Tuesday, 27 August 2013
US Surveillance Brings End to Legal Website
When former US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden first revealed systemic abuses by the US National Security Agency (NSA) in its information gathering process, no one could have imagined the collateral damage that would result. The latest evidence of that damage is the closing of the well-known Groklaw legal reporting website. Groklaw founder Pamela Jones closed the site due to an apparent lack of anonymity.
According to Jones, the NSA practice of screening and storing e-mails now makes it impossible for contributors to feed Groklaw information for its online publication without compromising their identities. A fear of the loss of anonymity would mean fewer contributors sending the site the information necessary to continue.
What's more, Jones does not want to endanger the identities of contributors who would still be willing to feed Groklaw information. It is too big a risk, knowing that information contained in an e-mail could come back to haunt the sender years down the road.
To be sure, Groklaw is not the only company adversely affected by the NSA. Already two other companies offering encrypted e-mail services have shuttered operations. They did so out of fear of lawsuits resulting from e-mails being seized and decrypted by the US government. Both companies could no longer guarantee security and privacy in the wake of NSA activities.
For the time being, it appears as though government overreaching has not affected the general networking environment. However, it's not beyond the realm of possibility to assume that information could be revealed later on that proves otherwise. For all we know, governments from around the world have their electronic spies monitoring virtually everything done online.
Now that we've reached this point, it is important to have a realistic discussion about the cost of security. After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, it was just assumed that beefing up surveillance and information sharing was necessary in order to avoid further attacks. Having said that, plenty of people warned that the types of surveillance being suggested would turn out to be damaging to individual freedom. It turns out that they were right.
Do we want to continue down the road in which the US and UK governments can use the need for domestic security as an excuse to practice surveillance in any way they see fit, at any time, and against any individual? If so, there will be no such thing as Internet security in the near future. There will always be the potential for spying eyes to discover what everyone is doing, saying and thinking. This is not wise.
It's no wonder, then, that the concept of cloud computing still is not catching on as fast as was hoped in Europe. Companies are smart enough to know that cloud computing opens up the door to even greater security risks that cannot be easily managed. They are far more comfortable sticking with traditional hosting plans that allow them to keep their environments at least a little more secure.
It looks like it could be time to reconsider what we are currently doing...