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How to regain trust in the NSA era: The IGUS Gambit
David Brin   Apr 18, 2014  

How might the Obama Administration best respond to wave after wave of "NSA revelations" that roil and cloud the political waters?  Ironically, almost none of Edward Snowden's leaks—or those of Julian Assange—revealed anything that was illegal per se. What they have done is stir a too-long delayed argument over what should be legal!

Specifically, the Patriot Act and the ratchet effect on surveillance that always happens when a country enters a state of panic. The post-9/11 alarm is finally fading and -- (barring some new, panic-inducing event) -- elements of the Patriot Act and pervasive surveillance are now up for public debate.
See page 206* of The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force us to Choose between Privacy and Freedom? (1997) -- where this cycle of terrorism and increased government surveillance was predicted in precise -- and rather creepy -- detail.
 Elsewhere, I recently dissected and appraised the forty-two suggested reforms that a commission presented to President Obama, many of which he has instituted or sent to Congress. Here I want to focus on one important, trust-building measure that would make a huge difference.
= Meeting the needs of the Public and the PPC =
As expected, most of the current argument is about the wrong side of the issue -- mewling plaints calling to prevent society's elites (like the NSA or Google) from seeing -- an effort that is fated to be futile, condemned to absurdity by Moore's Law.
But at last there is talk also of doing what will work -- improving the degree to which the citizenry can supervise and have confidence that government remains essentially a servant of the people.
The main sticking point is over the need that members of the Professional Protector Caste (PPC) have for tactical secrecy, or the ability to conceal their operations from villains and adversaries.   This need is very strong, but so is that of citizens to feel assured that secrecy remains only tactical, short-term and pragmatic, never an excuse for permanent avoidance of accountability.
I have over the years offered several innovations that might achieve a win-win -- securing both tactical shadows for the PPC to be effective, while ensuring accountability that at least partially reassures the public. Foremost among these proposals would be to create the Office of Inspector General of the United States (IGUS).
IGUS could be established with a one-page law that simply transfers all of the inspectors general in every agency and department to an independent service under a figure of noted rectitude, whose staff might then perform their functions without the inherent conflict of interest that stymies so many IGs. IGUS members would be trained in both confidentiality and prim skepticism on the taxpayers' behalf, allowing PPC agencies to continue tactically secret investigations, but always with the peoples' delegated gaze over their shoulders.
Without question, proposing and establishing IGUS would be an agile jiu-jitsu move on the part of the Obama Administration. It would simultaneously say:
"We understand that public confidence is shaken and this move should help to restore it while preventing the worst and most perniciously chronic abuses… while at the same time allowing our skilled public protectors to continue doing their important jobs. It is also the quickest way to do this, requiring the fewest changes in law."
Will this satisfy everybody? Of course not… nor should it! Indeed, I do not consider IGUS to be enough. I have several more proposals that would work in parallel with IGUS, so that in-sum we all can truly be sure that our watch dogs remain loyal (if fierce) dogs, and never wolves.
Nevertheless, establishing an Office of the Inspector General of the United States would be a good start. And it would allow the Administration to be seen acting vigorously, in a forward, pro-active direction that BOTH enhances public trust and allows our agencies to do their jobs.
My IGUS proposal was written in greater detail as one of two dozen "Suggestions for the Incoming Obama Administration" way back in 2008. Alas, not one of them got to anyone's ear. C'est la vie.
Still, you can read about it here: Free the Inspectors General!
== Political Miscellany ==
Lying with Data: Fox viewers in the family? Show them this chart that appeared on their news” network and ask if they can explain why almost no American scientists are republican, anymore.  See this appraisal, also: The Statisticians at Fox News use classic and novel graphical techniques to lead with data. 

*Page 206 of The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force us to choose between Privacy

David Brin Ph.D. is a scientist and best-selling author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. David's newest novel - Existence - is now available, published by Tor Books."


Why we can’t just get ourselves privacy laws that cover meta-data is beyond me. It was that loop hole that lead to a whole system being built around violations of the Fourth Amendment:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Moore’s Law was a necessary but not a sufficient cause of these violations. How do I know this? Counties with the capacity to set up similar systems with robust privacy protections did not do so. To suggest that Moore’s Law is the source of the problem is to surrender ourselves to a blind sort of determinism.

Q: What is the difference between laws to protect against violation of privacy, and sousveillance tools as utility for transparency to balance surveillance?

A: Sousveillance tools to guard against the below do not exist as yet, (although Transparency helps and is the truth that will set you free)? Will they ever exist? And even if they do, does this solve the problem of state surveillance?

Class action privacy lawsuit filed against Facebook in Austria

“Case lead by privacy campaigner Max Schrems sees 25,000 users sue social network for alleged illegal tracking of their data and its involvement in the NSA’s surveillance programme”

“The closely-watched case sees 25,000 users suing the social network for various rights violations, ranging from the “illegal” tracking of their data under EU law to Facebook’s involvement with the US National Security Agency.

Each of the plaintiffs is claiming a “token amount” of €500 (£392) in damages, while a further 55,000 users have registered to join the procedures at a later stage.

“Basically we are asking Facebook to stop mass surveillance, to (have) a proper privacy policy that people can understand, but also to stop collecting data of people that are not even Facebook users,” said Schrems.”

For the above case to serve any utility, lawsuits for such trivial amounts would not suffice to deter “private” enterprise from adhering to international laws, or be used as case studies by businesses for purposes of opposing state abuses and “unlawful” requirements place upon them?

This can only happen if Facebook and others can deny state requests under prerequisite of damage to business?



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