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Danger Lampost

Futurist & Technology Consultant,

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Every email, phone call, text message, and video chat is monitored and recorded. Now what?

It wasn't all that long ago, that we could safely presume that our private conversations were not being monitored or recorded on a routine basis. That has changed now. It is safe to assume that every electronic communication that can be recorded is being recorded. This includes every phone call you make or pick up. This is mostly being done by the United States, using massive new data centers being built in places like the state of Utah, but many other countries are in the game too.

The official line is that we're doing this for national defense. Just in case some evil chatter comes across, we need to know if someone's planning to nuke a major city, right? And if you've got nothing to hide, then you've got nothing to worry about, right? All those thousands of drone aircraft flying over head in U.S. airspace now, never mind them, right?

With the National Defense Authorization Act in place as law now, it is possible that someone's personal emails will be recorded, interpreted as terrorist "chatter", and then a U.S. citizen could be held in jail indefinitely without any charges being brought and without any recourse. What's happened to my country?

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    Gail . 50+

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    Nov 29 2012: Fear has happened to our country. Great, irrational fear. Because of this, a great darkness has come over the earth, and that darkness is fear-inspired ignorance.

    It is a well known fact that "in our culture", fear is the most effective motivator. So (in the sentiments of Goehring of Hitler's reich), to control the masses, you nearly need to point out how they are in danger (inspire fear) and condemn the pacifists (and rational thinkers) for lack of patriotism and putting everyone in jeopardy.

    Fear is the tool used by politicians and charitable organizations. All who need to motivate people agree on this. All studies prove the efficacy of this.

    Not only does our government do this very successfully, so do fundamentalist religions. As mainstream xtianity has dwindled, the name Christianity has been taken over by a terrified lot, who obviously fear that the god they "worship", is either unable or unwilling to protect them. (How rational is that?)

    Fox News and Rush Limbaugh specialize in fear-tactics, which is how viewers and listeners fall for diversionary tactics meant to keep them embracing fears and not looking at a larger picture that is more truthful and less terrifying. Studies show that Fox news viewers are less informed than those who do not keep up with news, and they are very disinformed, so they are the sheeple who beg to be fleeced and butchered, and who battle fiercely to preserve their right to be victimized. Fox news has the largest audience, so it is now the "lamestream" media, though it fiercely denies it.

    But worse than that - our educational systems have failed us. We are taught outright lies about our own history, and students are not taught essentials that would make it possible for us to fix what is broken. We are "taught" to mistake emotion for thought, and most people are not able to understand that their motivations are emotion driven rather than intelligence driven.

    The enlightenment is dead. Welcome to the endarkening.
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      Nov 29 2012: I think you are right 110% - it's fear. Those laughable color coded terror alert system was one of the most blatant and obvious examples of a government injecting fearing among its own citizens; I'm glad we dropped that. Turn on cable "news" and you will get your daily dose of fear. Fear apparently sells a lot of advertising too.

      This article (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/06/18/1101012/-Are-we-Entering-Another-Dark-Age) echoes your thoughts pretty much dead on I think, but encourages us to put up the good fight with some specific suggestions rather than quietly go into the darkness.

      As both parties have contributed to this (with Bush creating the National Defense Authorization Act and Obama strengthening it), and with an apparently out of control NSA, it would appear there is no easy way to fix this using democratic principles.
  • Nov 29 2012: Now what? I hope someone comes up with a method of encryption that cannot be broken.

    "What's happened to my country?"

    The USA that enshrined individual rights is gone, scared away by a bunch of guys wielding box cutters.

    "the land of the free and the home of the brave" is no more. We have already surrendered to terrorism.
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      Nov 29 2012: I agree with you but I know you're simplifying things. Is there no fight left for privacy? Is privacy in America truly dead? Do we need a secure technology to ensure that an unscrupulous government won't pry?

      Why don't more people care about this? Are we like live lobster slowly boiling so we don't notice the loss of our privacy as it slowly escapes until we are dead in terms of privacy?
      • Dec 3 2012: What if the entire public had access to all the information being stored at all times. Would this be fair? Would it enable a completely honest and transparent society?
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    Nov 30 2012: It would seem there is an enormous business opportunity for someone to develop a solution to solve this. Just to test the market waters here: How many people would be willing to pay a small premium on your cell phone bill - say 2% - to ensure that no government agency could secretly record all your conversations?
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    Nov 29 2012: You country has schizophrenic megalomania out of self-made anxiety at the moment, which can only be cured by elections.

    It declared war on terrorism, which by definition is pointless and allowed GM food production which safety hazard still is unknown by definition. Both of this is contradictory if your country were about to protect its people.

    Follow the money to find the true beneficiaries of the NDAA and you will find its true intention.

    In the meanwhile protect yourself with encryption software - those without NSA backdoors - to stay as blurry as possible in this 1984. Good luck!
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      Nov 29 2012: As a computer security expert, having built (and even patented) several software security systems, I can't see an easy way to secure my communications. I've tried using the TOR network before to browse the web in true privacy, but you have to be willing to live with a greatly reduced browsing experience for that to work.

      There is encryption software out there, without NSA back doors even (only one algorithm I know for sure), but you have to know exactly which cryptographic algorithms to use, and what's worse, the person you're communicating with on the other side needs the same thing. If you're using symmetric encryption, you have to share a key somehow (I can't tell you the key over the phone either!), and if we're using asymmetric encryption, we need to exchange public keys in a trusted way.

      I've used secure email before (PKCS #7) but you have to exchange keys, and the algorithms used by the email vendors are not NSA-proof.

      To secure voice calls over a mobile device, the right cryptographic software would have to be embedded in the mobile device. The way mobile phone operating systems are designed, it's not possible to write "an app for that".

      Interestingly, I suspect our very own federal government may be leading the way here, trying to secure their own secret communications against our own NSA. You never know what an agency like the FBI is going to accidentally uncover, like the secret affair of a major governmental official, or something like that.

      Of course all this goes out the window once quantum computers can crack all traditional computer security. That day is coming, and there is a yearly conference even devoted to that very crypto sub-topic.
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        Nov 29 2012: With the NDAA legally in place, privacy is no 'peace of cake' anymore and, if I did, it was not my intention to make encryption appear 'easy' to use.

        Encryption is used to outsmart your opponent to keep your privacy and it takes deep knowledge and understanding of the subject to ensure your safety. It neither includes comfort nor 'great experience' of modern communication technology, but if privacy is what you want, this is the only way to go for.

        Personally I come to meet the people I wan't to communicate in private with, so the exchange of encryption keys is pretty simple and without the need of 'public' access. On all other media I do not share anything I don't wish to be known by 'big brother' and personal meetings are more social anyway... :o)

        Just recently the German intelligence service set a perfect example that it acts 'beyond' our democratic constitution and it caused many representatives in this institution and within the government to resign. Honestly, I was not even surprised, as I do not even expect decencies in those areas anymore. Nevertheless, they have to be brought to justice, and even there 'the system' is rotten to the core.

        We all know who will be the first to have a working quantum computer, so we better speed up to understand who the real 'terrorists' to our former democracies are and to chase them out of our freedom. As always it is on US, the people, and on no one else.
  • Nov 28 2012: Smile at the observers and watchers ( or are they just perverts ..I can never get that right!!! )