Monday, May 22, 2006

Wiring tapping changes Internet culture?

I was intrigued this morning by the article on Wired News about the AT&T whistle-blower on the NSA spying program. The political implications of this news are interesting and do make good talk radio, although I was at first more interested in the technology that the NSA was using to do the wire-tapping. I had always suspected that some of the technology in use was by Narus, but never saw anything in writing to prove this fact [Full Disclosure: Narus is a JPMorgan Partners investment, the organization that sends me paychecks]. After I read the technical details of how the wire-tapping was done (nothing earth-shattering, IMHO) I began to think about the cultural implications of this news.

Now that we have strong suspicions (innocent until proven guilty, right?) about what the NSA was doing, this made me do some thinking about how the culture of the Internet would change if we all knew that everything that we were sending electronically was being watched by the NSA or the government. I've always suspected that some of my Internet communication was being watched - it's hard to travel to Singapore, China or Russia (or apparently San Francisco :-|) and think that the government is not monitoring your data when you're connected to SingTel, ChinaTel or Rostelkom. But, if you absolutely knew that the NSA was seeing all of your data, would you act differently on the Internet? Would your email text change? Your IM chats? Your Skype calls? Your gaming habits?

I'd suspect not. You might not like knowing someone else is watching, but I don't think it will dramatically change your habits on the Internet. Similarly, I'll bet that thousands of cameras watching public places throughout the world have not changed your walking, driving, banking, dining or business habits.

Don't get me wrong here - I hate knowing that someone is looking over my shoulder and applaud the efforts of the EFF and others fighting for my privacy. I'm just suggesting that the genie is out of the bottle and she may have been out for longer than we knew. I'm just wondering if the culture of the Internet will change as a result... Your thoughts?


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