Sunday, June 16, 2013

Data Security in the Internet Era

There has been quite an uproar about the revelations this last week that the government has been snooping around our telephone and internet email communications, not to exclude our Tweets, Facebook postings, etc.  I, quite frankly, don't understand what the discomfort is all about.  Did people really think that existence and contents of their internet interactions were private like the letters we send via the US Postal Service?

I hardly store anything on my computer anymore.  I use Google for all my documents and spreadsheets, I use Gmail for storing my emails, and a host of other cloud company services to store anything else I might want to keep.  Hell, I even use PayTrust to store my bills -- I don't even have paper back up of them.  Usually, when I get a paper document that I do want to save, I scan it and file it on one of the services that is most appropriate for the document or image.  For example, in the rare event that I should actually receive a tangible bill for something, like for a delivery of compost for my garden that I paid for with cash, I mail the bill to PayTrust and file it there without paying it again.

Having served as an expert witness in matters involving computers for a number of decades, I have found that the typical non-computer person thinks that once they put something into their computer they think that it is no longer visible to others. Or worse, they think that if they destroy it once it was in their computer, that it is completely gone.  Where do these ideas come from?  This is not the old days where you could stash your old love letters in the attic and know, with a high degree of certainty, that unless someone was rifling around up there in your attic, NO ONE would know neither that they exist nor what they say.

If the government wants to legally get any information that I have had possession of, all they have to do is get a court order to have it produced by one of the firms that is holding my information.  They certainly don't have to rely on me to get the information.  They know that. I know that.  That is why I subconsciously know that any information I put into a tangible form can and will be available should the government ever want to avail itself of that information.

So, given this reality, I ask, why would I memorialize anything that could come back to haunt me?
--not that I have anything to hide that I should be haunted about.

The answer is that unless I am involved in some terrible illegal activity, or that I am trying to hide information about my personal behavior that I do not want others to know, that there is NO reason.

In fact, if I were to own a gun and didn't communicate or document the fact that I owned it, the government would have no way of knowing that I owned it.

Do you think that the government is sitting there with nothing to do on its hands but rifle through the gigabytes of information that I have created looking for juicy tidbits to tell the world about me?
If you do think that, you are very wrong.

In fact, the only thing I can think of that an ordinary citizen might produce that could be of interest to a repressive government would be some subversive political views which are threatening to the government.  For those who think that that is what our government is up to I have only two words to say: You're paranoid.

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