Books written by Ray Sullivan

Monday, 10 June 2013

Try Googling 'Privacy'

I'd like to make it abundantly clear from the beginning that I have no problem with the UK government reading my emails. In fact, I'd like to extend the invitation to the US government too, partly because I don't have anything to hide - I'm sure most of my emails would be very boring, especially to the recipients, never mind some well meaning spooks attempting to spot any potential terrorists.  However the main reason I'm content for them to have this access is that I've understood that all emails route through GCHQ in the UK anyway and, by extension, anything that is gleaned from them that is pertinent to the US authorities is shared.

But notwithstanding my assumptions, I'm pretty relaxed about the whole thing.  Same goes for my Facebook posts, Twitter feeds and as for reading my blog - well we all can do with new readers in blogworld.  Let's face it, even spooks read ebooks.

However there is a lot of concern being voiced either side of the Atlantic about alleged access to the emails and social media of individuals including their Facebook and Google account information.  Some allegations are that the NSA has been given direct access to the servers of the largest internet companies including Google and Facebook.  The CEOs of both companies have issued highly similar statements - which has led some pundits to suggest that they have colluded with each other.  Or maybe they use the same spin doctors for PR?

The statements essentially stated that the companies had not joined any program that would give the US government - or any other government  - direct access to their servers.  Specifically they have said they hadn't heard of Operation Prism - which given it is an internal operation name isn't altogether unlikely.  Some might read this as being overly specific, for example the statement would technically be considered true if they had simply joined a program that gave the government indirect access.  I reckon it would need a legion of lawyers to split the exact difference between direct and indirect in this legal environment.  That could take a long time as the best IT industry lawyers are currently facing each other down for Apple and Samsung over their patent squabbles.

Just to add conspiracy to theory, Twitter have made a far less interpretive statement that suggests they had been invited to participate but had declined.  Maybe they use a different PR agency?  Anyway it would appear that Twitter do not allow access - possibly none of the companies named in the reports do either, it's just less obvious.  What isn't being denied is that this data is being accessed and used for security purposes.  There's a whole host of ethical debate that is about to erupt over this news story and a lot of it is going to become emotive, what with the war on terror and international crime.  The balance between personal privacy and global security is a strangely finely balanced one, it appears. 

For me, well as I said at the top of the post, I'm not concerned about my emails and Facebook posts being read by the likes of the NSA, although it would have been nice to have been asked.  I do  wonder over some of the blog posts - I do seem to stray into some areas that might send an automatic scanner to flag a warning now and then, but in the main, I'm cool about it. 

In fact, if the NSA want to add me as a Friend on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, then I'll readily accept them and follow back in a heartbeat  This blog accepts followers, too, apparently but I haven't a clue about how I do anything for them.  Maybe Google could ask the NSA, who apparently employ some smart cookies. I accept cookies too, so they could pop one or two of them in my PC as well if it helps.  But if they want to read my emails then they'll have to hack my password, just like everyone else, but that shouldn't be too hard, judging by recent attempts.


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