Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: security (Page 1 of 5)

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?

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. 

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.

Needle in a Haystack

In Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow, Marcus's father supports the actions of the police saying that Bayesian analysis is a reasonable and logical response. He believes that data mining is key to crime prevention: "...it's perfectly reasonable to conduct their investigation by starting with data mining, and then following it up with legwork where a human being actually intervenes..." (Doctorow 109). Drew begins as an advocate for this tactic but when it is taken too far and used to hurt rather than help he quickly turns against it.

This passage is so interesting because it shows a crucial point to the Security vs. Privacy that is so prominent today. The idea behind this type of analysis is data mining is an instrument and not a weapon. The proper use is to help, in the case of Little Brother, police "sort through the haystack to find a needle" (Doctorow 110). However, the police quickly cross the line when they rely solely on data mining to assess every aspect of a person. They lost the human component that makes their work humane. This passage is relevant to so many other topics too. For instance, the discussion about if data mining should be allowed at colleges and universities contains many key points that are touched upon here. Bayesian analysis could be utilized as a tool to help prevent future school attacks. Data mining can be one of the most helpful resources as long as it is kept in check. Long story short, this is an issue that can be argued for ages and that can never truly been answered. It is obviously wrong to use data mining to invade the privacy of an individual, but it gets extremely complicated when it could mean the safety of the majority.

Mining data could cause more harm than good

Michael Morris has written an article arguing that ‘Mining student data could save lives’ for The Chronicle. Morris thinks that places of higher education should use the data they gather about their students from their servers to spot certain behavioral patterns or “warning signs” that could lead to certain situations such as terrorist attacks. He argues that the number of people killed will decrease and that this is a justification for making data public over keeping it private. I disagree with the author’s thesis because I believe that even though “data mining could save lives” it will actually cause more problems than it solves.

Once we start giving up our right to privacy of information we begin to lose track of where we draw the line between whether something should be kept private or made public. For example, in the San Bernardino shootings where Apple refused to allow the government access to the shooter’s phone. Had Apple conceded to the government’s wishes then not only does it undermine our basic human rights as citizens to privacy but also it gives the impression that any organization can gain access to any information whenever they want it in the name of security. Once we start exchanging our freedom (of privacy) for safety then these organizations, in this case universities, then this can lead to universities and other organizations requesting and compiling more data from us which just makes the term “privacy” obsolete. This huge compilation of data may not only be available to the organizations themselves but to other people with malicious intent too.

If every student agreed to let their data be used by the university or college that only creates another problem which is making sure that all that information is kept safe and secure. If a university collects data from students and this information isn’t protected well enough, thousands of people’s names, financial information, phone numbers, and other things will be available for anyone to get access to. This happened recently at Michigan State University which then lead to the administrative staff paying a ransom of $15,000 for the hackers to stop. This attack, although small, clearly shows how mining student data can make more people susceptible to crimes than the amount of lives that it could potentially save.

To conclude, while I agree that Morris’ argument that data mining could save lives, I do think the implications of mining such data not only puts more people at risk to a different variety of crimes but also, creates a gray area of what information we can actually keep private, if there is any.

A Sacrifice for the Greater Good

In Michael Morris's essay "Mining Student Data Could Save Lives," Morris argues that by allowing universities access to student's online histories, campuses become much safer. In accessing this data, colleges can tell if a student is planning to cause harm to themselves or others and then step in to prevent the student from taking any drastic actions. At one point, universities didn't have the right to access students' private data, but after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, schools sought to gain the right to access this information. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Ferpa) was revised to grant them this access. Morris believes that since universities have access to this information, they should use it to their advantage rather than just ignoring it.

I agree with Morris's argument. I am all for Vanderbilt monitoring our activity to keep us safe. Personally, I have nothing to hide, and even if I were about to do something drastic, I'd want to be stopped before it was too late. Our community and others can only benefit from this type of monitoring. I can understand how some people could be up in arms about the breach of privacy, but it serves the greater good and helps communities become safer than they were before monitoring was implemented.

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.

 

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