“People using my service trusted me to safeguard their online identities and protect their information. I simply could not betray that trust,” he said. “If the Obama administration feels compelled to continue violating the privacy rights of the masses just so they can conduct surveillance on the few then he should at least ask Congress for laws providing that authority instead of using the courts to force businesses into secretly becoming complicit in crimes against the American people.”
From the owner of now defunct Lavabit. I agree with that last sentence. If we want to become the sort of country wherein government agencies can force secret disclosure on a mass scale, then those laws should be codified. We’ll lose billions of dollars–perhaps trillions over the long-term–as trust is the ultimate currency in the twenty-first century, and such laws will eviscerate that trust, but at least our privacy laws will be clearly defined.
Related: regarding mass phone location surveillance
Mr. Wyden pressed General Alexander about whether the N.S.A. had ever collected, or made plans to collect, bulk records about Americans’ locations based on cellphone tower data.
General Alexander replied that the N.S.A. is not doing so as part of the call log program, but that information pertinent to Mr. Wyden’s question was classified.
Notice the verbal contortions there. Gen Alexander replied that the NSA is “not doing so as part of the call log program”; that means the NSA is collecting call log location information, just not under that particular program. At least he goes on to state that there is additional pertinent information, but that it’s classified.
It’s hard to even know whether this is a lie or not. Had he not continued (first part of sentence), I’d call it lying (indirect lying, to be specific). However, his clause at the end implies that his hands are tied on this; maybe he’d genuinely like to respond truthfully to the question, but he can’t, because the information is classified. At this point, we should assume that Americans’ locations are being tracked via our phones and stored for an indefinite period of time. That might not be the case, but we should assume it is.
Gen Alexander was candid on this point:
“Is it the goal of the NSA to collect the phone records of all Americans?” Udall asked.
“I believe it is in the nation’s best interests to put all the phone records into a lockbox that we could search when the nation needs to do it, yes,” Alexander said.
That translates to “Yes.” The General just admitted that the goal is to collect phone records of all Americans (whether that includes location data or not is unclear, but I would assume it probably does).
And finally: the benefits of the surveillance state
Yes, there actually are benefits, and not just to government employed eavesdroppers and investors of private prisons. Crime might go down (further) and be easier to solve after the fact. The Big Brother chill might make people fearful of doing anything that gives the slightest hint of illegality. It’s probably better to live in a police state than a state of anarchy–if we could only choose one.