The secret society that can't keep a secret

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.

TOPICS: Security

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. 

Topic: Security

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  • We'll Never Forget What's His Name

    Manning & Snowden are hardly examples of the TREMENDOUS value to an individual of sharing confidential information—"a value that is not measured in money but in prestige and status." Those guys have such prestige and status that one's in a military prison for 35 years and the other's in Russian exile. (Frankly, I'm not sure which is worse.) The real tipoff here as to their great prestige and status is how Tom Foremski misspells "Snowdon" [sic]. Yeah, we'll never forget what's his name.
    • GovComm

      LOL, .....We like you!

      We are the Government, we are here to help.
  • what are leakers called?

    spies, traitors, turncoats, "Benedict Arnold" comes to mind.
    any prestige they enjoy is from people who don't care if our cities become news reports for things like Boston and the many attempts to bring down large buildings in New York city.

    Send in the CIA to find the snowden and then nancy boy and remove them from existence.
    • Heh, nice try

      You are aware that NSA measures were firmly in place and functioning without any revelations about them at the time of the Boston bombing, right?

      Spying on your citizens doesn't protect them. It pisses them off. Treating your citizens and your allies like you treat your "enemies" is a great way to only have enemies. People forget that the FBI and the CIA subscribe to the blowback theory of terrorism. Terror is a fragmented phenomena, groups don't coordinate nearly as much as the media would like you to believe.

      Just like they said all terror was coordinated by Moscow during the Cold War, from the IRA to the PLO, they now attribute similar "any time, any place" characteristics to phantom (read: fantasy) enemies like "Al-Qaeda". Al-Qaeda is less a coherent group as it is a coherent idea, subscribed to by every Middle-Easterner who's had to sit helplessly while their lives and families were torn from them by a foreign aggressor.

      Do you honestly believe it's for your own good that the government knows everything about you, based on what you search for online. They can find out all your financial data, what you've bought, where you go, what your schedule is, who you talk to, when you talk to them, and what you care about . . . all without any sort of motivation to know such things. No warrant. No reason.

      Weakening encryption schemes with alleged backdoors, putting everyone's security at risk, and then putting those of us who don't use their encryption on watchlists. I don't know about you, but this is actually worse than the approach to citizen relations practiced by the former Soviet Union. People throw that crap around way too much, but it actually applies here. When else in human history have people been as monitored? Never before, but the Soviets were as close as comparisons get.
    • GovComm b1

      Snowden is already as good as gone ....

      We are the Government, we are here to help.
  • this misses the point

    "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."

    This is something of an exhibition of the tendency of people to believe important trends in history began on/about the date of their own birth. This problem began long, long ago.

    The NSA has long been a secret organization acquiring secret information excused by an alleged necessity of public security. This goes back at least as far as Eisenhower and likely originated with other deceptive and unlawful powers snatched by FDR and his henchment.

    In 1975, Senator Frank Church and his committee investigated NSA in depth. Quiting from the Wiki:

    Church was stunned by what the Church Committee learned about the immense operations and electronic monitoring capabilities of the National Security Agency (NSA), an agency whose existence was unknown to most Americans at the time. Church stated in 1975: "That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."[34] He is widely quoted as also stating regarding the NSA: "I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge... I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

    The problem is dangerous government power and no effective means to keep it in check. The technology of the day is irrelevant. The abuse of power isn't dependent on it.
    • ...this misses the point

      I wish they would stop the NSA crap, i mean how much data do you have to dig up to quote "protect the US from Terrorists". The NSA data sure as heck didn't protect against the Boston Bombers.

      So what now, let the country become a total communism? I mean why call it the land of the free if everything about you and everyone else is going to be monitored for your entire life?
      • GovReply a1

        Sounds like you have an attitude there my friend.
        Don't make us come pay you a friendly little "visit"

        We are the Government, we are here to help.
    • Snowden's reasons..

      As I read it, watching the original Guardian interview, Snowden was less concerned about the abilities of the NSA to spy on everyone - rather he was disturbed about how the "spies" in the offices around him were actually doing illegal things - far beyond their normal mandate.
      ASs he explained, a "normal" employee of the NSA like himself had enormous power to snoop on anyone... without any oversight.

      This means that individuals were using (or were able to use) their work-privileges to snoop where no warrant had asked them to do so.

      This is a very differtent picture to what the media are painting. It seems that no-one wants to know what Snowden's message is - yet it's there for all to see and hear.
  • 1966

    I remember back in 1970 learning about the existence of the NSA from other intelligence types. I'm sure it was around many years before that. The Blackbird was flying before the U2 got shot down. There is a lot of very secret stuff out there.
    • Blackbird

      came after U2.
  • First lesson

    First lesson in army: military and intelligence is a contradiction in itself.
  • GovComm 445f

    Spying on the population is the duty of government, any other viewpoint is unpatriotic!
  • Google Carol Sue Rosin

    Carol Rosin
    Award-winning educator, author, leading aerospace executive and space and missile defense consultant.
    First woman corporate manager of Fairchild Industries
    Spokesperson for Wernher von Braun.

    She tells the story of physicist Wernher von Braun repeatedly warning her of a long term plan that he was aware of for government to generate endless fear and control, first through normal wars, then through worldwide terrorism threats, and finally a staged alien threat. Rosin believes that we are being prepared for the final act through movies, television, and other venues that are conditioning us to assume that an extraterrestrial presence in the universe must necessarily be evil and a threat. Alien terrorists!