Silicon Valley Geeks Super Coding to Thwart NSA

New York congressman Peter King is probably having conniptions, but so what?

Bloomberg reports that Silicon Valley prop-heads have begun to super code networks and online data for their employers, like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo!. The aim is to make domestic spying harder for the National Security Agency (NSA). The companies are still complying with court orders, as well they should.

Writes Bloomberg's Chris Strohm:

The companies, burned by disclosures they've cooperated with U.S. surveillance programs, are protecting user e-mail and social-media posts with strengthened encryption that the U.S. government says won't be easily broken until 2030.

Then this about Bill Gates' baby, per Bloomberg:

Microsoft Corp. is convinced it must "invest in protecting customers' information from a wide range of threats, which if the allegations are true, include governments," Matt Thomlinson, general manager of trustworthy computing, said in an e-mail. He didn't provide details.

But will counters by the NSA trump new complex encryptions?

"The NSA is one of the largest, most powerful, well-funded intelligence agencies in the world," [Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the San Francisco-based digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation] said in a phone interview. "While the government has been misusing its legal authorities to require a set of data at the front door, the NSA has been sneaking in the back door to grab all the data.

Of course, one wonders why the NSA has been green-lighted to mine citizens' private information on these shores -- legal or not. Yes, we all get the "why" -- to preempt terrorist attacks on our home soil. Quite worthy, but a government's capacity to do ill with its powers are why the Founders gave us the system we have: one designed to limit and stymie government's reach domestically. The Founders' bias was to distrust government. The history since the founding has only ratified the Founders' suspicions (see: Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and China since Mao).

The threats today are far more sophisticated than 200-odd years ago? So are Uncle Sam's abilities to infiltrate Americans' personal lives and acquire information that can just as well be put toward nefarious ends. Given the revelations about the IRS being used to suppress political expression (on the right this time), we should appreciate that the wealth of information being collected by the NSA can be abused, too. Who's being naïve in these matters, Rand Paul or Peter King?

There is something called due process, we being a nation subordinate to the law (or are supposed to be). The president and Congress are charged with protecting the nation from enemies, domestic and foreign; that is as it should be. But there are means and methods for securing the authority through the law for doing so - and not indiscriminately drag-netting the entire nation to stop would-be terrorists or catch perpetrators. Americans should be suspect of secret courts.

Our national security and liberty are in an uneasy balance -- a tension, if you will. The Founders were for liberty and national security, but liberty first. The challenge is to preserve our freedoms while stopping the bad guys. NSA domestic spying tilts against liberty.

Silicon Valley companies, their motivations being commercial, are acting to thwart the NSA to satisfy customers about privacy. Motives don't matter. That we still live in a country where businesses and citizens can act to prevent government from prying without warrant is encouraging, and should be encouraged.

Only tyrannies cow their citizens. 

New York congressman Peter King is probably having conniptions, but so what?

Bloomberg reports that Silicon Valley prop-heads have begun to super code networks and online data for their employers, like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo!. The aim is to make domestic spying harder for the National Security Agency (NSA). The companies are still complying with court orders, as well they should.

Writes Bloomberg's Chris Strohm:

The companies, burned by disclosures they've cooperated with U.S. surveillance programs, are protecting user e-mail and social-media posts with strengthened encryption that the U.S. government says won't be easily broken until 2030.

Then this about Bill Gates' baby, per Bloomberg:

Microsoft Corp. is convinced it must "invest in protecting customers' information from a wide range of threats, which if the allegations are true, include governments," Matt Thomlinson, general manager of trustworthy computing, said in an e-mail. He didn't provide details.

But will counters by the NSA trump new complex encryptions?

"The NSA is one of the largest, most powerful, well-funded intelligence agencies in the world," [Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the San Francisco-based digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation] said in a phone interview. "While the government has been misusing its legal authorities to require a set of data at the front door, the NSA has been sneaking in the back door to grab all the data.

Of course, one wonders why the NSA has been green-lighted to mine citizens' private information on these shores -- legal or not. Yes, we all get the "why" -- to preempt terrorist attacks on our home soil. Quite worthy, but a government's capacity to do ill with its powers are why the Founders gave us the system we have: one designed to limit and stymie government's reach domestically. The Founders' bias was to distrust government. The history since the founding has only ratified the Founders' suspicions (see: Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and China since Mao).

The threats today are far more sophisticated than 200-odd years ago? So are Uncle Sam's abilities to infiltrate Americans' personal lives and acquire information that can just as well be put toward nefarious ends. Given the revelations about the IRS being used to suppress political expression (on the right this time), we should appreciate that the wealth of information being collected by the NSA can be abused, too. Who's being naïve in these matters, Rand Paul or Peter King?

There is something called due process, we being a nation subordinate to the law (or are supposed to be). The president and Congress are charged with protecting the nation from enemies, domestic and foreign; that is as it should be. But there are means and methods for securing the authority through the law for doing so - and not indiscriminately drag-netting the entire nation to stop would-be terrorists or catch perpetrators. Americans should be suspect of secret courts.

Our national security and liberty are in an uneasy balance -- a tension, if you will. The Founders were for liberty and national security, but liberty first. The challenge is to preserve our freedoms while stopping the bad guys. NSA domestic spying tilts against liberty.

Silicon Valley companies, their motivations being commercial, are acting to thwart the NSA to satisfy customers about privacy. Motives don't matter. That we still live in a country where businesses and citizens can act to prevent government from prying without warrant is encouraging, and should be encouraged.

Only tyrannies cow their citizens. 

RECENT VIDEOS