Point counterpoint on Big Brother

Bruce Schneier, Is Big Brother a Big Deal?

The fear isn’t an Orwellian government deliberately creating the ultimate totalitarian state… It’s that we’re doing it ourselves, as a natural byproduct of the information society. We’re building the computer infrastructure that makes it easy for governments, corporations, criminal organizations and even teenage hackers to record everything we do, andâ┚¬â€yesâ┚¬â€even change our votes. And we will continue to do so unless we pass laws regulating the creation, use, protection, resale and disposal of personal data. It’s precisely the attitude that trivializes the problem that creates it.

Marcus Ranum, Big Brother is a sissy

Can you seriously imagine what The Department Of Big Brother Department would be like? If they had gotten started in 1984 like they were supposed to, they’d probably have just recently switched most of their agency Email off of AOL into their own, outsourced, private service – after incurring massive cost-overruns and having their mail server compromised by a 9-year-old hacker. If The President ordered The Department Of Big Brother Department to jigger the E-voting machines in Florida to rig the 2008 election, it’d never work. By the time they had gotten the first couple implementations specified, implemented and tested, it would be 2016 and by then the E-voting machines wouldn’t be running Vista any more and they’d need to start over.


  1. I think both miss the point. The NSA already does scan emails on a regular basis, and millions of phone calls are monitored by computer for “keywords.” While on the one ahnd there is far tyoo much data for any single organization to monitor, on the other it is far too easy to gather the information, including phone logs and credit card purchases– through legal, illegal, and questionable means, including (as TI found out) independent snoops. So although the government may only rarely be able to identify an “enemy” by this gathering of data, if it identifies you, it has lots of data about you on hand.

  2. And then there was that little incident in DC in ’76…

    I lean toward point A, point B is good snark but I’ve spent far to much tie in public employ, albiet academia, to write them off as that stupid. The Rove e-mail outsourcing is an excellent example of how a back trail can be covered. The technology itself is a double-edged sword… it ain’t magic, any sensible user can avoid run of the mill snooping by understanding how these things work and then not participating. Examples in mind are don’t use a credit card, or commercial phone service.

    Just like we learned in the seventies…

  3. I think we need laws governing this, like Schneier says. But given the enormous amounts of data to track, the vastly different programs that are doing it, the government trying to put it all together in a massive database that’ll give useful real-time results seems an impossible task to me.

  4. Of course NEW Labours big idea to help cut crime,ID cards? the way things are going they are a waste of time and money.The technology to inject a chip into the human body with all the infomation to tell any government who you are and WHERE you are at any given time is just around the corner,that can be scanned from a satellite in orbit.Well they chip dogs and can control the speed of every car in the UK by satellite if they wanted to now.It`s only a matter of time that if you are convicted of a crime this will be done to you.The DNA bank is a good example even if you are not convicted of a crime you can end up on it.And lets face it can you see the three main parties resisting that kind of power?.To make the british people accept all this just let it all get worse.

    This is just another nail in the coffin of our human rights here in Britain.We have had so many nails nailed into our coffin by the tories/new labour over the last 27yrs there is now more metal then wood.

Comments are closed.