Netmail Blog

It Doesn't Matter What You Think About Your Data, It Matters What the Government Thinks

Posted by Logan McKnight

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Feb 12, 2014 11:31:20 AM

“Big data” has been a global topic of discussion for quite some time now due to its impact and pervasiveness in our lives.  

Individuals create data in their day-to-day lives – be it emailing your Mum about a health issue, shopping online, sexting with your lover, or being captured on camera in the grocery store loitering in the frozen food isle. Corporations collect data to track spending habits for marketing purposes, with the clear goal of generating revenue. Governments hoard data for surveillance to create profiles of its citizens…under the guise of preventing “terrorism”.

Unless you live off the grid, there is no way around creating data and leaving a digital footprint. The vast majority of this data is completely innocent and people feel like they have nothing to hide, so they aren’t phased by the fact that all their communications, movements and activities are constantly tracked, monitored and stored.

Many people are not concerned about their personal data being stored because they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong and they have “nothing to hide”. However, it doesn’t matter what you think about your data and information…it only matters what the government thinks about your data. 

Years and years of data is archived daily and can be harvested and analyzed by the government to form behavioral patterns and categorize your perceived “threat level”, so that one day you could be retroactively convicted of a crime. Law enforcement officials call this extralegal technique “Parallel Reconstruction”.  Get dirt on people, arrest them, and then fabricate the evidence pretending that the investigation started with the original (premeditated) arrest. This is a clear and serious violation of the United States Constitution, and not used to prevent “terrorism” – rather, to catch tax-evaders and drug dealers.

Another serious issue with this “keep everything” strategy is that so much information and data is being collected that there is no way to keep up with and analyze everything. Even the most advance algorithms and content filtering technologies can be inaccurate at predicting and preventing maleficence – 9/11, The Boston Bombings and the Newtown Tragedy to name a few dramatic examples of the failure to foil an attack.

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Data, data everywhere, but none of it is useful.

Oh, and the big difference between corporations and governments collecting your data is that a corporation cannot burst into your home in the middle of the night with guns drawn and throw you in jail for the rest of your life without due process.

Let’s find a way to hold the powers accountable by ensuring compliance with laws and regulations related to the freedom of information (citizens can do a FOIA request) and protection of privacy (by using encryption).

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Topics: Email Encryption, ePolicy, compliance, data breach