2013: The year trust died

2013: The year trust died

Summary: As we move forward into a new year, fully aware of all the data gathering, surveillance, and big data out there, I have only one simple piece of advice: Watch where you step.


Don't be evil

Back in the 1950s, Americans were -- generally speaking -- far more trusting of their government than Americans were in the 1960s. The Vietnam war and the Nixon resignation caused our government to lose substantial credibility among the citizenry.

In the 1950s, it was fashionable to trust the government. It was politically acceptable to think your local police officer was your friend.

But in the 1960s, a seismic trust-shift took place, and ever since then, the government has been losing the trust of its citizenry. "The Man," in all it's incarnations, from the PoPo to the FBI and CIA have become organizations right-thinking people are expected to distrust.

And then came the Internet, the great equalizer. We could all have a Web page, a blog, a presence, a voice. We could all reach each other instantly. Services were free (and software "wants to be free," if you believe millionaire Steward Brand). It became fashionable to trust again -- but this time it was in Google and in Facebook that we put our trust.

Big Internet companies were simply happy accidents. Google was originally a Web spider built by college students with LEGO blocks and Facebook was originally coded in a Harvard dorm room. Billions of dollars were never part of the plan. Sharing, connecting, and socializing were the order of the day.

Google adopted the slogan, "Don't be evil." Today it seems almost ironic, as Google has run roughshod over the advertising industries, the newspaper industries, and even governs pretty much everything we get to read and know about online.

Facebook is our friend, just at the same time as it builds one of the biggest personal analytics models of the human race ever seen.

Until 2013, it was still fashionable to trust these Internet monoliths.

Then came Edward Snowden's PowerPoint slides, showing that -- perhaps -- companies like Facebook, Google, and others were sharing data with the NSA.

Suddenly, not only couldn't we trust the government, we couldn't trust the companies with whom we've been entrusting all the details of our lives.

Suddenly, it is no longer fashionable to trust the Internet companies, either. Trust is dead. 2013 is the year trust died.

Digital footprints

As we look into the future, it's important to recognize a simple fact: we will leave digital footprints. Those digital footprints will be collected and analyzed, both by nations and by marketers. They will be used to look into our private lives, and they will be used to make our private lives just a little easier.

Footprints are nothing new. Well, to be fair, they're new to us, but they're not new to mankind.

Throughout thousands of years, whenever a person or a beast put one foot in front of another, they'd leave small indentations in the ground. Those indentations could be tracked by observant individuals, and they could be used for the benefit of hunting -- for food or for prisoners.

In the 20th century, we started to forget about the ubiquity of footprints because our roads were paved and our sidewalks were made of concrete. There might be a little stain from dirt, but the indentations and tracks were no longer there. Footprints became rarer and rarer, something more common in a Western movie than in real life.

But now, footprints are back. They're more permanent that the physical kind. After all, courtesy of Google, thirty years later, we know that at 01:42:56 PST on November 25, 1982, I was logged into Ucb-C70 at UC Berkeley.

Everything online logs information. Everything leaves tracks. Data isn't moved, it's duplicated and then, possibly, deleted.

This is the 21st century. We do all our business online. We conduct most of our personal communications online. We conduct a vast amount of shopping online. We meet people online. We work with people online. We even romance people online.

We are as much an online society as the Americans of the 18th century were an agrarian society.

Both societies left footprints. Their footprints were often muddy, their shoes often filled with muck. Our footprints are digital. The muck we rake isn't of the physical variety, but it's no less dirty.

As we move forward into a new year, fully aware of all the data gathering, surveillance, and big data out there, I have only one simple piece of advice: watch where you step.

Topics: Privacy, Government, Government US, Security


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • exactly: the USA = the fascists, just facts here:

    sources, facts here:

    “The US government murdered not just 4487 US soldiers and 179 UK soldiers through the lies about mass destruction weapons existence in Iraq.

    The US government conducts a surveillance of all the US citizens, EU officials (Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff etc.) and all the people in the world to keep power. The reason can not be terrorism. Or are the chancellor of Germany or the brazilian President terrorists?

    CIA documents acknowledge its role in Iran’s 1953 coup (all just for oil), documents also admits changing US public opinions.

    The US government knows that these murders, surveillances, lies are not sustainable so has prepared concentrations camps for the US citizens when a bigger crisis comes.

    You can be KILLED or you can LOSE all your rights (indefinite detention) when the USA says you are just an abettor of terrorism (just striking? who knows?), Washingtonpost: “10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free”.

    The USA = murders for power, General Wesley Clark, retired 4-star U.S. Army general: “We’re going to take out 7 countries in 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan & Iran..” (about ten days after 9/11: “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I guess they don’t know what else to do.” So I said, “Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?” He said, “No, no.” He says, “There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.” He said, “I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments.” And he said, “I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.”)
    • Conspiracy theories are always correct.

      1. Dump heaps of questionable facts into the pot
      2. Stir thoroughly.
      3. Serve up the ones revealed to be true.
      4. Begin a new batch.

      Thanks, but none for me today. The truth is bad enough. Bad men are not exclusive to one country.
      • We knew, but we didn't know

        People had heard of the Echelon project in the 1990s, which tapped thousands of phone lines around the world.

        But the mainstream press never made a big deal of it. It was something we'd heard of, but couldn't verify. If you mentioned it, people thought you were a conspiracy theorist looney.

        Snowden has brought it all out into the mainstream. He shone a light onto the extent of surveillance.

        Even now, it is hard for many people to comprehend. If you received a letter in the post which had been torn open and read before you received it, you'd be angry. There is some material evidence.

        But when the NSA and governments read all your private emails, there is no tangible evidence. You don't get to see a dirty mark where they've been.

        So our reaction is not pretending to be shocked. It's still hard for most people to comprehend what's going on. People need to see more material evidence before they believe it.
        • NSA State

          Most people assumed governments would follow the same rules with e-communication as they do with paper-communication. Snowden showed this was largely false, governments are applying different rules and it is almost impossible for anyone to know it happened. A few experts might spot an occasional weird log listing but putting these scraps together is very difficult.
          • when you have enough processor power it is not much difficult

            when you have enough processor power it is not much difficult...... it is very easy! (ocr, correlation, fuzzy logic, database comparison (data mining) etc etc etc)
            very easy
      • you lie

        you lie
        the facts have been published everywhere in every newspaper all around the world..... so you mean they all are wrong?

        you should read more to understand the world more ;)

        can you read the sources in the link? There are written so many lies eg. Bush said
      • And...

        ...any conflicting facts are guaranteed to be fabricated and anyone who might disagree with your interpretation of the available evidence is guaranteed to be in on the plot.
        John L. Ries
    • where is this free oil then?

      ok, so the US invaded iraq to get free oil.. where is it?

      They started a coup in iran apparently for free oil... where is that free oil?

      I don't see anyone getting any free oil from anywhere.. and the irony is that the US invaded Iraq, history says they could have felt free to take all the oil they wanted for free.. but they didn't.. the people of iraq are getting the revenue for the oil in iraq, the US isn't getting any of the revenue.. so despite it being a very popular thing to suggest, it was never about oil.
      • But...

        ...I think there was some desire to try to make Iraq over into a Conservative showcase, and the Bush Administration didn't appear to be shy about awarding contracts to its friends and supporters.

        But no, we didn't try to steal Iraq's oil.
        John L. Ries
  • You are equating iBeacon with NSA tactics?

    With iBeacon use, a person is granting the corporation an implied right to target the individual with optional information.

    Pertaining to NSA actions, the user did not explicitedly grant any outside agency the tight to access any and all electronic personal information.

    Interesting comparison, David.
    • And

      the reports I read say that the users have to enable / accept the tracking? Or just turn off Bluetooth. It is opt in. With the NSA surveillance, there isn't even an opt out!

      I have nothing against "spy" agencies monitoring terrorists, bad guys and spies from other countries, that is what they have always done. My problem is that when did you and I become the bad guys?
      • But there are "you & I s" that ARE the bad guys.....

        The only way to differentiate is to look at it all. There is no magical little flag that pops up to say that "you" are good/bad. And, furthermore, the fact that "you" have, heretofore, been good; does not mean that you didn't go "bad" (radicalize) overnight. Unfortunately, as long as there are "bad guys", every single person is a viable candidate. Get over it!
        • But

          that doesn't mean you need to infringe the rights of every innocent person on the planet, "just in case". If you do that, then the terrorists have won.
  • You also incorporate some interesting arguments

    For example, you make the argument that if the vast majority of individuals know about illegal activities and/or grant permissions to an outside agency to continue with said illegal activities, than those activities become defacto legal actions.

    Interesting chain of logic.
  • Old tricks - new responses

    Are they serving the public good by withholding the remaining 99 percent? Or are they merely holding it back so they have juicy material to drive traffic for as long as they can keep it up?

    David the public can only absorb so much at once. If it had all been released at once it would have been blown off in a week and replaced by some form of prefabricated distraction. This has been going for so long everyone knows the game now and refuses to fall for it any more.

    I’ll go back and read the rest of the article now…
  • Unconstitutional law breaking is not OK

    Governments always claim they have our best interests at heart, and if you are not doing anything wrong you have nothing to fear.

    But these arguments fail under any sober scrutiny of reality. If you collect the data, there will be rogue elements who abuse it. The line between what is OK or politically embarrassing can shift at any time. Without a guarantee of privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and thus no true democracy.

    Massive unconstitutional data collection is anti-democratic and just plain dumb. If we were serious about protecting America, we would stop antagonizing the rest of the world with our lawless unethical behavior.

    Finally, the Snowden document trove is so enormous (200,000 classified documents) that it will take years to analyze and understand. Responsible journalism dictates that reporters take the time to understand these programs and check their facts before reporting.

    The revelations won't stop, get used to it.
    • Of course it's OK.

      A case of surveillance abuse just came up to the Supreme Court. Chief justice John "lapdog" Roberts decided not to hear the case.

      There is literally no hope for US citizens.
      • Roberts didn't decline the case all by himself

        It only takes four Justices to grant review, and the Chief doesn't have to be one of them.
        John L. Ries
  • Just in case the rumors about the NSA remotely turning on webcams are true,

    when you get a PC with built in webcam, use some adhesive tape to make a flap out of a small piece of cardboard to cover its lens, but allow you to flip it out of the way when you want to use it. No software disable command works as well as having opaque material over the lens.

    And yes, there was a verified report a few years ago of a local school board issuing laptops to middle and high school students, with a remote enabling command for the web cams above the screen, intended to be used to track STOLEN laptops. An administrator (may have been a principal or AP) was caught turning on cameras to watch students in their bedrooms, parents sued, and all he** broke loose politically.
    • Thank you 3M

      I just put a folded Post-It over the lens. Have done since the mid 90s.