Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Month: September 2017 (Page 1 of 8)

Problem Set #3

Here's your third problem set. It's due at the beginning of class on Wednesday, October 3rd.

And some resources that might be useful...

What Would I Give Up?

In a post 9/11 America, which is all I've ever known, I am paranoid. When I enter public spaces like movie theaters or airports, there's always an irrational fear in the back of my head that something is going to go wrong. This fear was undoubtedly placed there by terrorists, so they are clearly succeeding in their goal of instilling fear into the public. Oddly enough, my main concern in these scenarios is the lack of apparent security. For example, as I'm sitting down to watch a movie, it dawns on me how easy it would have been to sneak a weapon into the theater, even after the attack at Aurora. The same can be said for school. In fact, I know of someone at my high school who brought a lethal weapon with him to school multiple times. Not once was he caught. I feel like I have a good reason to be paranoid.

So what would I give up to feel safer? If anything, I'd be perfectly ok with more security. The most obvious implementation would be metal detectors at entrances to places. This would be a small inconvenience, and it would ease my paranoia immensely. I'm tired of living in fear, and enhanced security measures would make me feel much safer. Despite popular belief, more security in this regard would not mean the terrorists are winning, because I (and likely many more people) would feel safer as a result.

What would you give up to feel safer?

What would you give up to feel safer?

If it were possible, people should give up the existence of the United States. The US has been at war for 214 years out of a possible 235 years since its inception. (Donias, 2011). During this time, the US has been the cause of many atrocities abroad. For example, in more recent years, the wars in Afghanistan and Syria, which have caused the death of many innocent civilians. Effectively, by dissolving the US, we will decrease global terrorism immensely and thus, humanity as a whole will feel safer.

A map of nations when asked the question "Which country is the largest threat to world peace?".

While the Newseum poses the question in the context of terror, privacy, and security, framing it in this way implies that the US and its residents are unsafe and at risk of dying at any moment from an act of terror. This is false. In reality, the chances of dying due to a terrorist attack are 1 in 45, 808. (Gould, D. M., 2017). The question that should be asked is actually, why do US residents feel so unsafe?

The answer is rooted in the original question. The government has used the media to brainwash its citizens through sensationalized news, leading them to believe that the US is always at risk from an impending attack. As a result of this, the government can influence its citizens to “give up” their rights in order to feel safer. The government can then slowly take away its citizen's basic rights to things such as privacy and gun control, which will eventually culminate with their citizens being left with no freedom at all. As a result of this, the government will have ultimate power over their citizens, which was their goal from the start.

So, what people give up to feel safer? Nothing.

Newseum

 

References:

Gould, D. M. (2017, January 31). How likely are foreign terrorists to kill Americans? The odds may surprise you. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/death-risk-statistics-terrorism-disease-accidents-2017-1

Danios. (n.d.). America Has Been At War 93% of the Time – 222 Out of 239 Years – Since 1776. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/02/america-war-93-time-222-239-years-since-1776.html

A map of nations when asked the question "Which country is the largest threat to world peace?", in 2013 [X-post from /r/europe] [1920x1080] • r/MapPorn. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2017, from https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/5usnif/a_map_of_nations_when_asked_the_question_which/?st=IZDR16XQ&sh=9cbee2a5

What Would You Give Up to Feel Safer?

This question posed at the Newseum is a very important one in the world we live in today. Indeed, ever since 9/11 the amount of government surveillance has increased exponentially, threatening our privacy in all aspects of our lives. The formation of the USA PATRIOT Act gave the government the surveil its citizens in the name of preventing terrorism, yet there is still much skepticism from myself and others about whether or not these drastic measures are worth giving up our freedom over. I believe that since this America, we should be entitled to certain freedom that are explicitly laid out in the Bill of Rights, such as the protection from unreasonable search and seizure. Is the government tracking your every Internet search, phone call or text message not unreasonable? I certainly contend that it is unreasonable. I do not consent to the government tracking my every movement because even if it is to save one or two lives, I do not think it is worth it. Sure we could take away every gun and weapon from a citizen and have a dictatorial society to prevent crime but is that the place we want to live? I think America is so unique and so special because of the rights that we have and I do not want to see those taken away. That is why I completely favor measures to increase our privacy and freedom rather than security and surveillance. 

An Even Mix!

With an even mix of pro-security and pro-privacy statements, this display reminds me of how half-and-half the country is on the privacy versus security debate which always intrigues me. No matter where or when the question is asked excluding the aftermaths of a few terrorist attacks, people always seem to be divided evenly between both sides. Even the majority of aftermaths of terrorist attacks after November 11, 2001 seemed to have been met with mixed responses such as the ones shown on this display.

Now something else from this display caught even more of my attention. Giving me a feeling of déjà vu, what caught my attention was Benjamin Franklin’s quote: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” The reason this lonesome quote stood out to me is because I have noticed that it serves as the backbone for many pro-privacy arguments including my own which I recently submitted in an essay.

However, as another classmate with the username, “BROWKM10,” has already mentioned, the context of Benjamin Franklin’s statement had nothing to do with privacy at all. If that is the case, some may question whether the quote has any relevance in a privacy versus security debate. I still say “yes, it does!” Regardless of its context, the quote has a meaning flexible enough to be applied to a 21st century debate on privacy versus security. If historians are saying how its context has been lost, then it shall stay lost because quotes are not restricted to their context.

Overall, I was a little surprised by how many people said they were willing to give up some of their private records to feel safe, but I was also pleased by how divided people were on this issue. I would rather see an even debate where I can hear a good bit of each side rather than a swayed debate where all I hear is a loud majority.

Ben Franklin on Liberty and Safety

The quote by Ben Franklin "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety" is in my opinion an excellent statement. I typed the quote into google to make sure it truly was by Franklin and the description that popped up stated that this quote is used many times during discussions about advanced technology and government surveillance. I did some more research on to the quote and in reality Franklin was not speaking of the liberty and safety that we associate the quote with. Franklin was discussing a land taxation dispute and was arguing pro-tax and pro-defense. As stated in the NPR article I read, it is not the exact opposite of what people think the quote means but closer to the opposite than to common belief.

The person who wrote the quote did so without knowing the context behind it but it shows that they are pro-privacy. Benjamin Wittes, the man who explained the true meaning of the quote to NPR, says that he sees no problem with the quote being used in the modern day interpretation. He sees the quote as a form of showing the ongoing dispute between "government power and individual liberties."

I think this is a great representation of what the board is saying as a whole. There are many people that are willing to sacrifice anything to be safe because they believe they have nothing to hide so why not share it. Others think that you shouldn't have to sacrifice any of your rights to freedom, and the last group is those that only see fit to part with "some" privacy. While many have very strong opinions about this topic it is clear from the "all over the place" feel of the board that we see how different our ideas are and the need for discussion on what a good median is.

Feeling Safe

The display in the Newseum asks what people would give up for security. The results are exactly as you would expect. Some people make arguments for pro privacy and there are others for pro security. There is no clear cut answer to this question. One person summed up all the answers in a nutshell by stating "as much as necessary to feel safe". This answer struck me specifically because he used the term "feel safe" rather than "be safe". This implies that there is no definitive answer. The answer depends solely on what you, as an individual, value the most and would be willing to give up. For example,person A may feel safer knowing that their private life is secure from outside viewing. In that case they would not give up anything for safety, as they are already safe. However, person B may feel safer knowing private information can be viewed by outside parties, such as the FBI, in order to prevent future terrorist attacks. In this case, they would grant access to private information in order to give government the ability to use data mining to potentially spot a hidden terrorist. In each scenario, the individual gives up different things in order to feel safe. However, it is intriguing because in person B would not consider the person A to be safe, based on what they value. The display in the Newseum does a fantastic job at portraying the actual complexity of this question, as it highlights that each person has different values and those values govern their stance on this question.

The Great Debate: Privacy vs. Security

 

The responses on the display varied from milder ones like “some privacy” and “as much as necessary” to stronger ones like “give up privacy for security”. This sort of a spectrum of responses is typically to be expected when it comes to this debate, since the notion of security and surveillance have always been associated with authoritarianism and intrusion, leaving people confused and having them left with the belief that surveillance will always have a negative connotation to it.

The cons of giving weightage to security and surveillance over privacy are brought to light much more often than the pros are; it isn’t fair to always give a biased perspective when it comes to the which one out of the two is more important. Therefore the public fears this “Big Brother” dystopia where nothing is free from the government’s eye. Frankly speaking, people think too highly of how important their ‘private’ information really is; if the government was to make a highly advanced machine to bypass encryption, they would not use it to read my personal emails or my utterly trivial text messages, instead they would much rather use it to track down malicious plans sent between terrorists via highly encrypted online messages. The key point is to realize that eventually the end goal of surveillance and security measures are for our own good and certainly not primarily for hijacking for information. The numerous instances where lives have been saved solely because of surveillance vouch for this statement.

Can you be safe when you make yourself vulnerable?

This display highlights an overly important issue in today's America. The topic of choosing of what is more important, privacy or security, has sparked controversy and heated debate in all parts of our country. I believe the passing of the USA Patriot Act was needed after 9/11. I also believe that the act of terrorism should drive the examination of phones, emails, medical and financial records, but only to an extent. The government should only go after people that show that they can be a threat. This leaves privacy in a non respected state.

Now in modern day America, some people feel that their lives have been intruded on by the government. Their privacy is stripped by the agencies like the FBI and the NSA. Additionally, with the installation of new laws that state that companies can sell an individual's internet history, tension between people that want privacy and the government has reached a peak.

An intriguing question asked by the display is "What would you give up to feel safer?" The answer of course is going to be different for each individual person. This is true every person comes from different walks to life, and the fact that the display asks to share your thought on the topic of privacy versus security is fantastic. This sparks much-needed conversation that will lead Americans to new perspectives on what we want to keep private and how we want to be kept safe.

Timelessness of personal liberty

The display demonstrated that most people would settle for a balance of privacy and safety, which is understandable as I feel most people lie somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. However, the Ben Franklin quote really caught my eye because he would not have lived in a time of data-mining, internet surveillance, etc. so the fact that he would argue that can assign the privacy vs. security debate to almost a higher moral level. What type of surveillance was there in his day? What was he worried about people finding out? What were the risks of giving up privacy? I feel that it goes to show that no matter the type of information, or method of communication, people will always perceive their information to be sensitive. I guess humans have a timeless tendency to think of themselves and their lives as the most important type of information!

 

Additionally, most people wrote on the board that they would give up a "some" privacy for security. As if they have a choice! In all seriousness, one cannot pick and choose the security they receive, nor the privacy they relinquish. I feel as though a better question would not be "what" would you give up, but maybe "would you rather" be safe or have privacy?

 

Finally, a few posts on the board were about cell phones, which I think constitute the majority of security v privacy debates. With a phone you can track location, pictures, social media apps, etc. So in a way giving up security means to an extent giving up social media and maybe even your phone.  With my generation, I think this will be the question we will have to deal with.

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