Don't Shoot the Messenger


I was interviewed in an article by Vanessa Baird in New Internationalist called Don’t shoot the messenger about the nature of whistleblowing and how to protect whistleblowers. It cites my back-of-envelope argument for how to fix privacy:

{% blockquote %} He has calculated that the total budget of the ‘Five Eyes’ – that is the communications snooping services of the US, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand combined – is $120 billion a year. With that they can scoop up the data of 2.5 billion internet users, making the cost per person per day a mere 13 cents.

‘My five-year plan is to increase that cost to $10,000 per person per day. The services would have to be a lot more selective and do their job properly.’

How to do it? Encryption – the types that hackers have developed and which the NSA has still, as far as we know, not managed to crack. ‘I use encryption a lot,’ says McCarthy. ‘But we need to make it easier to use and available to everyone.’

This will help disclosers too, he says, because if everybody’s privacy is improved then so is that of whistleblowers. Naturally, their leaks need to be accurate, need to pass the ‘public interest’ test and not gratuitously violate personal privacy. {% endblockquote %}

There is an error in the article though. It says that I am pushing the use of physics against blanket surveillance, but in fact I’m pushing both physics and economics. Because they go together. There’s absolutely nothing surprising about this approach if you’re reasonably tech savvy, but it’s interesting how uncommon it is to think about these kinds of strict limits outside the tech community.