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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 @03:06PM (#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.

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

      • Oh yea, IS it ? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by unity100 (970058) on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:33PM (#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.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by BitterOak (537666)

          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

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          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

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

          by mea37 (1201159) on Monday May 03, 2010 @04:24PM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by sheph (955019)
        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 eve
        • by tehcyder (746570)

          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.

          By the time the government has got to that stage, your country's fucked, and having a few guns isn't going to be much use to the opposition.

          The government's always going to have more and bigger guns.

      • Even if you wanted to leave the States - saying "I don't like the government so I want to leave the country" will probably get you put on the Terrorist Watch list, strip searched at the airport, abused and arrested for an indisclosed period of time.

        It's more like Love it or else.

        • I'm sure a flag pin will cover anything. Just point out that they don't have one.

          You might go for a plastic clip on in case they decide it's too risky to take on a plane, train, or boat.

          Also, leave any enthusiasm of soothing salves at home. Security doesn't react well to statements such as "I have the best balm ever! You wouldn't believe the results!"

          • I was under the impression that you weren't supposed to wear the American Flag on your clothing or bags or anything, as it was considered a sign of disrespect? Like you put your clothes in a drawer, or on the floor, you sweat. All the nasty stuff that could happen will happen to the flag, and thats frowned upon.

            At least, thats what I heard. And I hear Americans make fun of Canadians for putting our flag on just about everything. But you can't believe everything you hear.

            • If only that was so. I think for something that's suppose to be held with respect, we fail pretty hard: http://www.americanflagmerchandise.com/ [americanfl...andise.com]

              On the other hand, I think this flag worship insane. It's a cloth with a specific design. There's no need to get in a froth over it.

            • by transwarp (900569)
              A pin is different from sewing the flag into a fabric.
              Also, a common misconception is that the US Code says if a flag touches the ground you burn it. Wrong. You clean it (usually dry cleaning with what they're made of). Only worn out flags are burned.
              • The Flag is never 'burned'. It is retired by having the stripes cut from the field and each burned. Some go so far as to cut out each star, but others retort that the union of states should never be severed. One never retires the Flag by burning it intact.

        • by Agarax (864558)

          Even if you wanted to leave the States - saying "I don't like the government so I want to leave the country" will probably get you put on the Terrorist Watch list, strip searched at the airport, abused and arrested for an indisclosed period of time.

          It's more like Love it or else.

          Please, show me one case of where this happened.

          Paranoia is all good, but most people hate the government, and the government realizes it. "I hate the government and want to leave to prove it" Will get you ignored. "I hate the government and want to blow something up to prove it." Will get you attention.

      • Right-wingers love it or leave it... hm.

        I think it's the right-wingers that are usually on the less-government-involvement side of things.

        Not sure why it seems right-wingers tend to defend privacy-intrusion though, which does give you some amount of defense of your statement... however, assuming right-wing is pro-gov't-knowing-all-about-you and left-wing is anti-gov't-knowing-all-about-you seems to be quite opposite of what tends to be the case.

        • I think it's the right-wingers that are usually on the less-government-involvement side of things.

          You're confusing conservatives with libertarians.

          They're not the same thing [americanclarity.com].

          • It depends how you use the term conservative. Most libertarians that I know would be considered radical right-wingers though. Common perception appears to be that anyone who thinks you should be allowed to carry a gun around is a radical right-winger, whether or not that is the case. And probably thinks Rush Limbaugh/Glen Beck can never be wrong. And cannot possibly be really educated. Not REALLY educated, anyways.

            But then, I think the "common" liberal (whatever party affiliation) and the "common" cons

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by houghi (78078)

        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

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Azghoul (25786)

        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?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Ah, kids.

          That "America: love it or leave it" slogan is from the '60s. You youngsters are too green to have heard about it.

          By the way: get off my lawn.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by RMH101 (636144)
            Obligatory Bill Hicks comment: "Leave the country? What, and become a victim of our foreign policy?"
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Alinabi (464689)

        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.

        • Useless Air is around for 2 reasons 1) they are cheap 2) the government has deemed them an effective way of keeping prices competitive, they don't need to be customer oriented because they know no matter how bad the bend you over, you will come back and if you don't the government will step in.
      • by tehcyder (746570)

        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.

        If you don't like what the government is doing, well, you could VOTE FOR SOMEONE ELSE.

    • by 0racle (667029) on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:29PM (#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.
      • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:38PM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Azghoul (25786)

        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *

      I'll be OK with it when we have real control over how the government/police can choose to treat us.

      Tight geographical control by warring tribes can be seen as a historical artifact of poor communications technologies. Real panarchy ought to be viable in the very near future.

      • by vegiVamp (518171)
        Viable is not the same as "will be done". Do you really believe those at the top will willingly give up the power they have for power they will need to work for ?
        • Do you really believe those at the top will willingly give up the power they have for power they will need to work for ?

          No, never willingly. It happens the other way, sadly.

    • by Saint Aardvark (159009) on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:38PM (#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 iamhigh (1252742)
        I'm not real sure how strongly I feel about this, but someone has to play DA.

        private companies aren't allowed to put you in jail

        Read this. [google.com]
        Then think about the fact that our government just allowed corporations to make unlimited contributions to election funds.
        I have a chance every other year to change my local school board, city council, state government, and the federal government. I have no chance to do this with a private company; unless I vote in leaders that will create rules to regulate the private sector.

    • by meerling (1487879) on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:41PM (#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.
    • More to the point, there's a not insignificant amount of those who dislike both.

      Whether it's tons of offers from crappy stores you don't shop at those goes straight into the recycle bin or if it's tracking my internet usage or staging a midnight raid after thermal cams pick up "unusual" amounts of heat (sorry, but midnight snacks sometimes turns into full blown meals), it's bullshit and waste of resources.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by StikyPad (445176)

      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.

    • Actually, a better reason is that the general population doesn't know what the companies are doing. Sure, the information is out there. But, it's hardly wide spread and when told of it, the general pop. gives looks like you're crazy. In other words, the general population isn't educated enough (in all senses) to understand this issue and when it is put in front of them, they'll just think you're paranoid.

    • by dugeen (1224138)
      There is no choice, because in practice all the airlines have the same policies. The 'choice' is a legal fiction.
  • Nonsense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rmushkatblat (1690080)
    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 @03:07PM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      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!

      • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          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?

          • by Weezul (52464)

            If you mean idealistic Germans, Dutch, Belgians, etc. turning those poor countries into middle class countries, yeah I'd they're doing fairly well. They are having some trouble learning those rich countries have limits on their generosity, but they've now gained a thriving middle class.

        • Australia too, right? Or am I just thinking of the Great Australian Firewall being pushed for?

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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

    • by Weezul (52464)

      True, they almost never catch anyone using CCTV, really like never, but the British love their useless feel good bandaids.

      In fact, the U.S. has installed cameras in police cars, but those are vastly more effective, as they point right where the crime often takes place! Britain then copied this by putting cameras in police hats, which again are vastly more effective than CCTV.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        True, they almost never catch anyone using CCTV, really like never, but the British love their useless feel good bandaids.

        This is one of those remarkable areas where "surveys" sometimes show a significant degree of public support for greater use of CCTV, yet I never seem to run into any of those people. Of course, my collection of friends and family may not be completely representative of the nation's population as a whole, but they certainly do represent a diverse range of political and ethical views on this sort of subject, and still I've never heard any of them argue that ubiquitous CCTV is a good thing. At some point, you

  • False. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:07PM (#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.

  • uh-hu (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk@@@gmail...com> on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:08PM (#32075606)

    Correct me if I'm completely off base, but I'm reading this as the former head of the CIA whining about how "if business can do it, the government should be able to too". She correctly points out that the public doesn't seem to care when businesses invade their privacy, but she is using that to claim they shouldn't care when the government does it either, not to claim that the public should be concerned about both.

    And come to think about it, what the hell does a former head of the CIA care about what the American public thinks about privacy anyway? Isn't the CIA only supposed to operate outside of the US or something like that?

  • by DraconPern (521756) <draconpern&hotmail,com> on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:11PM (#32075650) Homepage
    CIA need to provide the public some awesome free service and then people won't mind giving up data for analysis. It worked for Google. If their product is foreign intelligence.. may be some service for the public regarding that?
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

      I think the World Factbook [cia.gov] is pretty awesome, actually.

  • "Knee-jerk" my ass (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Scareduck (177470) on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:12PM (#32075654) Homepage Journal
    It's not "knee-jerk" because the government has a monopoly on force. The government can take your property without compensation and throw you in jail, courses of action denied to insurance companies and banks.

    This person is a "heretic"? Only among people who value their privacy. She sounds more to me like a typical apologist for Big Brother.
    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      This person is a "heretic"? Only among people who value their privacy.

      The only conclusion I can draw is that at the CIA most people don't want to get around privacy protections by re-educating the people out of caring for their privacy.

      Doesn't mean that they don't find privacy-related restrictions on their activities inconvenient and don't try to get around them (the evidence is strongly to the contrary). But it does at least suggest they may understand why we don't like that idea.

      Go figure.

    • by lennier (44736)

      It's not "knee-jerk" because the government has a monopoly on force.

      And life is so much better when we have a vibrant free market of force actively negotiating turf boundaries every day in the street.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      The government can take your property without compensation

      Yes, as opposed to a system where there is no government, and anyone can take your property without compensation.

  • Ironic, isn't it Alanis, that the head of the Center for the Study of Intelligence doesn't have any when it comes to privacy matters.

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

    • 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.

      With a BUSINESS, you can choose to go to a different business. One who's product more closely reflects what you want.

      With a GOVERNMENT ... there is only one. Of course there will be some people who are unhappy with it. Look at ANY law and you'll find some people who opposed it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by iamhigh (1252742)
        With a DEMOCRACY, you can change your government every 4 years. Once that option is removed, you then move to the next box.
      • by lennier (44736)

        With a BUSINESS, you can choose to go to a different business. One who's product more closely reflects what you want.

        With a GOVERNMENT ... there is only one.

        Nonsense. You can always choose to move to another nation-state in exactly the same way that you can 'choose' to move to another business. That's why different nations exist in the first place. It's just that a nation is a bigger thing than a corporation by virtue of being a bigger property-owner.

        And a business can (has a strong financial incentive to) prevent you from making such a move, usually by asserting ownership of 'property' - for example, a patent over an idea or copyright on a song in your head,

    • by lennier (44736)

      Let me know when private industry gets its funding via taxation, and uses the information it gathers for more than simply increasing profit.

      You mean, other than getting funding via monopoly rent of 'property', enforcing this funding using contracts (with the excuse that 'if you don't like using this idea / living on this piece of land then go elsewhere') and using the information to eliminate competitors from the marketplace? In other words, functioning exactly like a state in every respect in all the property that it has jurisdiction over, except not having to pay even lip-service to any form of democratic governance?

  • ``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.''

    That correlation may work in the USA, but I don't think the public wanting or not wanting government information-gathering is the real issue here. I live in the Netherlands, and people here are, shall we say, not as adverse to the government c

  • American public is very fool in regard to private vs govt. distinction. They trust almost every kind of info with private companies. Which, are under scarce obligations in regard to your private info, because they make you sign under contracts/eulas that almost relieve them all kinds of obligations. Basically you give them every kind of info and they can do anything with it, and you cant sue them even. Even if you do, you cant win, not because you dont have enough money to win but because they will come up
    • by Applekid (993327)

      Its stupid. People need to learn 'private' doesnt mean 'good'.

      'Public' doesn't mean 'good', either. Government is ripe with abuses and do-what-I-say-not-what-I-do.

      But I agree that it is a stupid argument anyway. Having more information flying about between government agencies isn't going to make anything better (except maybe becoming more efficient at the aforementioned abuses).

  • by guruevi (827432) <evi@NOSpam.smokingcube.be> on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:31PM (#32075882) Homepage

    Is this basically a call to let down our guard and let the government walk all over our privacy and constitutional rights?

    What she's saying is wrong anyway, government is broken not because they can't track everything we do - it's broken because they try to track everything we do. There is a whole slew of agencies that don't even need to exist (or can be slimmed down significantly) just by reducing the reach of the government.

    DHS is one of those departments (although I know it houses several departments), it's a layer of bureaucracy designed to give people a false sense of security while bogging down the whole process of immigration and border control while throughout it's existence all it has done is created large databases to track US citizens and non-citizens traveling around the globe. But when you need something from them, it's a lot of manual paperwork, going to see somebody in a booth, get rejected for a misspelling, go back etc. etc.

    Same goes for IRS - every year for the past 5 years I had to file (portions of) my paperwork on paper instead of e-filing. Whether it's because I worked in multiple states or because I bought a house and qualified for one of the stimulus packages, when you reach a certain number of papers, you have to manually send it in. Off course this means somebody has to manually file my paperwork in the computer with all the errors that gives which results in an even greater feedback loop of paperwork and manual labor (on both sides) to correct all of that.

    Here in NYS you can't pay almost anything at the DMV online without incurring a $5 or $10 convenience fee. They rather you snail mail them a hand written cheque and print out your forms than process your paperwork and payments online. Talking about being inefficient - they already have all my information. I can do everything online except pay them.

    In the mean time, businesses find better ways to be more efficient using computers. They can retain certain information without breaching my privacy (unless you're stupid and allow them to retain your full credit card and SSN) and they rather let you do stuff online than going into their offices. My insurance even gives me discounts for not having to walk into a physical place.

  • Businesses take information on a voluntary basis. Ones like airlines are a service that the consumer wants, and only the information that the consumer wants to give is given. Unlike the government businesses do NOT have access to bank accounts or NUKES.
  • Medina's point of departure: There are things that the government could do better, if only it were allowed to use all the tools.

    My point of departure: Is it necessary that these things be done at all? If so, should the government be doing them?

  • by minstrelmike (1602771) on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:37PM (#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 GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:41PM (#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 mindbrane (1548037) on Monday May 03, 2010 @03:42PM (#32076038) Journal

    , privacy is going to have to adjust to what is now possible. While some of the things that are now possible are scary to people, many add to the public good.

    "While all things are possible, not all things are permitted."Francis Bacon (17th C)

    Bacon made his remark in a different context but I think it's germane in that privacy is legislated and enforced, and not naturally occurring.

    Britain, at least from my POV, has undertaken a huge, perhaps unprecedented social experiment in immigration and mosaic, cultural restructuring. Significant immigration is necessary to bolster a competitive country's domestic workforce and it's international competitiveness, but, as everyone knows, it almost always brings with it social problems. The hue and cry [wikipedia.org] historical precedent, in a skewed way speaks to a more European openness to a community policing itself whether by a sort of neighbourhood watch or a ring of cameras monitoring the streets. It's possible that North Americans, especially in the U.S.A. and Canada, are more sensitive to privacy concerns because development of the new world permitted far greater degree of privacy.

    The above aside, I'm deeply vested in the concerns of the article because I'm interested in statistical modeling of political decisions and ways of abstracting inferences from personal data. I was fairly well schooled in statistics and probability to an undergraduate level but don't pretend to as wide an understanding of the field as I once had. While my interest is keyed to the problems of the individual in relation to the group, the relationship between an individual to the social unit speaks directly to privacy concerns. If my fledgling hypotheses are in any way indicative of what might be on the horizon then it's likely that along with the milieu that has spawned our current privacy concerns there are new tools that will let data be abstracted from the new milieu in a way that not only safeguards the privacy of individuals but might enhance one's privacy. Without blurting out my tentative ideas, possibly lucrative, and getting bitch slapped by some stats prof, I still think it's fair to say there's lots of room and time for the data that is now available to spawn a new tool set that will correct any current incursions into personal privacy.

    • Bacon made his remark in a different context but I think it's germane in that privacy is legislated and enforced, and not naturally occurring.

      Huh? Privacy is the natural state - especially when it comes to the government which only exists because of legislation. If there were no legislation, there would be no government and thus no loss of privacy to said government.

      • Privacy is the natural state

        My reading of your post coupled to my understanding prompting my post suggests the issue could get very tricksy, very quickly, but be interesting nonetheless. IIRC the context in which Bacon made his remark, I'm unable to source it, addressed the idea that physical law trumped idle conjecture and placed constraints on the possible. When I commented on privacy in nature I wasn't referring to a sort of J-J Rousseau [wikipedia.org] theory of social contract but rather to the state in the wild as it exists between all animals.

  • 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.

    No, I'm not okay with private industry doing that either.

  • Huh, it's kind of odd that she attributes government inefficiency to the public being concerned about privacy. Correct me if I am wrong, but they way I figure it, government inefficiency tends to stem from excessive bloat. When federal executive agencies are employing hundreds of people to push paper, because they have not updated their computing methods yet, and they have not updated their computing methods yet, because half of their employees don't want familiar systems to change, then that is not an issu
    • Just for the record, federal government inefficiency and local government inefficiency are two different things. The feds can't help you with your DMV problems.

      Beyond that, the public has just as many morons as the government. If you installed your machine printing devices, the smart half of the public might actually get better service. But the morons would still screw it up, and now you've got to train the desk staffers to help people with the computer system, when the reason you put them at a desk is that

  • 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....

    I'm not OK with Private industry doing all sorts of analysis on me as a consumer, but I'm powerless to make them stop. I guess if I had enough money I could buy enough shares to effect change in all publicly traded companies... but I don't have that kind of cash.

    If they have been providing me better service as a result, It's gone unnoticed.

    But the same consumer that's o

  • by mschuyler (197441) on Monday May 03, 2010 @04:07PM (#32076352) Homepage Journal

    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.

    Ha ha ha ha! Let me tell you how well private industry is doing. Last week I got on my online account with B of A. I discovered a deposit of $210.50 had been made to my account from out of state. I looked at the counter deposit and discovered that a Ms or Mr Chu from Virginia had deposited the $210.50 into their own account, but somehow in data entry a 'proof code' had been changed that put it in my account, with the exact same number, in another state. The deposit slip itself was filled out correctly and gave me enough information to figure out what had happened.

    I tried to call them up. No dice as no number provided a human. So I carefully set about emailing them (online form) giving them ALL the information they needed to fix it, all the secret numbers, everything they needed to know. The next week I get a reply when I signed onto the account saying they considered this situation URGENT, but not only could they NOT email me at the address I provided, they also were not allowed to make outgoing calls to the contact number I provided. They gave me an 800 number to call, but only during 9-5 business hours.

    Meanwhile Mr. Chu is out his $200 bucks.

    Un fucking believable!

    • by mschuyler (197441)

      B of A used to have pretty good service. Up until the last financial bubble I had a Master Relationship Account where I had my own Asst Vice Prez to call, no fees, free checks, etc.. She could usually get me an uptick on interest rates, etc. I called her up and said, "What do we do now." She was very upbeat, said B of A could weather this no problem. A few months later she was laid off and the Master Relationship Account disappeared in favor of a First Gold Checking with the threat of fees and no more priva

  • 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.

    Because private industry doesn't have the power to legally issue arrest warrants, execution warrants, and other controls over your freedom. The government does.

    With private industry, we have a nominal choice of whether or not to participate in their dealings as a consumer, to deal with their competitor, or to start our own competition. That said, the government has a monopoly on governing. If we don't like it, we don't get to vote with our feet. If we want to sue it, it has to agree to be sued (I'm amaze

  • I don't mind private industry having my information. I do mind the Government having my information. Private industry has no power over me, government does. Facebook and Credit Bureaus can collect my data, but they do not have the power to arrest me, to raise my taxes or enact legislation against me.

    What power private industry does have; government can serve as a check valve against any abuses that take place. Latest example to come to mind is when Facebook wants to share my information willy-nilly, congres

    • Credit Bureaus can collect my data, but they do not have the power to arrest me

      They dont need to arrest you, they'll just destroy your credit rating, make enough bad reports about you that you cant get a loan or have difficulty finding a job. They don't need to arrest, that is so inefficient and gives you some recourse in the court, private corporations can destroy you with the stroke of a pen so why would they keep a paramilitary force around for the same job.

      With the government, I know there are met

  • whoever said I was ok with what corporations are doing with my data, nevermind the government?

    of course, the government isn't in a hurry to set limits on what companies can do because then the government can ask companies to "volunteer" to hand over your personal information that the government couldn't collect on its own without a pesky warrant...
  • But the same consumer that's okay with private industry doing that [violating privacy] is not okay, in a knee-jerk reaction, with government doing that.

    That's because private industry* does not have the power or authority to ship me off to Guantanamo Bay. Government is not inefficient because the public distrusts the government. Government is inefficient because it has no economic incentive to be efficient. If income < expenditures, then the government raises our taxes and the public either pays or goes to jail. Private businesses, on the other hand either find ways to cut costs, increase revenue or go bankrupt.

    She touches on the crux of the pro

  • That you trust your company (e.g. Google, Visa, etc...) more with your private information that your gov't (e.g. people you vote for, fed, state, local).

    And that it appears consumerism is more important than citizenship.

    Crazy times...
  • She may be over-estimating consumer satisfaction in banks and airlines.

  • If we think that we can hold law enforcement and spies back with 19th century procedures and safeguards we're kidding ourselves. They, like everyone else, need to adapt to 21st century technology and make use of it. Technology alone will defeat anyone who tries to hold back the clock.

    Reliance on "reasonable expectation of privacy" as the foundation of our privacy right is folly. Every day in every way our expectations get eroded away. Soon there will be nothing left. We need a completely different appr

  • Until she shifted to the domestic propaganda wing.

    Once a spook, always a spook.

    Why yes ma'am, I should be grateful for the government to use my tax money to gather and mine my personal data! Why didn't I see this before!

  • 'the public may need to readjust its views on what things such as privacy mean' This woman has clearly been taking lessons from Kissinger.

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

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