Prism — ‘Private’ Privacy Is Not Everything

If A equals success, then the formula is: A = X + Y + Z, where X is work, Y is play, and Z is keep your mouth shut.
Albert Einstein

It might be hindsight, but I do not find it that surprising that the NSA (or any American intelligence service) reads our communication. After all, that is what they are paid for. Get the information to make smart decisions — and get the information from everyone at any time, because you never know where the next danger is coming from or when the next war starts. And even more important — conflicts might be prevented with the right intelligence.

But what I cannot shake off is that this might be more than just “keeping a nation secure” (if you can call giving up freedoms “secure”). I wonder how much of this information might end up in other places — where it was never intended to be. In the Snowden interview, there was the question whether he could have made money with it. He could — he mentioned the open door policy many governments have, including the US.

But while this might be the fear the US government has, I wonder whether a greater danger for all other countries is not that the US collects data about them that ends up in other governments as well, but that their data ends up in American companies.

After all, isn’t is deeply patriotic to help your own nation, keep the economy strong and help it’s “Made in the USA” status when you give them data about other countries companies? How much of the conversation that is recorded can be used for industrial espionage?

It is not only the private conversations with your girlfriend, your mate, or your lover/mistress that gets recorded, your private interests and fetishes. It is also the conversation with a business partner, with a fellow researcher, with a fellow artist. With digital conversation, much of our thinking is externalized. You don’t need telepathy to read people’s minds, just watch what they exchange digitally and how they do it. Information is very powerful if it is “well” used.

There is money to be made here — money on the side if you work at a contractor company and ‘privately’ sell it to other companies, and money to fund the whole espionage apparatus if the intelligence service makes secret deals with other “contractors”. Not that unlikely in a global, competitive economy. We look at China when it comes to industrial espionage, perhaps we should have looked at the US too.

So, I think we have more than our private lives and privacy to worry about. Citizens of other nations (and American companies with no ties to the intelligence agencies) will have to worry what kind of information they have exchanged that could help their competitors to beat them.

Not a nice thought.


P.S.: Personally, I think it’s a vain hope that technology can completely prevent terrorism. You can make the world more secure, yes, to a certain degree. But after a certain point, the more you invest the less you gain in security and the more you lose in freedom. But it is hard to accept even the occasional loss these days.

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