Raw thoughts from Alex Dong

Ray Ozzie on NSA, PRISM and the critical junction for the next decade

Ray Ozzie on why NSA’s PRISM program makes now the critical moment for the internet industry for next 10 years. (Via: HackerNews)

Back to the present – it pains me to see such a lack of transparency in how our elected officials are running our government. Of course, the common man knows it’s common sense that there’s an inherent need for secrecy in conducting small scale covert operations. We do get it. However, it’s also common sense that it’s inevitable that any complex large-scale long-term operation will ultimately come to light. And so it’s just common sense that any such broad-based operations that might be perceived as impacting our constitutional rights should be the subject of broad public debate. No, not when they’re being prototyped or tested or used in small scale settings – but definitely somewhere on the path from “tactical use” to “broad strategic dependence”.

These are not small issues, nor need they be at all partisan. Wyden, Paul, and others are trying. Theses issues are fundamental to defining the relationship between us citizens and our government in the decades ahead. In particular, in this world where “SaaS” and “software eats everything” and “cloud computing” and “big data” are inevitable and already pervasive, it pains me to see how 3rd Party Doctrine may now already be being leveraged to effectively gut the intent of U.S. citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights. Don’t we need a common-sense refresh to the wording of our laws and potentially our constitution as it pertains to how we now rely upon 3rd parties? It makes zero sense in a “services age” where granting third parties limited rights to our private information is so basic and fundamental to how we think, work, conduct and enjoy life. For example, did you really intend to yield your 4th amendment rights when you granted a 3rd party access to your files as a part of Mac Software Update, Windows Update, Virus Scanners, etc., or when you started using a service-tethered smartphone?

Anyway, unlike ‘web tracking’ issues which seem to be broadly ignored because of our love for ad-supported services, I hope we all (especially the young readers of reddit, hackernews, etc) wake up to the fact that these privacy and transparency issues are REAL, and that they truly will impact you and the country you live in, and that even if you don’t consider yourself an activist you really should get informed and form an opinion. Again, this is a non-partisan issue, and let’s all work to ensure that it stays this way.

Two great organizations where you can learn are EPIC and EFF. (Disclosure: I am on the board of EPIC.) Take it in, and think. Your contributions are needed and would of course be quite welcome.