It's been a lively couple of weeks here in Cringeville, all hush-hush/cloak and dagger in the light of the ongoing revelations regarding the NSA and our nation's industrial surveillance complex. I feel like I've written 347 blog posts about the topic, and there's still more to talk about. But I promised my readers they'd have their say, and now it's their turn.
[ Snowden has answers, but NSA still holds the questions. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter and follow Cringely on Twitter. | Get the latest insight on the tech news that matters from InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. ]
I'll start with Nina, who found herself dejected by the leaks coming from Edward Snowden:
I am about beside myself with what is occurring and it seems to me we have no recourse to rectify what appears to me to be an impending train wreck. Yes, every person counts but unfortunately too many I believe are scared and can excuse away the erosion of our freedom to privacy, the individual and personal information. I seriously think we are on a whirlwind tour from the home of the free and brave, to the scared, watched and paranoid. That is definitely not something I want to sing to.
I'm not exactly warbling myself. But here comes reader J. A. with a different point of view:
I don't think we should tell the US Government [to] sit back while bad guys, whether they be thieves or enemy countries, are actively cracking into other people's computers and trying to milk as much information out of the Internet as they can and sometimes selling what they find. Our government HAS TO be aggressive in using electronic data to try to catch or at least slow down the bad guys.
There you have the two opposing sides of this argument, which you'll find repeated about a billion times across the Internet. Cringe fan G. J. echoes that last viewpoint. When I asked if NSA data mining makes you feel more secure, he responded:
Great question, but the WRONG question! The real questions for U.S. citizens is How does America have real FREEDOM without REAL SECURITY? Do citizens want to go to bed at night knowing that their safety & security is provided by those patriots doing their jobs secretly? Don't you believe that other foreign countries are performing the same analysis on the U.S.? Or does U.S. want a nano second Perl Harbor?
(I think he meant "Pearl" and not Perl, but I can't be sure.)
Technology alone isn't the answer
For reader J. B., the government's intent to identify terrorists before they strike is a worthy one, but it's going about it the wrong way. He compares the NSA's PRISM program to the TSA: a lot of technology being thrown at a problem with very little to show for it.
You and I and everyone else knows there are better ways to do airport security than the random groping TSA does (billions served, but no terrorists yet!). Israel could give us lessons. But when the TSA is questioned, any alternatives are always too hard, especially when put next to shiny X-ray vision machines....
It's too hard, and besides ... Ooo look at this shiny PRISM we have over here, or rather, pay no attention to the sparkly, shiny database of everyone and everything.
Just seems since Al Gore invented the Internet, government workers of all types want the next shiny more than they want to do their jobs.