media reveals “secret” gov’t program

US gov’t agencies secretly collect data on Americans. What surprises me most about this is that anyone is surprised. Most security-minded folk assumed this sort of thing for years, and assumed it to be much more pervasive (of course, maybe it is more pervasive than has been revealed).

The NY Times editorial board wants Congress to intervene to augment our privacy. Their suggestion is to:  “[end] the secrecy that makes it impossible for lawmakers or other officials to discuss, even in general terms, what the government is doing.” and to “limit the collection of call records and the monitoring of Internet traffic to that of people suspected of terrorism, ending the mass warehousing of everyone’s data.”

So, more disclosure, and far less scope, as data collection would be limited.

I have no idea if the program is effective or not so it’s hard to comment. Greater disclosure, at the very least to members of Congress, certainly sounds warranted. I’d be curious how effective this program is, what metrics they use to determine its effectiveness, and what safeguards are in place to prevent abuse of power (and abuse of power will always happen when there is no accountability).

As far as the program being either “good” or “bad,” there’s not enough data to say at this point, but I’m willing to give some leeway. We’re nonchalant about advertising companies knowing everything about us; we provide a wealth of data of our own volition to Google and Facebook. So is it such a bad thing for the US gov’t to aggregate information and use it to fight terrorism (or criminal networks, or whatever they’re doing)? For now, probably not. Privacy is already dead, and this data aggregation program is just another set of nails in the coffin.

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