Last week, the world found out about the Heartbleed bug, “the worst vulnerability ever on the Internet”. It’s a gaping hole that allows hackers to easily gain people’s passwords to the majority of web sites and online services. It’s been open for years, and the worst part of it is that hackers who have been exploiting it have left no trace, so we can’t know when our private information has been taken from us.
What does that remind you of? The National Security Agency has become little more than a collection of hackers given carte blanche by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to snoop, search and seize through Americans’ private information whenever they like, without providing search warrants or other reasonable legal justification for doing so.
The supposed security of cloud service sites like DropBox have been paper thin. Companies like DropBox have been encouraging Americans to place their most private and valuable information online in accounts on their “secure” servers, without having the necessary protections in place to ensure that the information isn’t stolen and exploited by strangers. DropBox users have been vulnerable to both the NSA and to privateering hackers, using vulnerabilities like Heartbleed.
On Friday, news came out that suggests the Heartbleed security nightmare may not have been as purely accidental as it first appeared to be. Sources within the NSA indicate that the NSA knew for at least two years that Americans were made insecure by Heartbleed, but decided to do nothing about the problem, because Heartbleed was a valuable tool for the NSA’s own hacking activities, enabling the military agency to rapidly increase the size of its Big Brother electronic surveillance program.
Actual security for Americans in general, it turns out, was never really the goal of the National “Security” Agency. The rogue military spy agency purposefully kept Americans insecure so that it could grab more power for itself.
Neatly weaving these two threads together into a web of deceit and betrayal, this news came just a couple of days after it was revealed that DropBox announced that it would be appointing Condoleezza Rice to its Board of Directors. Condoleezza Rice, as head of the National Security Council under George W. Bush, was one of the leaders tasked with expanding the electronic surveillance powers of the NSA.
The new activist group Drop DropBox writes, “Rice not only spoke in favor of the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretap program and expansive domestic surveillance program, she authorized the warrantless wiretap of UN Security Council members. Given everything we now know about the US’s warrantless surveillance program, and Rice’s role in it, why on earth would we want someone like her involved with Dropbox, an organization we are trusting with our most important business and personal data?”
Why would DropBox want someone like Condoleezza Rice on its Board of Directors? This shouldn’t be interpreted as a rhetorical question. In the past, Condoleezza Rice has specialized setting up data seizure programs that violating the constitutional rights of Americans, in order to centralize power for the people who employ her. It’s safe to assume that DropBox would like her to perform the same job for them.
Really, that’s what commercial cloud services are all about. Companies offer people “free” storage, and then feel free to search through their private information, mining it for useful data that it can then use or sell for profit. We cannot trust cloud service corporations like Google, DropBox, Droplr, Wuala, Cloudme and Carbonite any more than we can trust the NSA.
The hiring of Condoleezza Rice is merely one of the more blatant flags of privacy abuse from the tech sector. Abuse of user privacy is rampant in Silicon Valley, and in Washington D.C.
Corporate and governmental hubs of power have been consumed by a surveillance culture in which top executives presume that they have the right to seize and whatever information they want, to use for whatever purposes they can dream up. They don’t believe that the law, or the Constitution of the United States, applies to them anymore. They believe that digital technology has made our legal and constitutional rights obsolete.
Congress and the Supreme Court confirm this belief by refusing to take action to curb rampant hacking by corporations and the Executive Branch. American voters add their own assent when they re-elect politicians who have allowed Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable search and seizure to be made irrelevant.
Shame on us all. We have not yet begun to suffer the worst of the consequences of this collective apathy.