Oopsie. President Barack Obama approved a massive electronic spying program that could seize and search the content and metadata of people’s telephone calls, emails, movements, purchases and Internet activity without any search warrant. It’s now clear that the National Security Agency surveillance program was targeting prime ministers and presidents of many allied nations in Europe and Latin America, reading through their private emails and listening to their telephone calls. President Obama, however, says that he had no idea this spying was taking place.
How does someone lose track of secret information like that?
Security isn’t what it used to be. Our most private records are now open to scrutiny by government spies, and encryption only means that your grandmother can’t read your messages without jumping through a couple of hoops first.
The corporate world, too, is getting a bit sloppy with its security protocols. Recently, a major corporation sent out the following message out to anonymous individuals, over the Internet, in the hopes that people would take part in a market research survey:
“You will be shown confidential information that is the property of a major manufacturer. This information may include, but is not limited to, experimental new product ideas and concepts. In exchange for participating in this survey and for the confidential information which will be shown, we ask that you agree that you will neither use nor disclose to any person, including friends and family, or any entity, any of the information provided to you.”
Ask away, corporate researchers, but don’t expect cooperation with your pleas for confidentiality. This is the age of your business being everybody’s business, and the minute you type a piece of information into a computer that’s connected to an electronic communication network, you might as well just post a snapshot of it on the Wikimedia Commons.