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Too important to ignore

I was all set to write about a nice Sunday ride today, with leaves starting to emerge and spring flowers in bloom, but I saw two articles on CNET that are too important to ignore.

So I chose to blog about the fragile flower of freedom, instead….

Rod Beckström, who was the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), resigned this week in protest over what he describes as de facto control, by the National Security Agency (NSA), of  DHS cyber security efforts through “detailees” and  technology insertions. He said that NSA has proposed moving some functions to the NSA Fort Meade, MD headquarters.

More importantly, Beckström warned that control of all top-level government network security by any one organization would significantly threaten “our democratic processes.” Even if this is a “turf battle,” I would guess that Beckström is (until next Friday) probably in a position to know.

Last summer, the Bush administration refused to release information about the National Cyber Security Center‘s budget, contractors, or how its mission relates to Internet surveillance, claiming that such disclosure could endanger “operations essential to the interests of our nation.” Much secrecy has surrounded the Center. Initially, even the existence of the NCSC was claimed to be classified.

The second CNET article…? :-)

This one, about Facebook (now with 175,000,000 members), that talks about the blurring of “private” and “public” (at least to your “friends” and, almost certainly, the government + those with whom it shares) information, the complexity of setting privacy options, and (from a security standpoint) the choice of the wrong “defaults” (defaults are to “share” information, rather than to keep it private) in a vast majority (15 out of 19) of information categories. (In security, the rule is to first DENY all access, and then to open up [minimally] particular types of access that are deemed to be needed.) There are some readers whom you really do not want to be your “friends” and others whom you cannot possibly keep from accessing the information, in any case! :-)

You may recall that I mentioned, in a recent blog entry, the opinion of one of my former (unnamed) CEOs, who claimed that we have no privacy left anyway. (He might have been in a “position to know,” too! :-) ) In others, I mentioned the benefit (especially to governments and law enforcement) of social networking information (hey, they used it to catch Saddam!), particularly with the “wrong defaults” enabled (from a security standpoint) and the eagerness of some govenment entities to implement biometrics (facial recognition software and thumbprinting) in several states of the U.S.

After all, why spend money trying to gather private information if people are willing to divulge it publicly? Or need to, in order to drive…?

I believe that, regrettably, all of this information-gathering will ultimately be put “under one roof,” for “efficiency” (which, along with “safety” and “convenience” are excuses given for eroding our liberties). Power tends to work that way. The founding fathers of the United States understood this fact well and created a system of “checks and balances” (separation of powers) to deal with the tendency and to keep the flower of freedom alive.

(Note added March 9, 2009: I gave this post a lot of thought last night. Even though the default security options are wrong (for security purposes) on Facebook and perhaps other sites, it is impossible to “put the genie back in the bottle” or futile to “close the barn door once the animals have escaped.” If you maximize your security, and you share with friends [and “friends of friends” and “friends of those,” etc.] who do not have security implemented, it is only slightly more difficult to collect all of your private information. My advice would be to share only that information that you would like ANYONE, ANYWHERE to read, from governments to insurance companies, to your boss. If you want to obscure your information, the best choice is to LIE [spread “disinformation”], which may shield you a bit from your goverment, but which will not endear you to your “friends.”) :-)

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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