Tuesday, June 18, 2013

He's Almost There

David Horsey almost gets it, if his latest column is any indication.

The National Security Agency's program of scooping up raw data on nearly every phone call placed in the United States should freak us all out – not so much because of what the agency is doing, but because it has the technological capability to do it.

So far, there is no evidence that the government is zeroing in on any phone calls besides those linked to terrorism suspects. Personally, I’m glad our intelligence agencies have that wormhole into the dark redoubts of fanatics who want to kill Americans. As for the vast ocean of telephone calls made by the rest of us, I think we can be pretty certain that no one has the inclination or time to sift through the millions of conversations to find that clandestine call to your secret lover, let alone the last call to grandma or the pizza delivery guy. ...

That national governments are gaining the technological capability to spy on every phone call, text, email and tweet of every person in a country, if not the world, is something new and frightening. Multinational corporations will have nearly the same capacity as well, and major criminal organizations will not be far behind.

Benjamin Franklin said those who trade away a little liberty for safety soon find they have neither. In the post-Sept. 11 world, the trade of liberty for safety has been a continuous transaction. The ominous truth, though, is that technology is radically shifting the terms of the transaction, whether we like it or not.   [Emphasis added]

First of all, much of the capturing of telephone calls and internet comments/emails has been contracted out to a private company.  This company brags about its capacity to sift through those millions of conversations and apparently has been quite successful.  For more on that, David, you might want to check out this post at Eschaton. A multinational corporation has already has that capacity and we're paying for it to assist our government in spying on us.

Secondly, "the trade of liberty for safety" was a bad idea to begin with, and started long before 9/11.  The events of that day just gave the government an excuse to increase the spying and openly charge us for that transaction.  We weren't given any choice in the transaction from that point on.  We were just expected to go along with it because ... terra!

And if we don't like it, whether done by our own government or by multinational corporations, we certainly can do somethings to shut it down, starting with repealing the Patriot Act.

Just because we have the technology doesn't mean we have to use it or allow it to be used against us.  We have the technology to destroy the world several times over with nuclear bombs, yet since 1945 we have refrained from using it.

But, David, at least you're getting warmer.

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Blogger John Gardner said...

given the existence of things like Siri, google's voice search, and bing's voice search, a human being doesn't need to "sift" through anything.

you simply run all the audio through speech to text, and catalog the words that were said by who. you can probably do a lot of it realtime now.

there are other projects that can do near real-time translation of audio from one language to another, so you aren't limited to just English either.

(so close: the captcha had 1980 as one of the words to type to comment. If it had been 1984 I would have cancelled my comment :D)

9:44 AM  

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