* Five Important Talks Concerning Digital Privacy *

1. How the USA's National Security Agency (NSA) Betrayed The Worlds Trust

What we are seeing today is "wholesale blanket surveillance", with the NSA capturing who we talk to, what we search for, who we email with, and on and on. The laws in the US give the NSA the right to do that for "foreigners", which means 96% of the planet, Hypponen said. Everyone in the world uses US-based services "all the time"; from the cloud to web mail and beyond, all of the most popular services are US-based; ... [Continued]

... according to Hypponen, some surveillance is reasonable. For a school shooter, drug lord, or member of terrorist cell, for example, surveillance should be allowed and the authorities should have the technical means to do so. But first, there must be suspicion of the person in question and proper legal papers need to be filed. That is not what is going on today. Instead, everyone is being surveilled, including many who are known to be innocent. While you may not worry about the current government misusing that information, the government could change at any time. Show me your search history, he said, and I can find something illegal or embarrassing easily.

2. What A Future Without Secrets Will Look Like

The line between public and private has blurred in the past decade, both online and in real life, and Alessandro Acquisti is here to explain what this means and why it matters. In this thought-provoking, slightly chilling talk, he shares details of recent and ongoing research — including a project that shows how easy it is to match a photograph of a stranger with their sensitive personal information... [Continued]


3. Why Privacy Matters

Glenn Greenwald was one of the first reporters to see — and write about — the Edward Snowden files, with their revelations about the United States' extensive surveillance of private citizens. In this searing talk, Greenwald makes the case for why you need to care about privacy, even if you’re “not doing anything you need to hide."

Excerpt : There is a very common sentiment that arises in this debate, even among people who are uncomfortable with mass surveillance, which says that there is no real harm that comes from this large-scale invasion... [Continued]

... because only people who are engaged in bad acts have a reason to want to hide and to care about their privacy. This worldview is implicitly grounded in the proposition that there are two kinds of people in the world, good people and bad people. Bad people are those who plot terrorist attacks or who engage in violent criminality and therefore have reasons to want to hide what they're doing, have reasons to care about their privacy. But by contrast, good people are people who go to work, come home, raise their children, watch television. They use the Internet not to plot bombing attacks but to read the news or exchange recipes or to plan their kids' Little League games, and those people are doing nothing wrong and therefore have nothing to hide and no reason to fear the government monitoring them.

The people who are actually saying that are engaged in a very extreme act of self-deprecation. What they're really saying is, "I have agreed to make myself such a harmless and unthreatening and uninteresting person that I actually don't fear having the government know what it is that I'm doing." This mindset has found what I think is its purest expression in a 2009 interview with the longtime CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, who, when asked about all the different ways his company is causing invasions of privacy for hundreds of millions of people around the world, said this: He said, "If you're doing something that you don't want other people to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

Now, there's all kinds of things to say about that mentality, the first of which is that the people who say that, who say that privacy isn't really important, they don't actually believe it, and the way you know that they don't actually believe it is that while they say with their words that privacy doesn't matter, with their actions, they take all kinds of steps to safeguard their privacy. They put passwords on their email and their social media accounts, they put locks on their bedroom and bathroom doors, all steps designed to prevent other people from entering what they consider their private realm and knowing what it is that they don't want other people to know. The very same Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, ordered his employees at Google to cease speaking with the online Internet magazine CNET after CNET published an article full of personal, private information about Eric Schmidt, which it obtained exclusively through Google searches and using other Google products. (Laughter) This same division can be seen with the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, who in an infamous interview in 2010 pronounced that privacy is no longer a "social norm." Last year, Mark Zuckerberg and his new wife purchased not only their own house but also all four adjacent houses in Palo Alto for a total of 30 million dollars in order to ensure that they enjoyed a zone of privacy that prevented other people from monitoring what they do in their personal lives.

4. Government Surveillance : This is Just the Beginning

Christopher Soghoian is a Washington, DC based privacy researcher and activist. He first gained notoriety in 2006 as the creator of a website that generated fake airline boarding passes.

Privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian sees the landscape of government surveillance shifting beneath our feet, as an industry grows to support monitoring programs... [Continued]

...Through private companies, he says, governments are buying technology with the capacity to break into computers, steal documents and monitor activity — without detection.

5. If You Think Your Emails Are Private — Then Think Again

Sending an email message is like sending a postcard, says scientist Andy Yen in this thought-provoking talk: Anyone can read it. Yet encryption, the technology that protects the privacy of email communication, does exist. It's just that until now it has been difficult to install and a hassle to use. Showing a demo of an email program he designed with colleagues at CERN, Yen argues that encryption can be made simple to the point of becoming the default option, providing true email privacy to all.


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