The secret society that can't keep a secret

Summary:The more we try to keep secrets in the dark the more they come into the light... Technology won't help.

It's ironic that with all our technologies for keeping things secret our secrets have a way of coming out into the open. We now know so much about the super-secret NSA and its spying activities that it's as if Spy versus Spy had become a comic reality.

The NSA isn't to blame for this culture of surveillance, it was there long before, in the commercial spying by Google, Facebook, and others; in the nefarious activities of hacker groups; and on occasions, from friends and families. 

Individuals aren't spies but we have been conditioned to think like spies and take similar counter-measures.

The Pew Research Center this week reported that 86% of adults online, regularly take steps to outwit surveillance measures. As many as one in five have been a victim of having their email or social media accounts hacked. A further one in ten have lost important information such as social security numbers to third parties.

They used measures such as using encryption, and deleting cookies on a regular basis to foil trackers. Most people were less concerned about the NSA than they were about spying from advertisers, hackers, or friends and family, reports Pew.

It seems that we live in an online world where there's a great thirst for information versus a great desire to shield information. It's a war pitting technologies of concealment versus technologies of revelation.

Google's mission statement "to index the world's information" can be seen both as liberating and noble, and as sinister and evil. Yet it's the way of the world and appears to be the mission statement of many other organizations, private and public, although on different scales and interests.

Two opposing views means two sets of business opportunities.

We'll get a flood of new startups offering services to individuals as counter-measures to the new surveillance technologies being created by a flood of new startups.

It seems like a poor way to employ the energies of tens of thousands of highly trained people. 

Who will win?Will the technologies of concealment outwit the technologies of revelation? 

It seems all significant secrets eventually become public and it's because people are people. Technology can't keep secrets only people can keep secrets — and we are not wired to do that.

Bradley Manning and Edward Snowdon are examples of our human nature to share information that others don't have. "I know something that you don't," has tremendous value to an individual, a value that is not measured in money but in prestige and status. We learned that on the playground a long time ago.

Which is why secrets will always find the light of day no matter how powerful the technologies used to keep them in the dark. 

Topics: Security

About

In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

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