Commentary on the idea of reading everything online
Bruce Schneier has a new entry up on wired discussing Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell's desire to monitor everything that happens on the net. One thing that he doesn't mention is that the vast majority of this monitoring would take place in the U.S. on American citizens. I highly doubt that China, is going to allow us to drop our government monitoring packages inside their Internet Service Providers. The concept of our government trying to read everything done on the net (including emails, IMs, posts to private web pages, etc...) is scary enough. But when the overwhelming majority of what they are looking at is communication between American citizens it really makes you question the motivation. After all, aren't the Terrorists supposed to be "out there"? Seems to me that our Government acting as Thought Police is in direct conflict with our stated national principals. Of course, if something like this passes there are some ways to help combat it. High quality, open source encryption tools exist that can at least secure direct communications like emails and IMs. I don't know enough about the math to verify this myself, but I have a decent amount of faith in the fact that there are enough people who do and can look at the actual source code to confirm this is the case. The main issue with this, though, is adoption. After all, the Government has had programs like carnivore and ECHELON for a while now and no one I know encrypts their email or IMs. I think part of the reason for this is that we don't detect that something has read our messages. If someone sends you a physical letter that gets open, read, and stuffed back in the envelope, you're immediately aware of it and will likely feel at least a little of your privacy was violated. Since there is no evidence of the interception in email or IM we don't get this reaction. Even if we see a very public case where someones emails is put on display, I'm not sure that would help. We'll see. Or maybe we won't and there will just be a knock on the door.