Seems there is a brain behind Kim Dotcom's playboy facade. This is the guy who was behind Megaupload that famously got busted by the US Government something over a year ago. Stolen entire from The Guardian.
The post 9/11 security narrative has eroded our privacy rights in favour of government control. Prism should be discontinued immediately
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 13 June 2013 04.01 EDT
'Prism and its related practices should be discontinued immediately'.
Nobody would be shocked to hear me admit that I have a problem with authority. During most of my adult life, I have resisted the notion that the government always acts in the best interests of its citizens. Edward Snowden’s recent interview with the Guardian underscores the possibility that those like me – who see the state as a potential threat to basic civil rights and liberties – may have been right all along.
Snowden’s leak of classified US government information acquired during his work for the National Security Agency (NSA) confirms that the US government is gathering and archiving online data and metadata on a massive scale. The data is stored at NSA data centers, where zettabytes of cloud storage are available to authorities. Snowden’s revelations have again framed the debate over the balance between our privacy rights and our need for security.
Some proponents of Prism assert that it is an essential tool against terrorism. They claim that only data belonging to foreigners (that is, non-US residents) is retained, and that content is not reviewed as a matter of course, only algorithmically analysed for suspicious patterns. They point out that a search warrant is still required from a secret court set up under the US. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) may be spun up so that content – accumulated over years of daily internet spooling – may be extracted and analysed, laying bare a suspect’s entire virtual life.
Those safeguards have limited value. According to congressional reporting, the FISA court received 1,789 applications for authority to conduct electronic surveillance in 2012, but not one application was denied. We cannot debate whether the FISA court is a rubber stamp, because its proceedings are secret. Further, any assurance to US citizens that the NSA will not gather and archive their data is suspect. The “Five Eyes” alliance between the intelligence agencies of the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK effectively permits those governments to circumvent the prohibition against gathering data on their own citizens by sharing information across the Five Eyes intelligence community. The UK for example can spy on Americans and make that information available to the US government on its massive spy cloud – one that the NSA operates and the Five Eyes share.
Prior to 9/11, the operative presumption in developed nations favoured privacy, but the security narrative has since reversed the presumption, eroding our privacy rights in favour of government control over our personal information. However, government is an instrument – sometimes a crude one – susceptible to abuse, as demonstrated by recent admissions that the US Internal Revenue Service has targeted specific groups based on ideology. When we empower the state, we empower those that hold sway over the state, and the state is subject to influence from a multitude of quarters.
I have personally been a victim of such abuses. The US government has indicted me, shut down my cloud storage company Megaupload and seized all of my assets because it claims I was complicit in copyright infringement by some of the people who used the Megaupload service. I have emphasised that I am being prosecuted not because the charges against me have some sound basis in US copyright law, but because the US justice department has been instrumentalised by certain private interests that have a financial stake in neutralising my business. That trend represents a danger not just to me, but to all of us.
Recent polls in the US suggest that the public is not much preoccupied with the fact that our data is being retained, so long as our own political party is in control of the government. That kind of fickle comfort is small-minded. The point we should derive from Snowden’s revelations – a point originally expressed in March 2013 by William Binney, a former senior NSA crypto-mathematician – is that the NSA’s Utah Data Center will amount to a “turnkey” system that, in the wrong hands, could transform the country into a totalitarian state virtually overnight. Every person who values personal freedom, human rights and the rule of law must recoil against such a possibility, regardless of their political preference. Others take a more cavalier approach, such as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt in 2009: “If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.”
We should heed warnings from Snowden because the prospect of an Orwellian society outweighs whatever security benefits we derive from Prism or Five Eyes. Viewed through the long lens of human history, concerns over government tyranny are always legitimate. It is those concerns that underpin the constitutions of most developed countries, and inform international principles of human rights and the rule of law. Prism and its related practices should be discontinued immediately, and the Utah Data Center should be leased to cloud storage companies with encryption capabilities.
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