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CCC Trade Off Between Privacy and Security Discussion

CCC Trade Off Between Privacy and Security Discussion


I am sure you have heard the phrase “Information Society.” With advancements in technology information is readily available to everyone and about everyone. Much of the controversy stems from the control of this information. Privacy, safety, security and ownership of data are central to most issues. When new technology is released several things happen. First, people adapt to the new technology and find ways to incorporate it into their lives. Many of these are not what the creators originally intended. Second, laws are slower to adapt than technology and people are, so often there is ambiguity in how the new technology use fits into the law. And third, not all early adapters are honest and ethical. Criminals, especially cyber criminals, tend to be early adapters, taking advantage of new technologies before people are even aware of the dangers they present.

– Privacy: We are under observation constantly. Cameras are located everywhere: ATMs and banks, stores, traffic intersections, tollbooths, and almost any public location (have you noticed the cameras on top of Love Library, at the entrances and in the hallways of most of the buildings on campus). Businesses collect information on us with every transaction. We post information on social media, or friends, family and others post about us.

– Safety: We are under observation constantly. As already mentioned, cameras are located everywhere. Scanning devices re used at airports, federal buildings, stadiums and other large gathering areas. All of these are used by law enforcement to keep us safe.

– Security: The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), the NSA (National Security Agency), the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), and local law enforcement all use a variety of data collection techniques to perform their jobs. The NSA has been in the news most recently, but all of these agencies collect data, often purchasing data that they cannot legally collect themselves (and yes the US laws allow agencies to purchase data from private parties even though they are prohibited from collecting the data themselves).

– Ownership of information: Who owns the information is a question that remains an issue. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and other social media all have privacy statements. Have you read them? They essentially say that they own anything posted. Some, Like Google, explicitly claim the right to sell any information they collect about you.

If you look at these four points, privacy, safety, security, and ownership of information, you will see where the controversy comes from. There is often a tradeoff between them. How much privacy are we willing to give up to be safe, secure, and to use “free” services?

We will be looking at many of these issues in detail later this semester. How do you feel about these tradeoffs? Do you believe we have found the right balance? What changes do you feel are needed? 

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