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Google Engineer Wins NSA Award, Then Says NSA Should Be Abolished 297

Posted by timothy
from the well-if-you'd-like-my-opinion-gentleman dept.
First time accepted submitter MetalliQaZ writes "Last week, Dr. Joseph Bonneau learned that he had won the NSA's first annual "Science of Security (SoS) Competition." The competition, which aims to honor the best 'scientific papers about national security' as a way to strengthen NSA collaboration with researchers in academia, honored Bonneau for his paper on the nature of passwords. And how did Bonneau respond to being honored by the NSA? By expressing, in an honest and bittersweet blog post, his revulsion at what the NSA has become: 'Simply put, I don't think a free society is compatible with an organisation like the NSA in its current form.'"
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Google Engineer Wins NSA Award, Then Says NSA Should Be Abolished

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 28, 2013 @07:50AM (#44405553)

    Google is a huge part of the surveillance machine. If you oppose surveillance, aren't you morally bound to stop enriching a big part of the problem? Is this what you signed up for? To help them build the apparatus of tyranny?

    Maybe a mass wave of resignations among the 9 would effect positive change? Maybe we are all responsible to do our part to stop this monstrosity?

    I am afraid to post this comment. I am sure that I will get categorized as a dissident for it. I would say a lot more, but my freedom of speech is chilled.

  • by tebee (1280900) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @08:11AM (#44405629)

    Interestingly, out of the first 13 posts on this topic, only 2 have been by named individuals, the rest by anonymous cowards.

    Is everyone so scared of getting on the NSA's "of interest" list, no one want's to be identified? Maybe our new tyrannical overlords have won already.

  • False dichotomy (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 28, 2013 @08:15AM (#44405641)

    So fucking what if we give criminals and "terrorists" a "safe channel for communication?"
    Communication alone is not a danger. Boo hoo - the law enforcers have to do some good old hard work.

  • Re:Don't forget (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mitchell314 (1576581) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @08:23AM (#44405665)
    Without their consent? That's new.
  • Re: Don't forget (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 28, 2013 @08:29AM (#44405681)

    You can opt out of Google, but you can't opt out of NSA

  • Re: Don't forget (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mark Reynolds (2999477) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @08:29AM (#44405683)
    You can opt out of Google, but you can't opt out of NSA
  • by thaylin (555395) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @08:32AM (#44405699)
    Fallacy. Just because you feel the NSA is overboard, and not conducive to a free society, does not mean you dont work on crytography and the such. The problem US citizens have with the NSA is not that they have the capability to capture data, but who they are capturing it on violates their oath.
  • by aurispector (530273) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @08:41AM (#44405753)

    This times eleventy billion. If congress, etc., didn't want the NSA they could change it. Besides, the ability to view private communication has been a core capability and even the purpose of national spy organizations forever.

    The larger question is what government is allowed to do with it. Honestly it would be disappointing, even outrageous if the NSA didn't have the technical ability to collect this kind of data. Being on the cutting edges of information gathering and technology were crucial in the allies winning WW2, for instance. Certainly russia and china are champing at the bit to do it. This is the major reason why they keep pushing to "decentralize the internet" and wrest control from the US for their own purposes.

    The hijacking of government for political purposes (e.g., the IRS scandal) is far more worrying simply because it's a clear indicator that those in power have no qualms about abusing it. Hence ultimately you could blame not congress but rather the electorate.

  • by joebagodonuts (561066) <cmkrnl.gmail@com> on Sunday July 28, 2013 @08:53AM (#44405825) Homepage Journal
    Why must it be fear? Why can't the motive simply be "What I post on Slashdot is nobody's business"?
  • Re:Don't forget (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Seumas (6865) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @08:54AM (#44405835)

    The NSA and CIA are not allowed, by law, to spy on American citizens. I don't see why this is so difficult for people to get through their fucking heads.

    Google sucking up as much customer information as they can may be sleezy (maybe) and can be questionable, depending on how they are using, selling, whatever that data . . . but it is a far fucking cry from the nature of the NSA/CIA doing it to our own citizens (except when Google and other companies then hand it over to the NSA/CIA, in which case it is just as fucking vile again).

  • by thaylin (555395) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @08:59AM (#44405861)
    Even if doing so is in violation of your oath to defend the constitution? Isnt this how the corrupt cops think?
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:09AM (#44405907) Homepage Journal

    On the contrary. We all have responsibility for national security. And what is being done today by our government in the name of national security threatens national security.

  • by spire3661 (1038968) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:16AM (#44405965) Journal
    There are no LEGAL reasons to surveil the people of the United States en mass. It doesnt matter how safe you want to feel, what you ask for is illegal and has been for a very long time. The word Papers in the 4th covers not just paper, but all communications from now until the heat death of the universe. Time or technology does not change these ideals
  • by thaylin (555395) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:17AM (#44405975)
    Neither. There should be no warrentless spying of American citizens. Putting forth the forth the question who should do it tries to put me into a choice between people who can do it at varying levels of efficiency.
  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:21AM (#44405999) Homepage Journal

    I am afraid to post this comment. I am sure that I will get categorized as a dissident for it.

    You are the heart of the problem. The brave aren't easily terrorized. The government has acted criminally, and I voice my dissent publicly.

    Not that it will do any good.

  • by Livius (318358) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:22AM (#44406005)

    The NSA is just like a too big to fail bank. They believe they no longer need to hide their evil nature and criminal activity. They are, regrettably, correct in their belief.

    The Wall Street banks, private sector entities with (in theory) strict oversight, gambled away other people's money, and then the victims were forced to hand over taxes to replace the money the banks lost. Expect the "punishment" that the NSA receives now that their bubble (secrecy) has collapsed to be equally punitive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:38AM (#44406107)

    Safe communication means safe means for propaganda, avenues for radicalisation and recruitment, and for coordination and planning. And that's plenty harmful.

    Unsafe communication means no safe means for recruitment, coordination and planning. And that means that people take their business elsewhere than the U.S.A.

    If you really want to know how important secure communication is considered, ask the military, the diplomatic service, and most companies.

    Not to mention the U.S. constitution.

    I'm all for good old detective work, given a suspect. But the trick is to get a suspect in the first place. Monitoring communication helps enormously in becoming aware of suspects.

    In particular since every citizen is suspect. Some need less, some need more coaxing in order to stop behaving like prospective terrorists and to start loving the government. If the government is supposed to micromanage its citizens' loyalty, it needs proper access to their communication.

  • Re:Don't forget (Score:4, Insightful)

    by interval1066 (668936) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:40AM (#44406115) Homepage Journal

    The world, regardless of your hippy views, is still divided up into nation-states. The duty of the US government is to protect and serve US Citizens, not the entire world. That mission includes spying on the citizens of other nation states from time to time, as do the governments of other nation-states spy on the US. If you're trying to claim that the US is the only nation that spies on its allies and others you're going to get laughed out of the courtroom, so your implied objection is DENIED.

    Spying on EVERYONE, including US Citizens, is typical of a Government that is ill and out of control, and THAT is something that US citizens need to correct.

  • by srussell (39342) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:41AM (#44406123) Homepage Journal

    There is a difficulty of course: cripple the NSA, and you give free and secure communication to all sorts of undesirables.

    And herein lies the problem: who gets to define who the "undesirables" are? How do we know they're undesirable? There's a large segment of the American population who think gays are undesirable. There's an even larger segment who think Muslims are undesirable. There are an amazing number of people on /. who object to pinko, gun-stealing liberals.

    In my opinion, NSA apologists are undesirable, and should be the people we tap 24/7; it's usually ultra [wikipedia.org] right-wing [wikipedia.org] types [wikipedia.org] who perform modern domestic-bred terrorism.

    j/k. Even conservatives deserve privacy.

    --- SER

  • Re:Don't forget (Score:1, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:42AM (#44406131) Homepage Journal

    You're both wrong. Google is spying on you, and then handing that data to the NSA.

  • Re:Bonneau's paper (Score:4, Insightful)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday July 28, 2013 @09:58AM (#44406207) Homepage Journal

    Very good work of destroying the whole point of privacy. And who the fuck allowed him access to 70 million passwords? Yahoo? Shame on Yahoo then.

    Fixed that for you.

    Though, also, I disagree with your first sentence. The better we understand the use of passwords by larger numbers of real people, the better we can design systems that exploit the strengths of passwords which avoiding their weaknesses -- or perhaps it will motivate us to choose other approaches if it demonstrates that passwords simply do not provide sufficient security.

    This is valuable information for people who want to build secure, privacy-preserving systems, which is the complete antithesis of "destroying the whole point of privacy."

  • Re:Don't forget (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 28, 2013 @10:42AM (#44406453)

    No it's not. Any time you see a page with a Facebook or Google logo on it ANYWHERE, that page is a part of the respective corporation's data collection machine.

    Virtually all websites on the internet today have some form of "social" badge on them to make them easy for users to share, be it facebook, google, pinterest, or reddit. Every one of those badges is pulled directly from those corporate servers and effectively pings the servers with your IP address, browser agent, operating system, and a few other metrics that are about as personally identifiable as your thumb print.

    Simply put, facebook doesn't need you to sign up with them for them to know everything about you. At this point creating a login and password is an unnecessary pretense. Facebook knows who you are even if you've never been to facebook.com. The issue at play here is that your browser is the tool they use to spy on you directly. Both Facebook and Google know every single page you've ever been to, and not just you're PC, but you personally.

    I sincerely doubt you gave consent to that.

  • Re:Don't forget (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 28, 2013 @10:56AM (#44406537)

    1. Google IS spying on you. Anytime you see a "share on G+" logo, an embedded youtube video, or that google analytics is being used in a page's HTML, you are being spied on by google, a fact that is not understood by most people and is difficult for even experienced users to grasp the full ramifications of.

    2. Google hands it's collected data over to the NSA. This is no secret and is widely documented fact. By doing this google is directly causal to any actions the NSA take against you.

    3. It's irrelevant who collects MORE data, what is relevant however is that all of these giants, facebook, google, microsoft, yahoo, reddit, etc... are required by US law to comply with court orders to hand over information to the NSA.

    The NSA does not collect much data at all personally; you won't see "NSA+", "Share on NSA", or "Login with NSA Connect" on any webpages ever. What the NSA does is go to those private industries that are tracking virtually every single page you view including most porn, news, shoping, and entertainment sites and they show them fancy court orders for them to hand over data on you and anyone else involved in the investigation. The NSA admitted to using "3 hops" of separation in their data collection demands so to day they could demand the entire contents of Google's data collection on every man woman and child is not a stretch. They'd only need a few dozen "suspects" to do so.

  • Re:Don't forget (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0111 1110 (518466) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @11:59AM (#44406951)

    I'm not happy about Google either but Google has neither the power nor the inclination to throw me in prison because I wrote that I'd like to kill person X in an email that was never intended for any eyes but the recipient. Or put me on a no fly list when I criticise the TSA and say I want to go on a killing rampage and take out a bunch of them.

    We are used to having genuine 100% freedom of speech with no exceptions when communicating privately with a friend. Due to PRISM and probably other NSA programs this is no longer the case. You have to assume that everything you write could be read by an NSA agent.

    Privacy from a repressive government is completely different from privacy from a private company that merely wants to make as much money as possible. On the one hand you get targeted ads. On the other you might spend years in prison getting raped by your cellmate and then dying from HIV. That's why we should be more concerned about the NSA than Google. Google doesn't even have a reason to personally read our emails. The NSA does.

  • Re: Don't forget (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @12:26PM (#44407117) Homepage

    Noscript. I would suggest you Google it but you might prefer to avoid them entirely. You could try bing, but that's likely a frying pan-fire situation.

    if you're willing to trust Google to some degree, then DO Google it. They offer a few solutions themselves.

    Now, try asking the NSA how to opt out of their tracking and see how far you get.

  • by 0111 1110 (518466) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @12:36PM (#44407171)

    It is certainly true that monitoring everyone 24/7 as in 1984 increases security. It is also true that it leads to a lot of very unhappy people who are forced to live in an Orwellian dystopia. Human beings simply are not meant to live like that. So your cure is far, far worse than the actual diseasae.

    If the price for freedom from being watched all the time by hostile government agents on fishing expeditions to find illegal or suspicious (to them) behavior is losing 3000 lives every 10-20 years then it's a price that I and probably most freedom loving people are willing to pay.

    Nuking every country other than the US would also make us very safe. A bit lonely but a lot safer from the occassional terrorist. The fewer people on the planet the fewer terrorists. Unfortunately for you safe at any price people there are ethical considerations.

  • by Common Joe (2807741) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @02:51PM (#44407885) Journal

    I applaud you for your comment and your bravery, but I must correct you on one thing:

    The brave aren't easily terrorized.

    Yes, they are. Here is a quote of quote from the Dictator's Handbook [dictatorshandbook.net]:

    Some men and women have great courage ... But the tyrant has ways of countering even this. Among those who do not fear death, some fear torture, disgrace, or humiliation. And even those who do not fear these things for themselves may fear them for their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, wives, and children. The tyrant uses all these tools.

    Even ignoring any threats by the government, I am always worried about the health and well being of my wife, my brother, his wife, their unborn child, my young goddaughter, my aging parents, my ill in-laws, etc. Being brave can mean watching your family get hurt. Being brave can mean your family hating you even if you are doing the right thing. Perhaps it's a medical thing like in my case. (Let's just say my mother in-law and I have disagreements about what is best for her.) Perhaps they hooked on drugs. Perhaps they have a gambling problem. Speaking in terms of a repressive government: having your whole family turn against you because you stand up for what is right is a very difficult thing to do. In fact, the water gets really muddy... is it better to stand up for your fellow countrymen or to keep your loved ones "safe" and alive? Sometimes, you can pick only one. A choice you make might remove their freedoms or their lives.

    Unfortunately, I don't find the picture isn't quite black and white as a lot of others do.

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