The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

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Privacy vs Secur--does it even have to be something versus something?

On the Newseum board, there are a lot of arguments for pro-privacy. At the same time, there is another compelling argument to take as much as it has to in order to make people feel safe. 

I feel like people come from many different sides when they are voicing their opinions; their personal experiences in their own lives have shaped their beliefs and has compelled them to draw themselves to one particular side of this argument. One interesting point to notice is: why does there have to be a fine line separating pro-privacy vs pro-security? I believe we can have a healthy mixture of both. It’s when people divide crucial and sensitive topics like this into two distinct sides, that conflicts arise. Security and privacy can go hand-in-hand in some cases, but immediately saying that it is a rivalry where one decision should be better than the other forces people to choose sides even though they have beliefs belonging to both sides. Some people are willing to give up a bit of their privacy because they value their safety over anything (maybe they haven’t experienced an invasion of their privacy and don’t know the frustration of that). Some people are very protective of their privacy and believe that our privacy should be something inherent like freedom of speech (however, they might not have directly experienced a terrorist attack or danger where they’ve feared for their lives and know that government intervention will save lives and prevent terrorism). 

In general, we do have a lot of positive vibes on the board, such as “love not hate” and “good not evil.” Also, I found the quote “living life is an honor, don’t take our freedom away” an interesting quote. Here, we see someone who values life and probably also safety, I’m assuming. In addition to that, they also don’t want their freedom to be taken away. Perhaps that’s referring to freedom of having a private life? Freedom looks like it comes in two ways: the freedom in safety and freedom of having a private life. Which one do you prefer? Maybe both?

What Are the Differences Between Giving Privacy to the Government and to Our Campus?

After the 9/11 attacks, counterterrorism became the FBI’s primary mission. But in order to catch terrorists and thus increase national security, the FBI expanded its intrusion into our personal lives. Therefore it again comes the argument over privacy versus security, which seems quite similar to the campus data-mining case we discussed before. Interestingly, while I refused to give up any privacy last time, I believe the government’s access to some of our privacy is justified as long as it will not compromise our rights of freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

Ensuring nation’s security is extremely hard, because the government has to beware all aspects on its lands that may have security loopholes. Only with the data-mining and digital surveillance, the technologies that can span the country to watch on people’s moves, the government is able to prevent bad things from happening, and take immediate action in case of terror attacks. The campus security, however, is relatively easier to be maintained. Since the campus is merely a small community, rather than infringing students’ privacy, the university can instead increase the number of its security guards, thereby achieving nearly the same safety purpose.

Additionally, giving our privacy to the government’s security departments is much safer than to non-governmental institutions. In other words, the FBI is more reliable than others because it is one of the US leading security agencies in which almost all its officers are selectively recruited and rigorously trained so that they are well capable of keeping our personal data safe after examining it. However, when it comes to non-governmental institutions, it is reasonable to be paranoid that our data may be leaked; criminals may easily hack into the database of a university, but few of them can invade the FBI’s security systems. The FBI can actually protect us from terror attacks with the control over some of our private data against criminals, and thus we should make a concession to exchange some privacy for the nation’s security.

Security vs Privacy: The Dangers of too much Authority

Chapter four of Little Brother really made me mad due to the abuse of basic human rights the American government was willing to surpass in order to receive more legalized power. Expanding on this problem, I am going to address how the governments abuse of Marcus and other captives basic human rights directly relate to the government trying to get more legal power through the public's fear. When Marcus was captured, bagged, and brought to an interrogation facility, nicked named Gintmo-On-The-Bay, his fourth amendment right was violated. The fourth amendment states "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized (Cornell Law School)." Marcus' personal digital activity and information was searched unreasonably, he was seized illegally, and he was forced to sign a paper saying he was voluntarily seized and interrogated which I would consider a violation of the fifth amendment which protects people from self incrimination. Because of the government trying to "secure" it violated peoples rights. The governments concern with security, in this case, was false making their actions even worse. The American government in Little Brother had a goal of taking advantage of a terrorist attack and blaming it on the lack of security. From there the government would expand on its power by persuading citizens to support laws that give the government more surveillance control over the citizens themselves. This is dangerous because as the government receives more surveillance power, it becomes easier to label a protester as terrorist. Once this happens, innocent people such as Marcus, will be captured and interrogated based on faulty information.

Is Possible Student Safety More Important than Student Privacy?

In the article, "Mining Student Data Could Save Lives," by Michael Morris, one can draw that Morris argues that if universities began using data mining as a form of preemptive measure to predict "the propensity for a person's future behavior," it would increase the safety of the students from threats.  Data mining is a form of data examination of network usage that can be used to create new information. While data mining can be very important and a key to improving public safety, there is a fine line between analyzing the network usage of someone, and invading personal privacy of those who wish to keep it. I agree with Morris' argument, but only to a degree.

There are a couple reasons for people to not want their university surfing through your data usage. People search up, read, or watch things that wouldn't necessarily point them out as a threat to society, but still want to keep that sought up information to themselves. They also enjoy the pleasure of knowing or believing that they are not being spied on as they navigate social networks or the internet in general.

I agree with these reasons, however, I do believe that data mining, when used in a way that does not forfeit privacy without need, can be effective in stopping violence before it starts. Data mining that tracks extremely dangerous individuals can save countless lives. Using it wisely is the key to not crossing that fine line of protecting students, and invading their privacy. As I say that, you may be asking yourself, where do I draw this line? That honestly depends on the threat level of the situation, the location of the institute, and the overall attitude of the people that are possible non threats that are also being data mined. Let it be known, however, that the data mining of a person who clearly is not a threat, is a clear and direct violation of that person's privacy, no matter how effective a data mining is.

The article begs a question. Should we as a people value our privacy over our safety? This is a very perspective driven question. I believe that not one man or woman can effectively answer this question for another. Nevertheless, this should not stop the drive to keep people safe while keeping their comfort intact, as both are important to us as human beings.


At the mercy of campus surveillance

In “Mining Student Data Could Save Lives” by Michael Morris, the main argument is that if campuses use data mining to detect possible violence, it will be beneficial to the safety of the students. While I agree that this tactic may be very effective, it does make me wonder about the extent to which universities will use this technology. For example, they may develop algorithms that can track the search for certain illegal activities, and use that information to seek out students who may not intend to be violent, but are intending to violate certain campus policies. Certainly, there is a fine line between conducting surveillance to ensure the safety of the students and surveillance to find out more personal details of a student's life, but there is always that underlying notion that everything you publish or send via the University's network can be accessed at any time. In some ways, I believe this puts the student at an unfair disadvantage. If they got in trouble for doing something their senior year, should evidence from something they did as a freshman be allowed to convict them? I am in favor of using technology and statistical data to take extra precaution against possible violent or mentally unhinged students, but I know there is no way to simply sort out the people who should be under surveillance. It's either everyone has to relinquish a part of their privacy, or nobody does. It's not the matter of being guilty, it's more the knowledge that what I do or say over the network will be monitored despite  the content of my post. In that sense, I do agree that data mining will be an effective crime-management strategy for universities, but the implications of that in terms of my own internet privacy are something I would have to consider further.

What Do I Have to Hide?

By focusing on what to keep private rather than what to publicize, teens often inadvertently play into another common rhetorical crutch - the notion that privacy is only necessary for those who have something to hide (boyd, 63).

When social media first began to crop up in my household, my parents weren't sure how to react. With crude interfaces such as Myspace, my parents banned their use completely (thought this was a much more relevant issue to my older sister than it was for me). However with the upswing of social media sights such as Facebook and LinkedIn, sights my parents could use and were therefore inherently more comfortable with, our family had to have our first conversations about internet safety.

As a kid my parents were very aware of not only everything I posted but also everything my friends were posting. I distinctly remember one post my friend made about being home alone that had my mother rushing to phone her parents. While I was little, this level of online privacy made sense to me. My parents were obviously worried about my safety, and I was not yet rebellious enough to want to defy them just for the sake of being defiant. As I aged, however, my opinions began to deviate from my parents.

There came a point in my online life when I began to believe that my security didn't matter too much: nothing I did was really all that interesting anyways, if someone wanted to read the FanFiction in my internet history they could be my guest. As Facebook privacy updated, I didn't keep up with my account privacy settings, and my wall became increasingly public. I definitely adhered to the ideology that boyd was describing. For the most part, my views have changed again, but to an extent, I still do agree with it.

As I have become more aware of the information that is being sent out online, or rather the information behind the information (such as location services we don't even realize we are posting), I have become increasingly more cautious about what I post and how I post it. Even if I have nothing illegal or secretive to hide, I would still like to keep the location of my house private to the internet. However, instead of changing my online visibility, I simply edited what I post in the first place. I still don't have very strong Facebook security settings, but I make sure that the posts themselves are not revealing any threatening information. The only things I have to hide are those things which affect my safety.

How and to what extent should we use student data mining?

The author of the article ““Mining Student Data Could Save Lives”, Michael Morris, suggests that student data mining is necessary in schools and can be used to prevent oncampus violence. It is indeed a controversial topic that is very relevant to us as students. Personally, I’m an international student who have experienced both eastern and western educations; in both cases, students’ networks are totally under the surveillance. I’ve also heard and witnessed a few incidents of the school intervening with students’ online behaviors, and I really start to question whether we have such thing as privacy once we are connected to the Internet.

On the other hand, due to the special relationship between the university/college and the students, certain surveillance of students’ internet behaviors might be needed for safety reasons. But before it is used and heavily valued in universities, one might want to question the effectiveness of this technology. Is that really a tool with such high accuracy? Or in fact students are more often being stigmatized? Also, for those “troubled” students, would they really use the school Internet to search about the “twin Glock 22 pistols”, or email each other about the plan or violent behaviors they are about to pull off? Certain levels of student data mining can be used in universities, but how and to what extent it should be used need to be well considered.



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Safety versus privacy: what's more important?

In a devastating massacre on the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) campus in 2007, a total of 33 lives were lost.  Aside from the calamitous loss of lives, one of the most saddening aspects of the tragedy is that it could have been prevented.

In the article "Mining Student Data Could Save Lives," author Michael Morris explains that universities have the ability to access student emails, student internet searches, and student social media accounts through a process called "data mining."  By searching through this information, university officials can predict student behavior and prevent on-campus violence.

I plan to write my paper on Morris' article because as a college student, much of what Morris explains strongly pertains to me and my peers.  I find his article very interesting because both sides of the argument (safety versus privacy) hold compelling arguments.  I hope to explore each side with the goal of determining which is more important.  Student concerns about Internet privacy (even privacy of one's own personal email) are very legitimate, however, university officials' interest in protecting the student body as a whole may be paramount.


Opposing Views on Safety

I plan to respond to the essay by Michael Morris, titled “Mining Student Data Could Save Lives.” This essay discusses the potential disasters that could be avoided if universities monitored their students’ data.

I find this essay especially compelling because of the relevant nature of its subject matter. As a college student, knowing that my university could see my internet activity at any time is a little worrying. However, the benefits of doing so make it a valid avenue to make campuses safer.

From one viewpoint, students deserve privacy. With events such as the hacking of big companies such as Ashley Madison and Sony, it wouldn’t be too difficult to hack a university’s system and have access to thousands of students’ personal information. On a smaller scale, it would be possible to target information about specific individuals and use that to blackmail or threaten them, as happened in the media when nude pictures of celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence were released. There is a certain danger in allowing universities access to students’ personal data, and the complete ramifications cannot be predicted until it actually happens.

On the other side of the debate, using algorithms to track internet activity could be a major part of preventing violence and crime. The main example in Morris’s essay was that of a student who had bought firearms online, and may have engaged in other warning activities that could have served as red flags for those monitoring those types of activities. In these cases, it would have been immensely helpful to have a system in place that allows universities to monitor student activity.

There are many other factors to consider in this debate as well, from secrecy to censorship. Because of this, I am choosing to respond to Morris’s essay in my first paper.

More than Privacy

Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother is a great read that makes the reader question whether privacy is worth giving up for security. In the third chapter, Marcus is detained and told to unlock his phone and decrypt the files for the government agents. He refuses to comply, citing his right to privacy, but the agents ignore him and tell him he has no other choice and “Honest people don’t have anything to hide”.

This phrase stood out to me and made me think about our discussion in class where the question of security versus privacy was proposed. The argument that we should not be worried about our privacy being invaded if we have nothing to hide is used as a basic argument in favor of security over privacy; however, this passage makes me question that argument. Most people have nothing to hide, but I do not think that this makes it acceptable to take away the right to privacy for everyone. I also think that if one right can be taken away from us, then there is nothing stopping the government from stripping the other rights we have as well. What is the point of basic human rights if they can be declared no longer basic at any time?

This passage discusses our right to privacy, but it also has made me think about the effects of the decisions we make regarding it. If we allow the government to take away one of our rights, then we pretty much give up our rights in general. How we react to the current privacy situations, such as the NSA scandal, will affect more than just privacy, it will determine the level of liberty of future generations.

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