Intelligence gathering and services have existed since the earliest civilizations. Until now, however, those have been relatively expensive, requiring a lot of manpower and structures.
Todays’s Internet, in turn, provides a very affordable, virtually free data warehouse for intelligence operatives. Recently revealed PRISM and XKeyScore probably carry a combined price tag with a smaller number than a single foreign country unit in the 1980s. Echelon, which caused some stir in the 1990s, was still a formidable investment.
Although I feel strongly about a small government, citizen privacy and free speech, these are in my opinion not the biggest issues when it comes to this massive surveillance of foreign countries, their companies and people – I’m concerned about innovation on the global scale.
If all (national) research and development data is immediately available to a foreign intelligence agency and their contractor companies, it is just a matter of time when groundbreaking innovations and discoveries start to happen in a country that has its own R&D plus everything from, say, a friendly European Union. And I’m not talking about state-industrial espionage which is illegal per international agreements. I’m talking about young people becoming subject matter experts in those vast intelligence organizations, taking next steps on their careers as engineers and inventors at existing and future companies.
My postulate is that a country, or a continent which becomes a technological wasteland steadily degrades into a problem and conflict area. When millions of young people tell that their dream is to work for the government as nothing else pays off (as happened in Egypt), a conflict is at the door.
In the US, National Security Agency (NSA) also has the responsibility for supporting US companies in keeping their confidential data safe. They’ve introduced e.g. Security Enhanced Linux modules, SHA-2 encryption algorithms and a lot of training for technology companies, both private and state-owned.
Here in the EU, we urgently need to educate our research institutes and companies to excel in strong data encryption and related security technologies. Keeping data private should be a citizen skill, fostered by the government. If and when we are to maintain our innovation capabilities.
//Pasi – PGP Public Key 551D0D20
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