Thanks NSA for Ruining the Internet
I know, we have been told for years that the NSA has been spying on us. The revelations in recent months really aren’t that new. We always assumed there was that looming over us and many of us have even greeted various government agencies in our private chats and emails (i.e, “I want to blow that up, j/k nsa, LOL, no really just kidding”).
On the other hand, our lives are full of conspiracy theories that nag at us: Is that mirror in the dressing room a two-way mirror? Is that webcam on my laptop secretly recording me? Why is that black Suburban parked on my street? Fortunately, it’s easy to dismiss these things as conspiracy—that is until two guys step out of that Suburban and approach your door. Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA spying made it that real to us.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this is the reaction by our government. To them the problem isn’t that they are spying, it’s that we found out about it. If we just don’t know about it then everything will be okay, right? Fire some admins, tell us about a few of their programs, and maybe issue a terror alert to help us see how much they are helping us. Clearly they are missing the point here. What bothers us isn’t just the spying, it’s the loss of trust. Not just in our government, but in almost everything we do online. We can’t trust our email, our phone conversations, text messages, or online chats. Right, we kind of already knew this.
But once we found out that it is acceptable to lie in the name of national security, that changed everything. Suddenly when the NSA says there are no domestic spying programs, is that really true, or is it the least untruthful answer they are allowed to give us? When an online service we use says they don’t give information to the NSA, is that true or are they being to deny this? Do terms of service and privacy policies mean anything anymore when national security trumps everything?
Do we now just assume that all online privacy is compromised? If not by our own government, by some other entity? What about our online backups, our cloud storage services, online notes, bookmarks, calendars, to-do lists, photos, accounting, online banking, hosted web servers, password management services, or medical records? And what about encryption, do we even trust our current technologies anymore?
Denials by the NSA or these companies don’t mean anything to us now because how do we know these aren’t just National Security denials?
Fortunately, in the end this will be good for us. We will be forced to develop technologies that make us all more secure. We will step up to the challenge, putting us back in control of our data. Improving security will be the new civil disobedience.
In the meantime, thanks NSA for ruining the internet.