The N-acronym

…the N-acronym being NSA, obviously. It does not really surprise me that the United States government (or whoever feels responsible) seems to be unwilling to sign a so-called No-Spy-treaty. So, in the light of all the revealing leaks, what is the problem?

Lots of things. However, there is something that needs to be pointed out since most people concentrate on the “Big Brother” aspect. While this is something the availability heuristic helpfully suggests, it is not the only problem with being spied on by legal institutions (or, for that matter, any institution). The other problem is that institutions consist of people and while no institution has an incentive to look into YOUR files and tamper with YOUR data, malicious individuals for sure have. If you think this is something that may happen in good old movies like Enemy of the State or True Lies (which I nevertheless recommend), here is something that suggests that even the police consists not only of law-abiding policemen whose primary job is to serve and to protect (For those too lazy to follow the link: this is not your average leftist ACAB stuff, there is evidence that some police departments have been infiltrated by organized crime). And this is only something that is obviously grossly inappropriate, lots of other things, like stalking or spying on a random person, cannot be detected as easily as pretty much everyone can do it without being connected to organized crime. The Big Brother or any big company is an abstract concept that is far away. Your neighbor is far more concrete and may be more interested in the vast amounts of data their employer can offer. Perhaps their relative works for a company that is your competitor. Perhaps they just like reading your romantic correspondence. For someone, you might truly be a very interesting person, you might never know.

I hope you are now at least as paranoid as I am, and so, I would like to phrase the question as follows: Do you trust a random middle-class person enough to let them spy on you? Not the big, abstract NSA, but your neighbor? Does the possible damage seem less than the security you can gain?

I want to stress that security and privacy are not something sacred and there is an obvious tradeoff. However, it seems that the security gained by mass surveillance of phone call metadata (which can provide a great lot of information) does not really compare to the problems it creates. And the profits from targeted advertising… well, at least in this case you can make your Internet experience more or less private. Unless someone at the NSA sells your browsing patterns to advertisers. You never know!

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