President Obama: "You Can't Have 100% Security, and Also Then Have 100% Privacy and 0 Inconvenience."

Comments

1
I don't think it's a zero-sum equation. I'll take 90% security and 90% privacy and 20% inconvenience.
2
"we... as a society" should read "we... as a government"
3
Well we are going to have to do that. This isn't an issue until it is an issue. There isn't enough fervor to do anything about it. That's what people should be focusing on, getting people into an actionable state.
4
I'll take the privacy, thanks. They sorta suck at the whole security thing anyway.
5
How exactly can we decide this when the entire program is secret and they prosecute anyone who speaks of it?
6
If you're on the internet, you can't have 100% privacy, period.

Maybe through legislation you could prevent government access to your meta data.

But verizon and google and apple and motherless and everybody else are still going to have all that shit.

Personally, I'm not of the belief that the government having the data is worse than private businesses having the data.
7
Four legs good, two legs bad.
8
It's unfortunate that our government, especially congress is so broken.

Still, a large part of me thinks that the executive branch should try to do everything it legally can with the budgets they are given to keep us safe (although food, weather and are crumbling infrastructure are threats that seem to get short shift). I don't blame Obama or his administration for these overreaches, in so far as they are legal, and hope I can only imagine the shit storm that would occur if they feel short and something happened.

I agree with Senator Ron Wyden, that one of the bigger problems is the secret interpretations of law. Once those are themselves illegal we'll be in a much better position to lament how bad our legislature is at codifying and correcting the people's will.
9
There was an incorrect statement in what he said.

We do have people who are listening to your phone calls.

We're just not allowed to tell you that.

But ... pigs are naturally superior.
10
We can't make that decision if it's all secret.

I know others have said it, but this deserves repeating. There is no need to keep secret the fact that this stuff happens. Secrecy only guarantees that we never get to make that decision and that there will never be accountability for the programs. It does not "damage national security" to talk about this. Let them keep some details obscured to prevent countermeasures being developed - that's reasonable. But the program's existence, its goals and its broad means does not need to be secret.
11
As Benjamin Franklin said, "People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both."
12
I would choose privacy, but as a society, we will choose security. We always do. See: Red Scare, Patriot Act.
13
"we" are gonna make some "choices"... SO GLAD I'm being included in this decision-making process. DEMOCRACY FTW!

In other, why don't we put the kibosh on terrorism by NOT BEING VIOLENT BULLIES ourselves and bombing the shit out of other people indiscriminately, starting illegal wars for economic resources that our corporations want, and generally being globally terrorizing assholes.

The change you want to see in the world starts at home...

@9 - Actually, they don't have people listening in on your phone calls. They have software robots doing that. Only if the robots find something interesting do the humans get involved.
14
Pretty sure we had this conversation like 12 years ago when the Patriot Act was being debated (where debated = "WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!").
15
I fall strongly on the side of privacy, but... the technology for private citizens to encrypt their emails has been available for decades, and NO ONE uses it. I've taken this to indicate that people care in theory, but not in practice.
16
""we're gonna have to make some choices as a society"

Hahahaaah, do "we" have a "choice" in the matter?

Anyone to the center of right-wing authoritarian is obviously a crazy loony to Obama on these topics.
17
But it is all right, everything is all right. The struggle is finished. I love Big Brother.
18
Also nice to see the "YUR WITH US OR UR AGAINST US" narrative coming back with the farty-whiff of GWB's presidency.
19
I just saw something interesting. CH 13 News kept running its' live stream after it was to end at 10 am. I really enjoyed it - besides their commercial of how they like the viewing audience and how getting the news out to us means so much - sure took a different spin when they didn't know they were still running. Did anyone else see it?
I wish this type of thing would take place -happen- to let the public know what the Mayor and all at City Hall really think about us and things.
20
@ 16, we do. (And @ 13, we are.) Note how little outrage this stuff has generated. Nobody will lose an election over this. No demonstrations* will happen. Because we have already assented to it.

Obama is very well in the mainstream on this issue, unfortunately.
21
Asterisk @ 20 is suppose to be a footnote, which is:

"Demonstration" meaning something massive, happening in cities everywhere. I'm sure a half dozen grizzled old hippies will gather at the university commons over this, but demonstrations ignored by everyone don't count.
22
So when then is the next Seattle Cryptoparty? There were cryptoparty workshops in Vancouver, BC: is there no demand in Seattle area for it? If a UW researcher can work for The Onion Router project, and if a local collective can offer e-mail accounts and communication channels for activists, why can't there be more notice of "reduced internet surveillance" workshops and seminars for beginners here?
23
@13 correction noted. Originally, it was people assisted with recording, now it's mostly robots. But ... some is active listening by actual people.
24
pull out of everything, everywhere and get your own shit together. a total retreat into self-sustainable bio-regions. secure my nuts bitch.
25
@15,

I don't even think most people care in theory. Some media outlets are going crazy over this, but the American people are collectively yawning, assuming they're even paying attention.
26
I can't wait until some of the actual data from this program starts leaking and politicians and businessmen start getting blackmailed. If China is smart, they will do everything they can to get this data. With it they could own every politician and businessman in the country.
27
I think a lot of people would be interested in taking steps to protect their privacy via encryption and other strategies, but if you are not tech-savy you don't know where to start (I am speaking from experience; just googled @22's reference to The Onion Router project [great, now they're watching me for sure]; never heard of it, still not quite sure what it is or how it could relate to me).

People are talking about the lack of demonstrations indicating assent. I think protests would be a lot less effective than some sort of campaign / education project to convince the general public that this is important and that there are steps they can take to protect themselves. I'm not sure how it would be done, but it could almost be treated like a public health campaign, or a identity theft awareness campaign. Get some celebrities, make it funny... I don't know. Many people, if given a simple step to take, might opt in. Of course, most wouldn't because it would be slightly inconvenient. (this is all based on the assumption that there are some easy steps to encrypting software; I don't know if that is true).
28
@ 13 You are with your elected reps.

The media reports form yesterday seem to be waaay exaggerated.

As a prof of mine one remarked privacy doesn't mean much if you are dead.
29
Most of what Obama says here seems reasonable. But one thing he said bothers me:

"100% security" is a myth. It doesn't exist. It isn't really a question of sacrificing privacy to get there, because you can't get there. Our ongoing attempts to attain it with gross overkill (like taking off our fucking shoes at the airport) and the piecemeal deconstruction of our principles as a free nation will never make us completely safe. Nothing can. Life contains risk. Life IS risk.

A lot of people probably don't want to hear that, but if Obama wants to have an honest conversation about the "trade-offs" in his security policy, he needs to make people understand that absolute safety is not a thing we can ever do.
30
@29, in theory, anything can be justified to obtain a goal that keeps receding as we move forward, as "100% security" does. There will always be more sacrifices needed to get from 99% to 99.9%. In other words, you are assuming that Obama wants an honest discussion, when he really wants enough people to not care so that he can do what he wants. These new powers will of course be passed on to the next president, who may or may not decide to follow the secret laws, or may interpret them at his or her secret will.
31
First choice of the day:

Convene a "crimes against humanity tribunal" and bring Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, Gonsales, Obama, Biden, Holder to justice.

32
His words didn't bother me as much as the way he looked as he said them. I'm not used to feeling so suspicious of him.
33
@29 is correct.

100% security is impossible. So too is 100% privacy. And so too is 0 inconvenience.

The underlying issue is the shape of the function that describes the interactions among the three. If, say, 90% security can be achieved with 80% privacy, how much inconvenience would we have to face? If we can achieve 95% security with 10% inconvenience, how much of our privacy do we have to surrender? What degree of security can we have with 95% privacy and 5% inconvenience? Etc., etc., etc.

It would be difficult enough to make this sort of calculation if we had access to the data. But with all this secrecy, it's impossible. We can't estimate the joint function if we aren't allowed to know what might go into constructing our models.
34
@33 good point about the shape of the function.

I'm thinking Obama is calling for a national referendum involving crayons and fill-in-yourself pie charts. These will be averaged to determine the desired level of security, inconvenience, and privacy.
35
@21 - That's a pretty high bar you set. Massive demonstrations in cities all over? In America? How long you lived here, son? We are one of the least unified "grouping" of people on Earth. Plus, folks gotta feed their kids. Did you see that post about Mal*Wart workers making $8/hr? Who can afford to demonstrate for nebulous outcomes when you can barely gas your car to get to work?

The fuckers have successfully divided and conquered most people in this country. The rest are struggling wage-slaves with little ability to organize successfully. A whole class of people in this country are already in jail or constantly worked though that system. Tis an uphill battle just to get universal healthcare, and you want "massive multi-city demonstrations" against non-obvious domestic data spying? I respect your writings here, but in this case you're mad.

They federalized this country for a reason*, you know. Specifically to make it more difficult for rebellion to spread and be successful. And it has worked. We'll never have a revolution in this country the likes of Egypt 2011, France 1789, or Burma 2007...etc.etc.

*Cf. The Federalist Papers
36
How is that entire "voting for the lesser of two evils thing" working out for you Matt in Denver?
37
I'll just leave this here for y'all: https://crypto.cat/
38

But we don't have 100% security! We don't have any security -- Boston Bombers?! We've had 10 years of having to be strip searched for taking a medium sized bottle of Garnier Fructis on a plane, and we're still under siege. All pain, no gain. Someone needs a better plan. We might as well scrap all the paranoia, carry, and say today is a good day to die.
39
@7 I think we've reached "four legs good, two legs better" already.

@30 Yep, and each increment of increased security comes with diminishing returns for the increased cost in privacy, like pretty much anything when you start at "really good" and are trying to move to "fucking awesome."
40
@ 36, good, thanks. The economy is still improving despite the Republicans' best efforts. The war in Iraq is over. Obamacare is far short of what it's being sold, but still an improvement over what we had before.

How's your self-imposed political irrelevance working out for you?
41
@ 35, why is that so high? Remember Occupy? Remember the Iraq War? Heck, even the Tea Party is a valid example of widespread anger, even if it's misinformed. If people were really concerned, I would expect demonstrations everywhere.

Try to understand that I'm citing that as evidence of how Americans are going along with all of this. The average person is shrugging at this stuff. They do this mostly because they believe that there's nothing they've said or written that will raise anyone's eyebrows if it's seen by government trawlers. And if it catches some bad guys, all the better.

It's the same thing that has existed throughout American history. For a nation founded on principles of freedom, we've simultaneously lived with the most egregious violations of those principles at the same time, mostly because they didn't affect the majority of voters at any given time. People don't understand that rights are violated even when they disagree with the people who are being oppressed or persecuted.
42
Ah, yes, @15, yes. I haven't heard somebody say that yet.

That was a pretty good and well-prepared answer by Obama. As an aside, it made me wonder how someone like W. Bush would have bungled the question, or what kind of evasive response someone like Romney would have given.

But I sort of accept his premise that 100% privacy with 100% security is impossible. There is always a little surveillance, whether it's security cameras (or drones) or employee background checks, which are much more invasive than what Obama described for the secret programs. Is he lying when he says that no one is listening to our phone calls or matching names with telephone numbers, or that the internet surveillance doesn't pertain to U.S. citizens or those living in the U.S.? I don't know. But, in this age of secret detentions without access to council and crazy fundamentalists (American and otherwise) trying to kill people, I'm finding it hard to be outraged about this. Honestly, I'm more concerned about the recurrent threat of the hobbling of Social Security, or the construction of Keystone XL (thanks, Obama), or the weakening of the rights of workers.
43
Liberty, privacy, security: choose any two. That's not really a government ultimatum, it's just... how the world works.

I'm unusual, I think, in feeling that privacy is definitely the most dispensable of the three. For some reason most people very much seem to prefer giving up liberty and security to prevent others from knowing what they're doing. I don't get that.
44
If you want privacy, unplug. There is no such thing as privacy in the indiscriminate ether of the inter webs. It's technologically impossible. But people persist on putting their entire live in the globalized digital realm as if there were not consequences. It'd be nice if the government wouldn't secretly utilize information. But they are only going where corporations have already gone in exploiting our data. And people generally don't give a shit. So this exploitation is going to happen until there is serious push back that is not token or merely political.

And do you honestly believe that a politician is going to tell the American people, possibly the stupidest most reactionary (and, as contradictory as it is, apathetic) electorate in the western world, that he/she can't guarantee them security?
45
@41 - Did Occupy change any policies? Revocation of TARP and the redistribution of money to the foreclosed-upon, perhaps? Was the Iraq War stopped by all those 100s of 1000s protestors in the early 2000s when after the war was begun in a cloud of lies? And those were tangible issues -- livelihoods. Lives.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for protesting and making the popular and/or dissenting voice heard. I was in the streets for the WTO and many other events too.

Yet the juggernaut rolls onward and continues to crush liberty. Call me somewhat jaded, but the policy changes aren't occuring. Grassroots stuff IS definitely occuring, and will continue to construct a better world. But the policy changes we need to happen, aren't.
46
Freedom, Security, Privacy, etc. We want everything but are willing to give up nothing. Not judging just saying. Something has to give somewhere.
47
It's a typically dishonest statement from Obama. Nobody expects 100% security and nobody expects 100% privacy.

And there's as much evidence to suggest that intrusions into privacy have prevented terrorism as there is to suggest a global flood and an arc filled with animals.
48
There won't be Iraq War style crowds because if this President does it, he gets a pass. Also, we knew he was doing similar and flip-flopped on telco immunity and FISA way before he won election. After 12 years of elevated security statism, people are probably less inclined to risk arrest* or pepper spray in the face if the goal is nebulous. Maybe we need to think bigger than ad hoc issues?

*especially since they can now be considered terrorists or unprivileged belligerents--or be confined to "free speech" zones
49
@ 45, my point was more about the relative acceptance Americans have for this compared to things that send them out to the streets. Although I have to rejoin that the failure of Occupy or the Iraq War protests to steer policy are more of an indictment of the modern Left's unwillingness to organize. Occupy protesters were actually pointing to their lack of leadership as a positive thing, not the cause of its ultimate ineffectiveness. (Still, they did succeed in shifting the discussion, which I believe played a large role in Romney's defeat).
51
Hey, let's all listen to Alex Jones while we're at it.
52
I told you so.

Small comfort, but I did.
53
What will it take to keep us secure from lightning strikes, earthquakes and asteroids? Just give me freedom and I'll take my chances on less than one hundred percent.
54
@51: Jones and Paul are definitely working on the stopped clock principle.
55
This is just one of many reasons why I don't belong to either of the two major political parties. They really are the same; they just lie about different things. You can believe whatever you choose to believe about either one, as long as you have no idea what's going on behind the scenes.