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Privacy Government Social Networks Technology Your Rights Online

Former Head of CIA Think Tank Talks Privacy, Technology 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the she-knows-if-you've-been-bad-or-good dept.
blackbearnh writes "Carmen Medina, until recently, helped run the analysis side of the house at the CIA. She also ran the agency's think tank, the Center for the Study of Intelligence. A self-proclaimed heretic, she has a number of controversial views about how we gather intelligence and how technology is changing the game. She talked to O'Reilly Radar about this and other topics, including the possible ways that intelligence analysis could be crowdsourced, why government technology procurement is so broken, and how the public may need to readjust its views on what things such as privacy mean. Medina said, 'Government is viewed as inefficient and wasteful by American citizens. I would argue that one of the reasons why that view has grown is that they're comparing the inefficiency of government to how they relate to their bank or to their airline. Interestingly enough, for private industry to provide that level of service, there are a lot of legacy privacy barriers that are being broken. Private industry is doing all sorts of analysis of you as a consumer to provide you better service and to let them make more profit. But the same consumer that's okay with private industry doing that is not okay, in a knee-jerk reaction, with government doing that. And yet, if government, because of this dynamic, continues not to be able to adopt modern transactional practices, then it's going to fall further behind the satisfaction curve.'"
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Former Head of CIA Think Tank Talks Privacy, Technology

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  • by JustNiz (692889) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:06PM (#32075580)

    >>> Private industry is doing all sorts of analysis of you as a consumer to provide you better service and to let them make more profit. But the same consumer that's okay with private industry doing that is not okay, in a knee-jerk reaction, with government doing that.
    -----
    The reason is, Airlines and such don't have the same authority over you as the government. Its OK for them to know about it because at the end of the day we still have a choice to use a different airline. I'll be OK with it when we have real control over how the government/police can choose to treat us.

  • Nonsense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rmushkatblat (1690080) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:06PM (#32075584)
    This is nonsense, of course.

    The point is that we don't want the government doing any of that stuff in the first place.

  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:07PM (#32075596)

    FTFA:

    Some concepts of privacy, that we thought were rights, are going to have to give way as we find out that social networks are just a lot more efficient, and monitoring and digital ubiquity are all more efficient ways to enforce laws, for example. That's a big thing in Britain. I mean God only knows how many cameras they have on their streets. And they're using it in ways to fight crime that, frankly, I don't think is yet possible in the U.S. because of our privacy concerns.

    Next time Carmen provides an example, she may want to pick one that actually has a track record [bbc.co.uk] which supports [guardian.co.uk] her views.

  • False. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:07PM (#32075600)

    The reason Governments are inefficient is because they are spending someone else's money.

    If there is ZERO responsibility then there is no incentive to curb waste, fraud and abuse.

    Every level of government suffers from this.

  • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:09PM (#32075626) Homepage

    The reason is, if you don't like what a private company is doing, you can decide not to do business with them. Hence, private companies evolve strategies to avoid annoying their customers.
    If you don't like what the government is doing, well, I suppose the right-wingers have the slogan "love it or leave it." But most of us aren't willing to go that far.

  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:14PM (#32075678)

    Why do that? It seems the growing concept of "progress" in the US is to do what Europe does. It doesn't really matter if it works or not.

    I am exaggerating, yes, but it really does seem to be a trend in US politics at the moment. We need to do this or that because Europe is doing it, and thus it is "progressive," and we certainly don't want to fall behind our European counterparts!

  • by noidentity (188756) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:22PM (#32075770)

    Private industry is doing all sorts of analysis of you as a consumer to provide you better service and to let them make more profit. But the same consumer that's okay with private industry doing that is not okay, in a knee-jerk reaction, with government doing that. And yet, if government, because of this dynamic, continues not to be able to adopt modern transactional practices, then it's going to fall further behind the satisfaction curve.

    Let me know when private industry gets its funding via taxation, and uses the information it gathers for more than simply increasing profit. It sounds like she just made a knee-jerk reaction that the government's end use of information it collects is good. Hint: dissatisfaction with government isn't due to it not employing the latest technology in order to efficiently tap all its citizens' phones!

  • by 0racle (667029) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:29PM (#32075838)
    I'm sorry, but I no more like a private company doing this then I do the government.

    The average consumer doesn't know what tracking and analysis companies are doing with this information any more then they know what tracking the government is doing. Using the 'it's ok if they do it so why can't we' argument in this situation holds as much water as Facebooks claim that privacy doesn't exist anymore because people put information into a service they thought was private when it wasn't.
  • Oh yea, IS it ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:33PM (#32075900) Homepage Journal
    so you can choose not to do business with them. ok. you chose that. all the while, because of the contract you signed, that corporation will still be able to do whatever you allowed them to do with your private information. share with corp x, corp y, sell it to advertiser z, this and that.

    and some xyz corp will be able to gather all the pieces of info coming from different sources and have more info on you than government has. because, you dont tell government what you like, and dislike, do you ?

    so basically a private corporation, somewhere, probably has much more info on you than leave aside your government, but even your parents ever may have hoped to know about you.

    you choosing 'not to do business with them' doesnt mean shit. once your information is out, its out.
  • by sheph (955019) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:35PM (#32075930)
    Does everything have to come down to left vs. right? Love it, or leave it isn't an all or nothing proposition. And I sure hope it's not just a right wing phenomenon. There are certain things like not having to print all documentation in 12 different languages where I would say learn english, or get lost. It just makes sense. You can argue the fairness of this stance, but my position is that if you come to a country and you want to communicate you use their language. I don't go to Paris and expect everyone there to learn english just so they can communicate with me. Another example is those who don't agree with our laws and choose to disregard them. Work within the system to change the law. If you are in the minority then you can either live with it the way it is, or leave. Now. You don't get to infringe on other people's rights to do whatever you want whenever you want. However, allow a bunch of jack booted thugs to kick your door in and arrest you in the middle of the night based on a feeling might bring forth a slightly different response. More likely than not a response involving ammunition. The problem isn't so much not having the tools to keep the government in check as it is apathy and the lack of will to do so.

    I sure don't want to give up my privacy to the government for the same reasons mentioned by the GP. Does that make me a left-winger? I'm thinking no. It makes me an American citizen with common sense. /RANT
  • by unity100 (970058) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:35PM (#32075932) Homepage Journal
    Europe is not doing it. BRITAIN is doing it. Britain is at odds to almost EVERY single thing Eu tries to do. This includes britain installing cameras to look up british people's asses. Britain is NOT europe. Britain and u.s. is copying each other, like they did for centuries, whereas Europe is moving in a totally different course of progress.

    You may want to learn more about europe. What they are doing there, is working.
  • Re:Oh yea, IS it ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BitterOak (537666) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:37PM (#32075962)

    so basically a private corporation, somewhere, probably has much more info on you than leave aside your government, but even your parents ever may have hoped to know about you.

    But the point is, at some point you chose to share that information with them. There's a reason I and a lot of other people pay cash for many of the things that we buy. We don't want to give out too much information.

    Now, consider a U.S. federal income tax return. It requires us to divulge all sorts of very personal information about ourselves, but, unlike Radio Shack where you can walk out without buying anything when they insist you give them your phone number, you can run into all sorts of problems if you choose not to do business with the I.R.S. So, yes, private companies may be retaining and sharing more information that we'd like, but there is still an element of choice which doesn't exist when dealing with the government.

  • by minstrelmike (1602771) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:37PM (#32075964)
    One reason govt is inefficient is because every new administration and congress adds new laws and new goals without ever removing any.

    However, the MAIN reason for inefficiency is the voter's demands for accountability. That seems like a good goal but it runs into the inventory conundrum--how much money do you want to spend tracking pencils?

    Consider a billion-dollar (or euro) program. If you wish to track where each million goes, you end up with a thousand-line report. But if you want to track where each thousand goes--more accountability--then you end up with a million-line report, something that requires more time to produce by existing workers and also requires the oversight group to staff an entire new department. If the cost of the new department is less than the cost of the fraud uncovered, then it is cost-effective. Unfortunately, we hardly ever worry about effectiveness in government, we only worry about the appearance of being effective.

    A rational business man knows it is cheaper to let employees 'steal' 3% of the pencils than it is to spend even 4% stopping the theft. A religious, moral, political person worried more about appearances believes it is more important to make a stand and spend whatever it takes to ensure no one steals. Consider the drug laws for instance. When I say legalize everything, some yutz says 'You wouldn't say that if your daughter was addicted to meth." And the truth is maybe I wouldn't. But the socio-political truth is that my daughter is addicted to meth under the laws and regime we currently have so that ain't fixing the problem.

    Voters prefer costly action to no action and they prefer to vote for folks who will do something instead of the do-nothing pols. Effectiveness is not the goal. After 9/11, all the US govt had to do was tell people that the rule of not interfering with hijackers that we've been using for 40 years (Cuba hijackings) is no longer effective and that passengers ought to fight will all means possible to save their lives. That actually is what has happened in real life. The 4th plane that crashed in Pennsylvania and every single attempted terrorist activity on a plane since then has been prevented by other passengers.

    But that isn't an acceptable solution to moralistic or impatient voters.
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:38PM (#32075976)

    I don't want a company BUYING / SELLING / TRADING information about my purchases with them to other companies or government agencies.

    If a company wants to sort through my buying history with them, that's just fine by me. But they can only use the information they themselves have collected through my interactions with them.

    And I'm still more opposed to the government doing it because companies are orientated towards helping me buy their products. If I don't buy anything from Company X's latest sales drive ... so what.

  • by Saint Aardvark (159009) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:38PM (#32075978) Homepage Journal

    Hah! You beat me to it; I was going to say that the reason for the "knee-jerk reaction" is that private companies aren't allowed to put you in jail. So yeah, you'll have to forgive me if I'm paranoid about my government -- the one to whom I've entrusted a monopoly of the use of force -- misusing the 80 craptons of data it can collect on me.

    Man, this deliberate missing of the point just irritates me.

  • by meerling (1487879) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:41PM (#32076022)
    also, people don't much like 'private industry' doing it either. Why, for instance, do you think so many people use tools in their computers to block or delete tracking cookies, prevent personal information going out, etc. It's easy, they don't want anyone to get that info without them specifically and knowingly giving it to them, and they probably won't even do that for most of the creeps that want it.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:41PM (#32076026)

    How does violating my privacy make for better service? Am I really better served because every company I ever deal with shares my info with every one of their partners, so I'm flooded with directed advertising every time I make a purchase? I'm of the contemporaneously radical opinion that I should be able to fly on an airline without giving any more access than necessary to inspect my baggage and person.

  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:47PM (#32076098)

    Sorry. Another strange thing about Americans: they sometimes lump Britain into Europe. ;)

    Regarding "what they are doing there, is working" -- yes, it is working very well ... especially for Greece, Portugal, and Spain?

  • Re:False. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LilGuy (150110) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:49PM (#32076144)
    Spending the money of others does not imply zero responsibility. It often implies the opposite. Perhaps you meant accountability which is something that has disappeared in the past few decades.
  • by StikyPad (445176) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:51PM (#32076162) Homepage

    I'm actually NOT okay with businesses compiling huge databases of information about me or others, making the whole argument moot. I also think people who willingly post and/or allow untrusted parties to view sensitive information via social networking sites (including photos, friend lists, etc.) are idiots.

  • by houghi (78078) on Monday May 03, 2010 @02:59PM (#32076260)

    The real world situation is that you do not really have a choice. The choice you have is purely academic one. Sure you can go and live out in the woods, but it is not a realistic one. It is the choice of what knee you want to be shot in.

    I would like to have a choice to drive without a seatbelt, so my only "choice" is to not drive a car.

    And the thing about a country where you can vote is not to "love it or leave it" but to "Love it or change it". If that is not possible, your vote is not much worth. And with those votes, you should also be able to control the companies and not let them do anything they desire. They are forced to have seat belts. They can also be forced to respect the privacy laws as you think they should be.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:02PM (#32076300)

    Good observation on the video surveilance angle. I also fail to see her point on the government services side as well. If the government was gong to do business intelligence reporting to actively analyse government services activites, and notice that I applied for X health programs plus Y farm subsidy, and I live in Iowa, so maybe I should apply for the Z small business loan that I am likely eligible for based on that data, I would be fine with that. That is the type of thing private industry is doing to improve service and increase profits. I am less fine with the government noting that I purchased some Estes model rocket engines within X days of some quantity of a specific fertilizer (for my new blueberry farm) and decide that I just might be a terrorist in need of increased monitoring and no-fly status. Which scenario do you see as more likely?

  • by Azghoul (25786) on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:13PM (#32076434) Homepage

    You're seriously suggesting "love it or leave it" is a right-wing thing?? Did you fail to pay attention during the healthcare debate when you left-wingers were suggesting the same thing, to those of us (right/left/whatever) who thought Obamacare was a giant friggin joke?

  • by Azghoul (25786) on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:14PM (#32076444) Homepage

    Sure, but the difference that you are failing to grasp is that you don't HAVE to deal with a private company that wants your personal info.

    You can, for instance, pay with cash (for how long, I wonder.....). You don't NEED a facebook account.

  • Re:Oh yea, IS it ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:19PM (#32076506) Homepage Journal

    so basically a private corporation, somewhere, probably has much more info on you than leave aside your government, but even your parents ever may have hoped to know about you...you choosing 'not to do business with them' doesnt mean shit. once your information is out, its out.

    Then the government just requests or buys that data anyway. They can get away with whatever they want as long as proxies are willing to do it for them, especially for cash. Times are tough and government agencies have big, big pools of informant money.

    Proponents of private, under-regulated healthcare like to say that the customer benefits from competition. Horseshit. The only competition is that of profit, while customer care is a race to the bottom. When company A begins collecting and selling customer data, companies B and C say, "Hey, we make more money doing that too!", not "Hey, maybe our customers will like us better if we don't collect their data!"

  • Re:Oh yea, IS it ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mea37 (1201159) on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:24PM (#32076552)

    An excellent example of "missing the point theater". FWIW, it's also true that GP is only half right; but you're pretty much completely wrong, so I'll start with explaining why that is:

    It doesn't matter that Company XYZ already has your data. GP's assertion is that they're less likely to abuse your data, because they don't want to lose you as a customer. If all the customers leave, then having all of the customers' data is moot because the marketing edge you get from that data means nothing if nobody will do business with you.

    And for small-scale businesses that is perfectly true. Now try telling your CC company, bank, utility, telecom, or any local monopoly that they're annoying you and you might leave, and see what concessions they make. Will your TV provider give you a discount rate for a while? Maybe. Will they change fundamental policies like how they handle private data? No. And that is why GP is only half right as well.

    GGP was correct; the reason consuemrs are "more ok" with businesses having their data is that businesses can't arrest you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:34PM (#32076692)

    you really think large private companies can't get people put in jail?

  • by iamhigh (1252742) on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:47PM (#32076862)
    With a DEMOCRACY, you can change your government every 4 years. Once that option is removed, you then move to the next box.
  • by Alinabi (464689) on Monday May 03, 2010 @04:05PM (#32077118)

    Hence, private companies evolve strategies to avoid annoying their customers.

    Having just flown with US Airways over the weekend, I have serious doubts about that. The DMV is an example of politeness and efficiency compared to that airline.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2010 @04:11PM (#32077196)

    Both wings are pro-government-power when their wing has control and anti-government power when it doesn't.

  • Re:Oh yea, IS it ? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2010 @08:39PM (#32080488)

    Consider this then. If you want to you can spike the data a company may hold on you by providing incorrect information or misleading answers making the information essentially useless for analysis. An example of that may be swapping loyalty cards with someone for a month so your purchases are tracked against someone else (and vice versa) so they get a incorrect picture of you as a consumer. Doing the same thing to a government department would more than likely lead to legal liability as it's usually against some sort of law to provide intentionally misleading data to them.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.

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