Hurkyl
But do you have anything to substantiate your claims? If I wanted to hear people chant "government is bad" over and over I'd just do a google search.
maybe you should do a google seach on the McCarthy commision.
 
  • #15
Hurkyl
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Have you heard of the microphones placed around LA to pinpoint gunshots? It works VERY well.

I hadn't heard of that before. I did some searching and found the site to the shotspotter system which is the same kind of thing, though not the exact thing used in LA, and it's an impressive bit of technology!


I certainly know beter than to think that more government power will equal anything besides more corruption.

"Knowing better" is fine and dandy for convincing yourself of something, but somewhat more explicit reasoning is needed in discussion.


maybe you should do a google seach on the McCarthy commision.

And I figured you'd've learned by now that I'm gonna call you on junk like this. :wink: You're apparently implying some sort of association between McCarthyism and my points. Would you care to get this thread going somewhere by providing some rationale for why you would imply such a thing?
 
  • #16
Well, Hurkyl, you obviously know teh criticisms, you posted links to them, didn't you?

Lets' look at the last try at Internet monitoring the feds tried: filtering porn out of school libraries. Sure, you couldn't look at smut. You also couldn't find out about safe sex, breast cancer, and, depending on which filter was used, you couldn't look up the president's last name.

Look at the list of people who were suspicious flyers right after 9-11...it included people who had been arrested 30 years ago at peace rallies, including one of the top people in the Green Party.

In Florida and Texas, during the last presidential election, the 'filter' used to isentify people who were not allowed to vote (because of felony convictions) included people who had legally regained the right to vote, and people who had never lost that right to begin with.

Of course, what we need is an even more comprehensive computer program. I'm so very sure the government has learned from its mistakes...not to mention all the offenses before teh computer age, when selective spying against 'subversive' groups was abused to the point of having laws enacted against it.
 
  • #17
Originally posted by Hurkyl
And I figured you'd've learned by now that I'm gonna call you on junk like this. :wink: You're apparently implying some sort of association between McCarthyism and my points. Would you care to get this thread going somewhere by providing some rationale for why you would imply such a thing?

Zero pointed out that the government has a tendency to abuse its power under the guise of security and you asked for evidence so i presented the most blatant example; what do you not understand? are you claiming McCarthy was in the right?
 
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  • #18
Hurkyl
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Well, Hurkyl, you obviously know teh criticisms, you posted links to them, didn't you?

The USACM did give one or two good reasons against TIA in particular (the difficulties it would incur for US corporations to do business in the EU), but nothing I've linked really addressed the issue of privacy vs security (my main point) beyond standard 1984 paranoia.


Anyways, your arguments, IMHO, are actually good reasons to give TIA a try. The whole point is to have an exploratory period where the Government actually has time to research the technology rather than trying to hastily implement something for which there is a public outcry.


In terms of your second and third, actually having mature database technology would lead to fewer false positives than the crude searches employed in these examples. Of course every effort should be made to ensure that the technology is not misused, but that does not mean the technology shouldn't be allowed to even exist.


And I will recall one of my previous points; how is the government supposed to provide the level of security we demand if we refuse it the power to research the technologies needed to provide that security?


Zero pointed out that the government has a tendency to abuse its power under the guise of security and you asked for evidence so i presented the most blatant example; what do you not understand? are you claiming McCarthy was in the right?

I'm claiming that it's nonobvious that TIA and other "big brother" technologies (such as electronic police surveillance) will lead to abuses of power and public panic of the McCarthyism variety.

Hurkyl
 
  • #19
And I will recall one of my previous points; how is the government supposed to provide the level of security we demand if we refuse it the power to research the technologies needed to provide that security?

And I say again that the level of security that some people want is simply impossible while maintaining any sort of freedom. Is it worth turning into a Soviet country, in order to feel more safe? Because we certainly won't be much more safe..you can't stop crime by suppressing society.
 
  • #20
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And I say again that the level of security that some people want is simply impossible while maintaining any sort of freedom. Is it worth turning into a Soviet country, in order to feel more safe? Because we certainly won't be much more safe..you can't stop crime by suppressing society.

I didn't know that the line between the modern US and a Soviet state was so fine that even the tinyest enhancement to law enforcement would instantly doom the country to perpetual repression.

Silly me for not realizing this blatantly obvious fact.

It's a good thing you just kept restating your thesis rather than cluttering the thread up with useless justifications, otherwise it might not have been clear how utterly right you are!
 
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  • #22
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I'm claiming that it's nonobvious that TIA and other "big brother" technologies (such as electronic police surveillance) will lead to abuses of power and public panic of the McCarthyism variety.
Well, I think the major problem is simply that TIA will enable the government to take the measures that have been said to happen. It doesn't mean they will, but they can if they want to. This sort of movement is a disturbing shift in the security policy, and apparently runs counter to freedom of expression etc rights as outlined in the constitution. One of the core values of america is the free transfer of information of any type, as a safeguard against tyranny. However, TIA and associated measures would give the state potentially all control over communication, and the trust in the responsibility of government is most definitely not sufficient to justify undermining such a fundamental value, even in the name of public safety. America has been much touted as a nation of "Freedoms of", but this represents a move towards soviet style "Freedoms from". In the name of security, we are dropping freedom. This is a dangerous path, as history has proved. The primary pivot of the american existence is that the people hold power over the government. This is a sign of the reverse. Hear people complain about the neccessity of the right to bear arms? This is even more important.
This also ultimately represents a different perspective on the problems of terrorism etc. Rather than tackling the root causes of the problem, this is about simply trying to repress it. As history shows, this sort of repression has repeatedly failed.
 
  • #23
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I suppose we should also fear America turning into a Texan state because our President is from Texas? :wink:


And think you for finally providing a concrete example, which I will assume is an accurate and complete depiction of the events.

However, I fail to see any relevance to the issue of privacy vs security (particularly since it occured in public), though it is certainly relevant to the issue of security vs disruption caused by law enforcement).


And incidentally, it is also good motivation for electronic surveillance and information awareness programs. The sort of information this raid wanted designed to collect could have been at least partially collected with no absolutely no disturbance to anybody.
 
  • #24
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Oh, regarding privacy vs security, I'm with privacy. It not worth getting security, when you lose the rights in the process that you wished to be secured. Protecting the country means alot more that just property and people, but the values of the nation. Terrorism is meant as a goal not to kill people, but to inspire terror. By succumbing to such measures, I feel the terrorists are winning....

I suppose we should also fear America turning into a Texan state because our President is from Texas?
When he starts passing laws that allow for NYC to be renamed "Dubya's ranch", then be afraid...
 
  • #25
And, in reality, there can be no security...criminals will always find a way to get around any system.
 
  • #26
Dissident Dan
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I wouldn't say that. There are differing levels of security. Obviously, we will never be completely secure. But that doesn't mean that all protective measures are worthless.
 
  • #27
Hurkyl
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Oh, regarding privacy vs security, I'm with privacy. It not worth getting security, when you lose the rights in the process that you wished to be secured.

You're falling into the "anarchy trap" too. Even if you value privacy above all else, at the very least you have to sacrifice enough of your privacy to the government to allow it to protect your privacy from other entities. I don't see how anyone can question that some privacy needs sacrificed, the question should be how much.


Assuming first that privacy is more important than everything else, the optimal government is one that achieves the equilibrium point where sacrificing any more (or less) would be exactly balanced by your the gain (or loss) in your protection. To be logically consistent, someone arguing against any sacrifice of privacy must attempt to argue that the benefits do not outweigh the costs.

However, I've yet to see anyone try to argue this; 1984 paranoia kicks in and they fall prey to the fallacy of the excluded middle by considering "now" and "Oceania" as the only two possibilities that can exist.

To quote Scott McNealy of Sun, "You have zero privacy anyway." We have almost no protection of our privacy beyond keeping people out of our homes and off our phone lines, and most people don't even know it. The campaign to harass Poindexter and his neighbors, ironically, may demonstrate the need for more protection, not less.


Secondly, recognize that privacy is not the only right that needs protected. In some cases, no privacy is even lost in supposed privacy violations. E.G. video surveillance doesn't capture anything a police officer / store owner / whomever couldn't see... but somehow a policeman seeing an event is ok but a video camera capturing that same event is not. It's mind-boggling! And to boot, Britain has been using video surveillance practically everywhere, complete with face recognition technology, and somehow they haven't spiraled into a totalitarian police state.

There are plenty of abuses that occur that people wouldn't even know happened if it wasn't for a lucky break or coincidence... but if law enforcement had a good database and advanced data mining technology, it would be comparatively easy to corrolate loan rejections with cancer, to use one of the examples I brought up earlier. The government can't protect us from what it doesn't know.

This is another aspect that privacy advocates neglect. I don't recall ever seeing anyone argue that privacy was more important than some other right; they just think that it's somehow possible to totally guarantee every right they consider important.


Finally, the whole point of privacy is that you don't want your information to be exposed to people who will abuse it. The great thing about the TIA is that people don't collect and analyze your information, computers do. In this particular case, the entire reason for privacy (as I see it) goes down the drain.


And, in reality, there can be no security...criminals will always find a way to get around any system.

By the same argument there can be no privacy either, so why bother trying to defend it? :wink:
 
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  • #28
Hmmm....yeah, ok, computers will just solve all the problems...bah!
 
  • #29
If you think that simply improving the tools will improve the actions of those who use them, then your argument is illogical. In the case of the florida voting system, for example, there was no design for absentee ballot forms, and computer information was apparently out of date. The fact is that the information could have been gathered but was not. This was of great benefit to nepotistically inclined politicians.
 
  • #30
The comment has been made that because it is computers looking at computer data, the system will be infallible. In reality, people have to enter the data, and other people have to interpret what the computer spits out. Plus, computers are stupid. Especially in this day and age, with rampant paranoia and panic, do we really want idiot computers giving scared government employees your personal information?

The obvious assumption from the optimists, of course, is that because they are doing nothing wrong, this won't affect them. This assumption is what makes this sort of information gathering so dangerous. Blind faith in a computer to be infallible means that when it DOES make a mistake(and it will, if it is a government system, it will become impossible to correct. Kind of like the information gathering that credit card companies do...a very similar system, really, and notoriously prone to error, and nearly impossible to correct once an error is entered.
 
  • #31
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In reality, people have to enter the data, and other people have to interpret what the computer spits out.

The data has already been entered. E.G. the credit card companies have all ready entered your credit card info, the hospitals have all ready entered your medical records, et cetera.


AFAIK, what the computer actually spits out hasn't been decided. Sure it could be "Jane Doe is a terrorist. Kill her", but then again all it might do is e-mail police stations and give them a list of things that may constitute probable cause for which the police could then confirm and submit to a judge to get a warrant issued.

And one of the big issues the TIA project is planning to research is to vastly strengthen the ability to track accesses, so improper use could be detected (possibly automatically).

Hurkyl
 
  • #32
Two cases seem probable- a very select few have access to the TIA information, which is scary for obvious reasons (those people will not be representative of the interests of the public); the second case, further into the future, is that the information becomes public through hacking or other compromise, which will completely end privacy. Even extremist conservatives are against TIA. But I wonder, would a TIA system prevent 9-11 attacks?
 
  • #33
Originally posted by Hurkyl
The data has already been entered. E.G. the credit card companies have all ready entered your credit card info, the hospitals have all ready entered your medical records, et cetera.


AFAIK, what the computer actually spits out hasn't been decided. Sure it could be "Jane Doe is a terrorist. Kill her", but then again all it might do is e-mail police stations and give them a list of things that may constitute probable cause for which the police could then confirm and submit to a judge to get a warrant issued.

And one of the big issues the TIA project is planning to research is to vastly strengthen the ability to track accesses, so improper use could be detected (possibly automatically).

Hurkyl

Hmmmm...what information would constitute 'probable cause'? And how would you prevent some government body from deciding that some group should be harassed, and use this to find minor infractions to press them on?
 
  • #34
Dissident Dan
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One big repository for information on all US citizens sounds like a recipe for disaster. It's an identity thief's dream. Any insider who wants to spy on his enemies/competition has a great opportunity. It would be an excellent tool for our government, should they take a turn for the worse and try to control our lives even more. I don't see how any advocate of less government, as most Republicans claim to be, could support such a measure.
 
  • #35
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I don't see how any advocate of less government, as most Republicans claim to be, could support such a measure.

Because good data mining algorithms can function as a strong work multiplier. It is not unreasonable to expect that a classification algorithm could place 75% of the worthwhile data into the 25% highest rated records, thus tripling the effectiveness of the agents that work with that type of data.
 

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