When IT Meets Politics

Feb 11 2014   7:57PM GMT

The irony of exposing state surveillance between 70th birthday of Colossus and Safer Internet Day

Philip Virgo Profile: Philip Virgo

Tags:
Bletchley
Colossus
Edward Snowden
Facebook
Google
guardian
Microsoft
national museum of computing

The commentators responding to the Guardian press cover for the launch of Glenn Greenwald‘s anti NSA website, The Intercept appear to lack a sense of history, let alone of irony.

I have blogged many times before on the symbiotic relationship between computing  and surveillance and between Bletchley and Fort Meade and very recently on the women, younger in years than Snowden but considerably more mature, who “won the war” (or at least shortened it by many years and millions of dead).

It is nice, therefore, to be able to link to the photos taken at the 70th Anniversary of the first time a “computer” broke a cipher of some of the those who kept silent for half a century. It is also nice to link to a reconstruction of the process, from intercept to decrypt .Both remind us that computing and surveillance are more efficiently, securely and discretely run by women. They tend to focus on the job instead of playing macho games or demanding attention.

The even bigger irony is that “The Intercept” should be launched on the eve of Safer Internet Day , when most of the world is more concerned about the predators and perverts watching us and our children than about what the Security Services might be doing.

I suspect that, were a survey to be done today, more of the population (not just parents and grandparents)  would say that the security services were not doing enough surveillance, but were spending far too much, watching the wrong people, very inefficiently.  Instead they should be working hand in glove with Telcos, ISPs and players like Facebook, Google and Microsoft to protect us all, not just those in power.

Personally I am more concerned to be able to control what my fridge tells the food police and to avoid reprisals from my ISP or Search Engine when I put my mobile smart phone in a booster bag mesh bag (miniature Faraday Cage) to avoid all their location dependent adverts.   
P.S. Jim Prideaux has just (Thursday 13th) sent me the following: “your phone might not survive very well in a booster bag. Better to turn off if you don’t want location tracked.

Indeed just knocking it on inside a bag could be bad news because it will try harder and harder to get a signal. Perhaps modern phones are cleverer, but it was an concern when we had to use such bags.” Does anyone supply a mobile phone booster “case” which will protect against accidentally switching it on and draining the battery? 

 

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