News Satire People Food Other

Privacy Myth Busting

By Gerald McGrew on August 22, 2013 in Other

So the big news lately has been about a rather dorky young chap by the name of Edward Snowden. This unassuming American security services ex-employee has pinched four laptops full of the dubious private data collection policies that the US and other governments practice, and he’s been singing like a canary.

Of course, these revelations are not a surprise to many. The US and their allies – which includes Australia – have been involved in scoping online traffic for years. There was software named Carnivore that the FBI used way back in 1997, which was a desktop PC that had to be installed at an ISP to ‘sniff’ or read traffic. While it could best be described as rudimentary, it was actually the FBI’s third version of Internet snooping technology. And this was the year before Google went live!

Sixteen years later and Mr Snowden is Russia’s most famous airport visitor, having been stuck there for three weeks waiting for a country to grant him asylum. So far it’s only the Nazi-friendly Latin Americans who are sweet with him. I suspect he’d be safer at Guantanamo Bay. And what is he spilling the beans about that is upsetting his former NSA and CIA employers?

Basically, he’s come clean about the extent of the US Government’s Internet surveillance programs. While most people assume that there’s a certain amount of governmental email reading occurring, the gory details of the partnerships between the US, UK, Canada, Australia and even those crazy Kiwis has been a major embarrassment for all involved. It turns out that every single bit of private Internet activity in and out of the United States and the UK is, theoretically, able to be analysed by security services.

Those who have been watching governments building ridiculously huge data centres are starting to fill in the blanks on the extreme level of privacy breaches occurring. Snowden has talked about ‘full take’ surveillance, where they’ll literally take a copy of several days of Internet traffic, then pore through it looking for… who really knows?

In movies over the years the stereotypical conspiracy theorist has been a staple. The unhinged individual raving and gibbering about the government watching everyone has made for entertaining watching, with Gene Hackman’s role in ‘Enemy of the State’ a classic of the genre. Turns out the dystopian security state imagined in the movie is extraordinarily close to what is happening right now.

Perhaps the strangest thing has been the reaction of the US public to these security leaks. While the entire country recently lost their heads when Paula Deen admitted to regularly using the ‘N word’ some 20 odd years ago, it seems the fact the US government has been outed for privacy breaches on a massive scale has been met with a collective ‘meh’.

In fact, it was not so different when it became clear that Google and Facebook have been freely handing over their user’s private data if requested by… the government. It would appear that over the last few years there’s been a gradual acceptance that if you’re using the Internet in general, and social networks in particular, there’s really no such thing as privacy.

And on this depressing note I’ll sign off with a simple question: Does Obama now know who Gerald McGrew really is?!