Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Month: November 2019 Page 1 of 5

Why we need more surveillance

Now there's the obvious reason that more surveillance can catch more criminals, achieve more justice, deter further crime, and thus lead to a safer society. To those who suggest that citizens' privacy will be violated in our quest for more safety, I say this: our privacy will be destroyed anyway. According to historical trends, coupled with the current political climate, the government will only continue to add more cameras, initiate more surveillance programs, and expand. Thus the only recourse to check the power of an overreaching government is to add more cameras that are able to document the every action: actions undertaken by the public and by the government. Thus it is meaningless to debate national security with the assumption that we still have privacy, because that assumption isn't based in reality.

Finally this third reason may be a bit... strange. Individuals are selfish creatures who often act within their own self-interest to achieve a goal, even if that means harming others along the way. There are countless examples of corporations, small groups, and individuals harming others to achieve a personal or professional goal. Thus it's far better for the government, which generally consists of a more educated subsection of the populace, to make decisions on behalf of the public even if the public has no say in the decision, or the government obtains their data through privacy-violating means. Thus, it is for the above reasons that I am pro-surveillance.

Notes from a Notetaker

To start off, I'll be taking notes on every argument that is made. Good or bad, sensible or not, I'll write it down. It will be up to the jurors to pick through this information, deciding which arguments are the strongest, most factual, and most convincing.

That being said, there are some aspects of this debate that it's crucial we touch upon. First, how effective is the surveillance that those favoring the "security" side argue for? An argument must not be based on hypotheticals. They should include concrete examples of instances in which surveillance has increased security if they hope to convince the jury that security is more important. However, the privacy side must argue more than just "citizens have a right to privacy." It's widely accepted that 100% privacy isn't possible in our country. But what amount of privacy sacrificed is a reasonable amount? Where is "the line" that determines when privacy is violated?  Additionally, both sides should address the concerns of the other side. Each person has different values, and everyone is comfortable giving up different amounts of privacy. Moreover, what makes one person feel "secure" may not make another feel the same. Thus, it's difficult to craft one policy that pleases the most amount of people. How do we reconcile the opinions of so many people when finding a solution that effects all of them?

It is my thought that the debate will center more around the morals of the statement rather than the legislation. I hope that we discuss what "should" be done, as opposed to what the law may say. However, it will also be important to explore how effective the law has been in preventing privacy violations and promoting security. I'm looking forward to hearing both sides, and copying their arguments into a google doc as fast as I possibly can!

Privacy Makes Sense

I have never needed much persuading when it came to believing in the privacy argument, as it actually makes a lot of sense. However, I can see how someone could be tempted to be in favor of surveillance if they did not understand the meaning of privacy. As Snowden has noted several times throughout his journey, privacy is not necessarily about hiding information, but about the ability to protect it if necessary. For this reason, the right to privacy encompasses many of our rights that we have today. For instance the freedom of speech. Most people would not argue against the First Amendment even though it has similar properties. As snowden remarks, "Arguing that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is like arguing that you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say” (Snowden.) Freedom of speech is wanted twenty-four seven, even when we do not appear to need it. The argument that “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” is additionally problematic for a different reason. Today both regular citizens and politicians use this phrase alike, unaware of its background. Snowden reminds us that this phrase was common in Nazi propaganda, and is being missuesd today. 

The uses of surveillance in the past have been mediocre at best. Many times, surveillance has been abused, and used to take down minority groups. An example of this could be the wiretapping of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. beginning in 1963, and finally ending after his death. The FBI at this time closely surveilled Dr. King, hopping to reveal a communist background. When evidence of this did not arise, they turned petty, and revelaed sensitive information on his sex life. Clearly, surveillance at this time did not halt terrorism, if anything it hindered the civil rights moevemnt.

 

Important Aspects for Notetakers

During the debate, I think the most important aspect is the arguments of the pros and cons. The arguments are the basic elements in the debate; without arguments, there is not a debate to talk about. What’s more, all the examples and personal opinions are developed based on the arguments and arguments are the basic skeletons of the debate which makes them very important for notetakers. After the argument, the example is less important than it, but it is still essential to debate. Examples are the supports for the arguments which can directly show the thoughts of the debaters. Examples can be used to explain the arguments and how debaters defend their position and point out opponents’ weaknesses. What’s more, the examples can work as an explanation for the viewers who are not able to watch the whole process, which makes it important to notetakers too. Last but not least, the logic between the examples and arguments is important. Although sometimes the logic between the examples and arguments can be easily got by the viewers, the understanding between viewers and debaters may still defer. By taking several sentences of the debaters about the logic, the perplex of the viewers will be eliminated and make the debate more understandable. I think these three aspects are the points that the notetakers need to pay attention to.

Blog Assignment #12

Okay, this is it: your final required blog post. For this assignment, write a 200 to 400 word post that responds to the question below that matches your role in the class debate scheduled for Monday, December 2nd. Note that we'll be debating this statement:

The US government should be given wide latitude to use electronic surveillance in the interests of national security, even if that means citizens’ privacy is not always respected.

Here are the questions:

  • Pro - You'll argue in favor of this statement, so what are two or three reasons you find compelling to support the statement?
  • Con - You'll argue against this statement, so what are two or three reasons you find compelling to counter the statement?
  • Jury - You'll evaluate the arguments made by the Pro team and the Con team, so what criteria are you planning to use to evaluate those arguments?
  • Notetakers - You'll take notes during the debate, so what are two or three aspects of this debate (issues, arguments, examples) that you feel are essential to the debate?

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, December 2nd.

Quantifying Emotions

An example on privacy I found interesting was that colleges use tracking pixels embedded within their emails to gauge the interest of potential students in their university. Also that the pixels score each student depending on how quickly they open the email all the while doing this without asking for permission. I see this as extremely troubling and unfair for students. This is troubling because universities are choosing to quantify an emotion. Interest comes and goes in waves. One month you may be dead set on one college then comes a long a sudden change of heart and you’re devoted to another school. What happens if you want to go to a certain college but you check the email a week too late? Is the college just going to assume you’re uninterested based on your emotions towards the school months prior? I think it’s troubling that universities are doing this. It is also unfair. Oftentimes, seniors in highschool would rather be doing something else instead of checking their emails. For highschool seniors in particular, they are swamped with college emails from the get-go of the school year. Universities should abandon this tracking pixel data and instead utilize data from online surveys where students who are actually interested in the school go in and insert their information.

Your Face is Valuable

In Episode 062 of Leading Lines, the point I found most intriguing was when Dr. Bruff brought up the recent hype about FaceApp. And I can relate to this particularly because I remember exactly when that trend popped up and how I, just like everyone else, hopped on that train and tried it out. And at the time, it was borderline amazing  and absolutely hilarious. In hindsight, and with the power of some good ole education, I can now see how potentially dangerous something like FaceApp is.

The usage of facial recognition, especially within an app where they use your own pictures, can potentially be very dangerous because of the implications it has of staying on the web. Whether it's through FaceBook or Instagram, many people are easily able to find photos of themselves on the Internet, and Chris Gilliard makes a point to say that none of those he himself put online. That just comes to show that despite what one might say or might think, people are always out somewhere in the world ready to jump on anything they can get their hands on and use it against you or to their advantage. Whether FaceApp was used deliberately to track people down is up for speculation, but regardless of whether this is the case or not, we should be more aware of what we put up, whether it be writing or photos, simply because everyone and anyone can see.

Surveillance is (Definitely and Obviously) Wrong

The potential of FaceApp and even Ring Doorbells were  brought up as being possible tools used to advance facial recognition technology. Dr. Bruff mentioned that a lot of the times, facial recognition is not even accurate, and when asked how he feels about this, Chris Gilliard said that the biggest problem for him is not whether or not it works accurately, but just that fact that surveillance in this way is still bad and wrong, period.

I agree with what Gilliard with this statement. A little earlier in the podcast, the fact that some teens have a "nothing to hide" mentality was discussed, and I have to admit, I personally had (and still kind of do) that mentality, but once you actually realize just how much data is collected from you, that type of belief goes away. For instance, we talked about in class what Gilliard brought up about how if you go on Maps, you can see where you've been and when you were there for the past couple of months. A teen or young adult would not normally know about this, but once they do, they are immediately freaked out and like Gilliard said, some of his students immediately turned it off.

Surveillance like that is pretty accurate, however, no matter the accuracy, it is not right to collect data from people's phones like that without explicitly telling them that you are tracking them. It would probably be seen as common knowledge that a GPS can track where you are going, but I think the "most wrong" thing about that is that the data is being stored up and saved.

Face app: How companies use seemingly innocuous apps to gather data on us

The interview with Chris Gilliard dove into some interesting points, from the way colleges gauge student interest by the number of times they open their email to how doorbell can surveil their customers through the use of the Ring camera. But one of the more interesting points I thought came from Face App. This app recently became viral for its "aging" photos, where user submit current pictures of themselves and the app will provide an estimation of how you look in the next couple decades. From happy churchgoers to Lebron James, millions of people have used this app: but where are their pictures going? Face app stores visual data about their users and is then able to curate content or sell that data to other companies, often without or awareness or consent.

But this app brings into focus the broader argument of how companies violate our privacy and take our data through everyday actions. Even when browsing the App Store or google searching items to make a cake, big tech is monitoring our movements to better understand our behavior, and how they can better fit our needs and thus gain more profit. When we as users submit photos to face app or tweet on twitter, we must understand that we are giving away bits and pieces of ourselves to strangers whose sole intention it is to make a profit off that. And it's important to hold companies accountable for what apps they create, especially if they're taking user data without an explicit agreement on not selling said data. Although it's ultimately the companies' choosing to release apps such as face app, we the users must be more aware of what using those apps entails.

Worry About Amazon

In Episode 062 of Leading Lines, Derek Bruff's guest Chris Gillard begins talking about changing his twitter handle to something insulting Amazon as a joke. In explaining his motivation behind this, he said  "I'm very troubled to say the least by the surveillance network amazon is building." While almost just a comment in passing, I found this to be an extremely interesting comment. This is because of the role amazon is begging to play in our society. For a long time, I have claimed that the things amazon is beginning to do are not only troublesome in terms of our security, but also in terms of our economy and our survival.

What Amazon started out doing was fine. Providing an online marketplace to compete with in-store shopping and with online shopping on companies' sites was a good idea. However, the success of that idea has allowed Amazon to expand into much more than that. As Amazon out competes retail and closes stores, and as it grows dominance as the only mainstream online marketplace, its power becomes too intense. This is shown in the fact that it has been proven that Amazon's actions directly impact inflation, which no one company should be able to do, and that municipal governments competed and begged for Amazon's headquarters. This business such a powerful presence, and it is expanding. Amazon is planning to start it own banking system. This would make the Amazon experience completely contained: people could hold their money in Amazon and use it to purchase what they need in Amazon. The problem is that this involves giving away so much financial and personal data. And not to the government; to a private company. If the government can abuse data, a private company can do worse, and a private company that it seems can't be held accountable because society is starting to depend on it can do much, much worse.

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