Which government, when?
"...time-honored balance of power between the people and the government "
(as usual, Canada doesn't count)
US government agencies have been buying, to some degree, details of Americans' internet activities from data brokers – and US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) wants an explanation. On Wednesday, Wyden wrote a letter [PDF] to the inspectors general for the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and Justice to request that the …
I'm no expert on this, being as my expertise lies in Layer 1 troubleshooting and repair, but it looks to me like the ISPs are inviting them in under the guise of cyber attack defense, with the defense requiring access to the data to see if it's a threat or not. Neat bit, that. Rather than stealing data by attacking a network, you convince the network to let you have the data to stop attacks. It would be like the Vikings taking off their helmets and telling their victims that the Vikings can stop Viking attacks if the victims just give the Vikings their stuff.
Perhaps "surveillance on even more massive a scale than would have been feasible a few decades ago"?
Obviously, snoopers goona snoop, and some of them were pretty damned accomplished at it. But even the Stasi or the NSA could only process so much information in, say, the 1960s; they just didn't have the resources to do the kind of big-data mining and automated analysis we can do today.
> The Defense Department last year responded to his queries but applied a classification that prevents Wyden from making the details public.
But we can guess! Maybe something along the lines of
Dear Mr. Wyden,
We acknowledge your request for data, we knew you were going to ask that as we regularly monitor your email and web activity. If you want to know what it is that we know about you, just look at your own browser history. It's all there (though we suspect someone else has been using your computer, unless you are a fan of oiled-up bunny rabbits)
In closing, let me say that while you are now aware of this information, we have classified this report as Top Friggin' Secret. That means that the only copies are in our files, In your possession and scattered around Mar a Lago. Possibly now in Putin's dacha, too.
Have a nice day.
No, actually they haven't.
They've just been stupid enough to not pay attention and got conned into giving that data up.
But, given that there is no computer user license, it's hardly surprising. Anyone can buy a phone, but how many people actually know what is happening when they use it ?
Anyone can buy a car, how many people actually know what is happening when they use it?
Anyone can buy a vacuum cleaner, how many people actually know what is happening when they use it?
Anyone can buy a light bulb, how many people actually know what is happening when they use it?
If we require all purchases to only go to those who know how things work 95% of the population is going to starve or freeze to death, or both.
It used to not matter whether or not people understood how computers, cars, vacuum cleaners, and lightbulbs worked.
These days it does, because modern computers, cars, vacuum cleaners, and light bulbs connect to the internet, and create potential hazards to peoples' privacy.
You cannot blame the government entities, no matter how creepy, for availing themselves of information that is out there that everyone and their dog has access to. It would be like being mad that they were using phone books to find peoples’ addresses.
The real issue is that this sort of data hovering can go on in the first place.
It's the architecture of the Internet that is not fit for purpose, there should be some fundamental built in way to provide anonymity, so it doesn't end up turning into an Orwellian nightmare, human nature being what it is. "Every digital application that can be used for surveillance and control will be used for surveillance and control" - Shoshana Zuboff.
None of these problems were possible with old-fashioned technology such as broadcast radio or TV. They would have to send a detection van to your house to have a chance at figuring out what you're watching, which is impractical on a mass scale.
When I was much younger I managed to receive Usenet by satellite, I stumbled on it by chance after scanning transponders on the satellite. And since it was receive only, nobody could tell what you were reading, it was physically impossible. The computer wasn't even connected to the Internet at all.
Here is a link from the Internet Archive, the transponder frequency was 12.073GHz, horizontal polarisation, 25.378Mbaud symbol rate... This comes to 45Mb/s... And this was before I even had broadband. All from a tiny 55cm satellite dish I had in my window.
The data was completely in the clear, just a simple UDP multicast packet containing plain text ASCII data. Completely 100% big brother free, all using an easily obtainable DVB-S TV card. It was so sad to see that shut down eventually.
The only similar thing we have now is Blockstream Satellite, where you can pay a small amount in bitcoin to send data over their worldwide satellite network. Sadly this doesn't get much use, you can see the messages people send at blocksat-reader.herokuapp.com.