The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Month: September 2019 Page 1 of 4

Experience Causes Little Change to Drew's Beliefs

There was a part in the book where soon after Drew, Marcus' dad, is upset about being pulled over for no reason and patted down, his anger eventually dissolved and he continued to argue with Marcus, supporting what Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was doing. I found this especially strange and interesting. You would think that after experiencing the invasion of privacy and violation of rights that Marcus had been trying to tell him about, he would be fully opposed to what DHS was doing to the citizens of San Francisco. However, if anything, it seemed have made him support DHS more. I believe that he reacted this way because he was trying to look on the bright side of things, as most people would when they are going through tough times or even when they are being oppressed. His train of thought seemed to have been "I made be seen as guilty everywhere I go, but if I know I'm innocent and I stay innocent, actual guilty people are being arrested through this process, so it is okay." Only a few people in the believe seemed to have demonstrated the same type of attitude, but usually after people experience what it feels like to be oppressed, their entire attitude and perspective on a specific idea or belief changes if it opposes the shared perspective of the oppressed population. When this particular scene happened in the book, I actually read over it several times to make sure what I thought was happening actually happened. Drew Yallow's opinion on DHS switched for only a short period of time before he adopted his initial beliefs again, and defended them even greater.

Blog Assignment #5

For your fifth blog assignment, listen to the "Burning Down the Panopticon" episode of the podcast Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything and write a post between 200 and 400 words that responds to the following prompt.

Benjamen Walker argues that "the Panopticon is a terrible metaphor" for "our conversations and debates about surveillance." Do you agree with this thesis? Why or why not?

Note that if you agree with Walker's thesis, you should extend his argument in your blog post in some interesting way.

Please (1) give your post a descriptive title, (2) assign it to the "Student Posts" category, and (3) give it at least three useful tags. Your post is due by 9:00 a.m. on Monday, September 23rd.

Bookmark Assignment #3

I maintain a list of Twitter users who provide information, resources, opinions, and occasionally humor about cryptography, encryption, surveillance, and privacy. Here are the members of my "Crypto" Twitter list, and here are their most recent tweets.

For your third bookmarking assignment, find and bookmark a Twitter user who should be added to my "Crypto" Twitter list. Look for scholars, researchers, journalists, or others who are active on Twitter and regularly provide useful perspectives on encryption and its role in our society today. When evaluating a potential addition, know that humor is fine, but crazy is not.

The goal here is to build a list of sources that will provide good material for your  "security vs. privacy" papers later in the semester.

Your bookmark is due by 9 a.m. on Wednesday, September 27th. Please bookmark the Twitter user's account. The URL should have the form or something similar.

Problem Set #2

Here's your second problem set, in both Word and PDF formats. It's due on paper at the start of class on Friday, September 20th.

And here are some Excel files you'll probably want to use on the first question:

If you have questions about using these Excel files, let me know.

Blog Assignment #4

For your fourth blog assignment, write a post between 200 and 400 words that responds to one of the reading questions for Singh Chapter 2.

Please (1) give your post a descriptive title, (2) assign it to the "Student Posts" category, and (3) give it at least three useful tags. Your post is due by 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 19th.

Arguments and Evidence

Here's that schematic diagram of a typical argumentative essay that I shared in class yesterday, for your reference.

Little Brother Debate Map

Here's the security vs. privacy debate map we constructed in class on Monday. Click on the image to zoom in.

Bookmark Assignment #2

For your second bookmarking assignment, find and bookmark a resource providing information about one of the cryptography or security practices described in Little Brother. Be careful to select a resource that's both credible and recent. Save your bookmark to our Diigo group, and tag it with "LittleBrother" and at least one other useful tag.

Your bookmark is due by 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 11th. We'll take a little time in class to share your finds. If you have any questions about using Diigo, don't hesitate to ask.

Strict or Loose Construction?

Marcus argues during class with both Charles and Mrs. Anderson about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Though both sides in the book are represented by extreme views for the sensationalism of attempting to tell a good story, the actual debate is a valid case of differing opinions. The question of when to suspend the Bill of Rights remains contentious, however the government has made rulings in the past relating to the matter. Marcus states that the Bill of Rights is absolute, and should never be suspended. While this is a valid opinion, it does not reflect the views of the nation in “Little Brother”, nor does it reflect the views of our nation. The Supreme court has ruled that shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater, or hate speech, for example, are not protected under the first amendment, freedom of speech and expression. Though I would say that these examples are not necessarily suspending the Bill, the federal governments’ Patriot Act represents a suspension of the Bill in certain cases. The government is given wide latitude to seek out and prosecute terrorism based on a much lesser standard of truth than a court of law. Additionally, an important part of the debate is the right to privacy versus surveillance. Whether the right to privacy exists in the Bill of Rights is not debatable, there is no stated rule that creates it. The only arguments come from the 14th amendment, where Roe v. Wade was ruled based on the implied right to privacy. As part of the debate, Mrs. Anderson brings up how the constitution was made to change and adapt to the times, and that the founding fathers did not mean for it to remain immutable for years. Marcus argues the opposite, what is known as strict constructionism. Though I do not agree with how Mrs. Anderson wants to change the constitution, I would agree that it should not be interpreted literally, and that it should evolve with society. The very idea that the constitution has a built in amendments process shows that the founding fathers did not believe that they were the final say on the way this nation should be run.

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

In Little Brother, Marcus, the main character, frequently argues with his father over the matter of whether we should give up some of our personal freedoms and privacies in order to grant more power to those seeking to prevent harm from threats like terrorism. It's a difficult debate that I have occasionally had with myself, and I've never quite come to a conclusion, but in one of those arguments, Marcus raises a great point: are we really hurting the terrorists by adding security?

The main goal of terrorism is there in the name: terror. They want to scare people-- to make them feel unsafe. That's why their attacks always come in such violent and public forms. One terrorist organization cannot possibly hope to kill each and every citizen of the United States of America, but they could quite possibly make us all fear for our lives.

Marcus's point is this: by adding more checkpoints, more data mining, more tracking, more security, less privacy, are we really acting against the terrorists? Would you really feel safer if the police considered you a potential terrorist and had eyes, ears, and possibly guns pointed in your direction at all times? If they consider you and everyone you know a suspect, then you yourself might begin to suspect those around you.

Suddenly, everyone you see on the street is a potential murderer.

Suddenly, you aren't sure if you should eat at a particular restaurant because there aren't any open seats near the door. What if someone inside started shooting?

Suddenly, you have to think long and hard about accepting a job offer because you would have to take the subway on your commute. Sure, the pay is better, but what if a bomb went off while you were underground?

In an effort to prevent terrorist attacks, law enforcement can inadvertently carry out the end goal of those attacks: terror.


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