All your data are belong to us

If we store… data in a place with public access, it will eventually become public.

Simon’s conclusion might seem a little paranoid, but it seem’s there’s plenty in the news at the moment to back up his position. From the hacking of celebrity Apple iCloud accounts, to the DEA using decades old phone records (stored by AT&T) as a covert source in investigations, vulnerable data is in the headlines.

The NSA and GCHQ also come under the spotlight. Simon’s contention is that all intelligence agencies worth the name are now actively gathering all online information that doesn’t require illegal action to take. This information includes all email, instant messages, Web pages, and social media traffic just for starters. The legality of the information harvesting is justified by a whole series of explanations, definitions and broad interpretations of legal doctrines, which enable such agencies to claim the information gathered is “public”.

Most of this data never gets looked at. Instead it’s cached in gigantic data lakes. According to the NSA’s legal advisers, “wiretapping” or “hacking” starts at the point a human being actually analyses or interprets the data. Of course, given the availability of the data, as soon as legal permission is given, tools like the NSA’s XKeyscore enable them to fish the data lake for relevant information. Given that you can’t dissociate data gathering from data usage, we all need to account for all the costs of putting information online, not just the ones associated with our primary goals. Don’t just think about what your data is being used for now; think about what it could be used for when it’s no longer your job. Read Simon’s full article in InfoWorld.