The activist talks to Popular Science about digital naïveté
security, surveillance, and privacy are not contrary goals. You don’t give up one and get more of the other. If you lose one, you lose the other. If you are always observed and always monitored, you are more vulnerable to abuse than you were before.
Why doesn’t mass surveillance work? That is the problem with false positives and false negatives. If you go look, our program is 99.9 percent effective, and that sounds really good, but when you think about that in the context of a program, that means one out of every thousand people is going to be inaccurately identified as a terrorist, or one out of every thousand terrorists is actually going to be let go by the system, and considered to not be a terrorist.
Let’s think about the example of AT&T sharing with the government more than 26 years of phone records. That’s the full span of these people’s lives. They’ll never have made a phone call on AT&T that hasn’t been captured.
Metadata is the technical word for an activity record, so the government has been aggregating perfect records of private lives. And when you have all of someone’s phone records, purchase records, every website they’ve ever visited or typed into Google, or liked on Facebook, every cell phone tower their phone has ever passed and at what time, and what other cell phones were at that tower with them, what you’ve done is you’ve written a secret biography of every person that even they themselves don’t know.