The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: freedom

Privacy VS Terrorism

At the beginning of the book, when Marcus skips the school with his friends, a terrorist attack happens and the Department of the Homeland Security “arrest” them since they doubt the Marcus and their friends may take part in this serious event. Without any strong evidences, DHS asked them to provide all of their privacy in order to find out the wirepuller of this event and the methods of committing the crime. In order to gain freedom, Marcus and his friends tell all of their passwords to DHS. Finally, they (without Darryl, one of Marcus’s friends) are released by DHS, but they are under the surveillance of DHS, especially for Marcus.

This series of events that DHS has done to Marcus’s friends catches my attention. I have heard of the interrogations of some departments catches people and ask them same question over and over again even though the they are innocent. I know what the department has done is trying to reduce the terrorists and build a safer country for other citizens, but they should do these when they have enough evidences. What they are trying to solve is good for the country, but the way of approaching their goals is wrong. The secret department of every country should investigate more before suspecting. At some serious situation, catching any people that may be the terrorists as soon as possible is seemed to be efficient of not letting go the true terrorists and is easy to implement, but these secret departments can improve their way of investigating and data-mining to reduce the possibility of catching the wrong person. By improving this, there will be less complaints about their actions and more benefits to the citizens.

Surveillance and Freedom of Speech: Should the U.S succumb to an 1984 type of Society?

Put simply, surveillance is a systematic way of searching for a flaw in a pool of data and when a camera is pointed at somebody, they knowingly change the ways that they act and even think while they are being watched. The idea that you are being watched is suggestive that you are already guilty of something; if you were left alone in a room with a chair, table, and a mirror on the wall, you would become suspicious that your actions within the room are being watched and will be under scrutiny. Surveillance actually creates a great deal of paranoia and this has many deep implications.

Since we are granting the government a “wide latitude of surveillance” we can give them the power to access our social media. This especially will impact activist groups that heavily rely on the power of mass communication that social media platforms have. If the government had a greater capacity to monitor what activist groups plan or say, wouldn’t the groups begin to feel pressure from the presence of an authority figure watching over them and suppress some of their own communication. Surveillance now becomes an issue of free speech rather than a tool to help us improve our own society. If every embodiment of a thought such as a text, tweet, email or status update is looked upon by an institution that installs fear in us at time, isn’t our free speech inhibited?

A good comparison to make in this situation is the Chinese Social credit system. It is first important to note that the Chinese government has different expectations then the United States government, their tradition is more focused on promoting good social behavior. However, we should believe that if a similar system for monitoring the public is used, the government will have its own agenda as well. We cannot ensure that politics will eventually play a role in how we are being watched. How will surveillance affect conversations of complicated topics such as gun control or planned parenthood? Our country has people with opinions across a wide spectrum of values, surveillance would aid in suppressing people with specific views and bring social reform to a halt. With a “wide latitude of surveillance”, this reality isn’t very distant, and once we allow the government anymore access to our information, we will never be able to undo that large digital leap of faith.

Digital Encyption: Modern Day’s Most Important Luxuries

Strong public encryption greatly benefits the general public. The ability to send all your messages with the knowledge that it is secure and will only be read by the recipient is a modern day luxury. One of the arguments against strong encryption points out that if you don’t have any secrets to hide then your should feel safe sending your emails without encryption. However, a intangible benefit of encryption is that feeling of security. If we knew that all our messages, actions, and conversations were watched by the government or some stranger, we would not feel comfortable to speak our minds and act on behalf of  our own identity. We would feel the need to create an identity that performs actions and sends messages that are compliant with the rules. Free speech is obstructed without strong internet encryption. Singh’s book mentioned how Zimmermann received many thank yous for posting PGP because they were now able to “create resistance groups in Burma.”

Secondly, if strong encryption was cut off from the public, would society be more safe. The government would like to argue that more criminals and terrorists would be caught without encryption techniques, but without any protection of the general public’s data, a lot more havoc will happen to more people. Digit information is the most important part of our lives, and if it was all unprotected, it would be the equivalent of leaving all your doors and windows of your house open while you are away. We need strong encryption for our safety and privacy, the government has to catch criminals without hurting everyone else.


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. 

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?

Freedom of the Press Still Requires Bravery – Taking on the NSA

“How to save the Net: Break up the NSA.” This is a bold statement for a bold article. Bruce Schneier, renowned cryptographer and writer, bravely authored this article for Wired as a part of the “Save the Net” series, “featuring bold solutions to the biggest problems facing the Internet today.” Schneier proposes that the NSA should be separated into its three main components: government surveillance, citizen surveillance, and defense of U.S. infrastructure, and these three sectors placed into different departments. Especially the more we learn about the NSA’s reaching power and what they can do, they seem like such an untouchable superpower. I really admire Schneier’s audacity to suggest such a radical solution, and I think his ideas make sense. Considering the Snowden leaks, the NSA’s international mission should be protected at a military level in the Department of Defense, domestic surveillance goes hand in hand with the mission of the Justice Department, and, Schneier argues, the defense of American infrastructure should be by a new and open organization. I think what we find so intimidating about the NSA is that if they have the power to hack into a foreign government, what would stop them from looking into my personal phone or computer? But we don’t seem to have a problem with the military cybersecurity having a similar power. It would be interesting to continue to explore the possible consequences of having a governmental agency that people trust devoted to protecting American citizens online, while the Departments of Defense and Justice combine forces with current NSA programs to secretly do what they need to do to protect us. And ironically, the NSA will most likely see and read this article that was published online, but that’s what the freedom of press is all about!

We Don’t Know What We Have Until It’s Gone

Chapter 4 of Little Brother circles around the idea of a want for familiarity. After the main character, Marcus Yarrow, is taken hostage, he is stripped of his belongings and dignity. Marcus talks about wanting to be back with his friends and parents, as anyone would in this situation, but what intrigues me is how much we all take such familiarities for granted. As Marcus realizes he is getting onto a boat and leaving his homeland, he becomes sick to his stomach at the thought of never seeing his parents again. However, had Marcus been leaving to go on a vacation without his parents, he most likely wouldn’t have thought twice about parting with his parents. On a similar note, seeing a pizza carton’s familiar logo causes Marcus to be sad and nostalgic of his free life. Yet before taken hostage, the pizza logo was virtually meaningless. This chapter has made me realize that we take so many things for granted and don’t realize what we have until its gone. Marcus even stated that he missed his school, which he couldn’t have hated more in the first few chapters. Aside from parents and friends, we also don’t realize the freedoms we as American citizens have, and all take for granted. At the end of the chapter, Marcus is finally released and couldn’t be happier have his usual clothes back and hear the familiar sounds, which went unnoticed before this event, in his familiar city. Marcus now appreciates these feelings and items that used to be overlooked. 

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