Startalk: Edward Snowden (Part 2)


8/10 Microphones, Listen HERE @neiltyson

  • It was Neil Tyson’s idea to have Snowden join Twitter as @Snowden (already over 1 million followers in 24 hours)!!
  • What Snowden revealed in partnership with the Free Press was unlawful behavior that courts have agreed with him on
    • Nobody in the US is above the law, including the NSA
    • Even the President didn’t know the full details of this program
  • Application of force must be necessary and proportionate to a threat (same reason by we don’t launch nukes right away)
  • NSA has offensive and defensive goals, but since 9/11 it has shifted from National Security to National SURVEILLENCE
    • They are weakening the security of all our systems to help their offense (by ruining all of our defense)
    • We have more informational valuable assets (e.g. tech secrets, fingerprints of CIA spies, etc.) in the USA than other countries, as a result we have more to lose by being hacked (e.g. by China) vs. what we can gain from hacking others
      • Thus by weakening all IT security we lose more than others like China gain
    • Surveillance Now vs. Cold War
      • During Cold War we had someone to compare ourselves – we saw the aggressive nature of the Soviets as confirmation of our moral superiority and we turned away from them (but couldn’t have easily done the same)
      • Now our the bar (“competitive honesty” is so low from ISIS/Al Queda that we’ve allowed ourselves to lower the bar on personal freedom in a way we did not in the past
    • New technologies is cause to worry even more, not less – Metadata is in many ways worse than listening to your phone call
      • MetaData (data about data): who you are calling, when, where you were, etc. (context of a communication)
      • Mass Metadata is more valuable than content as there is too much content to listen to/analyze en masse, BUT
        • Metadata is very easy to be analyzed by computers
        • This is well established even amount defenders of the surveillance state: Have actually said that with enough metadata, you don’t need content data
        • Keith Alexander: We kill people based off of metadata, we drone strike cell phones (“signature strikes”), not people (which is why we kill the wrong people all the time)
        • Medadata is the type of info a private investigator would collect about you:
          • Who you are meeting, where, how long, where you go later, where you live, what car you drive, etc. = Pattern of Life
        • Encryption:
          • Symmetric encryption: Same key that works on both sides (lock/unlock)
          • Asymmetric encryption: One key to lock and another to unlock (allow to share knowledge with people without sharing the key/password
          • Secret Sharing Schemes:
            • How can you enable 5 or more people to see info, while making sure that one can’t ruin it (may need n/5 to sign in at the same time
            • Additional constraints: location, altitude, time of day, number of people and multifactor authentication (e.g. password plus pin code from SMS)
          • Preference is to send an encrypted message that doesn’t even look like a message
            • How do you divorce the content from the fact that the communication was sent to begin with (try route through a ton of volunteers who send the info through one another (e.g. TOR)
          • Hardest part of encryption is generating truly random numbers, end up with pseudo-random numbers
          • Signal and Noise: Is the noise in universe actual noise? There are signals you’re uninterested in because they interfere with a signal you are interested in there, but it’s still a signal, not noise
            • By listening closely to what you want, you get other signals at the same time
            • Just like mass surveillance: So much noise that they’re actually unable to actually stop even 1 terrorist act
            • Worse, all the resources devoted to it are taking away resources from other traditional law enforcement activities
            • We are creating a haystack of human lives that hides the needles
          • Rather than watch people that haven’t done something wrong, we used to watch those who have = Probable Cause
            • Then you can tap just their phones, etc.
          • At least at airports it is limited to just that time/place, not everything in your life

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