dan on Tue, 11 Mar 2014 22:06:27 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Hans Magnus Enzensberger: Rules for the digital world

Posted on the chance that the speech which follows below has some
relevance to the current thread.  It was given by invitation to the
RSA conference ten days ago now.


[ nominal delivery draft ]

.We Are All Intelligence Officers Now
.Dan Geer, 28 February 14, RSA/San Francisco

Good morning.  Thank you for the invitation to speak with you today,
which, let me be clear, is me speaking for myself, not for anyone
or anything else.  As you know, I work the cyber security trade,
that is to say that my occupation is cyber security.  Note that I
said "occupation" rather than "profession."  Last September, the
U.S. National Academy of Sciences concluded that cyber security
should be seen as an occupation and not a profession because the
rate of change is simply too great to consider professionalization.[NAS]
You may well agree that that rate of change is paramount, and, if
so, you may also agree that cyber security is the most intellectually
demanding occupation on the planet.

The goal of the occupation called cyber security grows more demanding
with time, which I need tell no one here.  That growth is like a
river with many tributaries.  Part of the rising difficulty flows
from rising complexity, part of it from accelerating speed, and
part of it from the side effects of what exactly we would do if
this or that digital facility were to fail entirely -- which is to
say our increasing dependence on all things digital.  One is at
risk when something you depend upon is at risk.  Risk is, in other
words, transitive.  If X is at risk and I depend on X, then I, too,
am at risk to whatever makes X be at risk.  Risk is almost like
inheritance in a programming language.

I am particularly fond of the late Peter Bernstein's definition of
risk: "More things can happen than will."[PB]  I like that definition
not because it tells me what to do, but rather because it tells me
what comes with any new expansion of possibilities.  Put differently,
it tells me that with the new, the realm of the possible expands
and, as we know, when the realm of the possible expands, prediction
is somewhere between difficult and undoable.  The dynamic is that
we now regularly, quickly expand our dependence on new things, and
that added dependence matters because the way in which we each and
severally add risk to our portfolio is by way of dependence on
things for which their very newness makes risk estimation, and thus
risk management, neither predictable nor perhaps even estimable.

The Gordian Knot of such tradeoffs -- our tradeoffs -- is this: As
society becomes more technologic, even the mundane comes to depend
on distant digital perfection.  Our food pipeline contains less
than a week's supply, just to take one example, and that pipeline
depends on digital services for everything from GPS driven tractors
to robot vegetable sorting machinery to coast-to-coast logistics
to RFID-tagged livestock.  Is all the technologic dependency, and
the data that fuels it, making us more resilient or more fragile?

In the cybersecurity occupation, in which most of us here work, we
certainly seem to be getting better and better.  We have better
tools, we have better understood practices, and we have more and
better colleagues.  That's the plus side.  But from the point of
view of prediction, what matters is the ratio of skill to challenge;
as far as I can estimate, we are expanding the society-wide attack
surface faster than we are expanding our collection of tools,
practices, and colleagues.  If your society is growing more food,
that's great.  If your population is growing faster than your
improvements in food production can keep up, that's bad.  So it is
with cyber risk management: Whether in detection, control, or
prevention, we are notching personal bests, but all the while the
opposition is setting world records.  As with most decision making
under uncertainty, statistics have a role, particularly ratio
statistics that magnify trends so that the latency of feedback from
policy changes is more quickly clear.  Yet statistics, of course,
require data, to which I will return in a moment.

In medicine, we have well established rules about medical privacy.
Those rules are helpful; when you check into the hospital there is
a licensure-enforced, accountability-based, need-to-know regime
that governs the handling of your data.[PHI]   Most days, anyway.
But if you check in with Bubonic Plague or Typhus or Anthrax, you
will have zero privacy as those are "reportable conditions," as
variously mandated by public health law in all fifty States.  So
let me ask you, would it make sense, in a public health of the
Internet way, to have a mandatory reporting regime for cybersecurity
failures?  Do you favor having to report cyber penetrations of your
firm or of your household to the government?  Should you face
criminal charges if you fail to make such a report?  Forty-eight
States vigorously penalize failure to report sexual molestation of
children.[SMC]  The (US) Computer Fraud and Abuse Act[CF] defines
a number of felonies related to computer penetrations, and the U.S.
Code says that it is a crime to fail to report a felony of which
you have knowledge.[USC]  Is cybersecurity event data the kind of
data around which you want to enforce mandatory reporting?  Forty-six
States require mandatory reporting of cyber failures in the form
of their data breach laws, while the Verizon Data Breach Investigations
Report[VDB] found, and the Index of Cyber Security[ICS] confirmed,
that 70-80% of data breaches are discovered by unrelated third
parties.  If you discover a data breach, do you have an ethical
obligation to report it?  Should the law mandate that you fulfill
such an obligation?

Almost everyone here has some form of ingress filtering in place
by whatever name -- firewall, intrusion detection, whitelisting,
and so forth and so on.  Some of you have egress filtering because
being in a botnet, that is to say being an accessory to crime, is
bad for business.  Suppose you discover that you are in a botnet;
do you have an obligation to report it?  Do you have an obligation
to report the traffic that led you to conclude that you had a
problem?  Do you even have an obligation to bother to look and, if
you don't have or want an obligation to bother to look, do you want
your government to require the ISPs to do your looking for you, to
notify you when your outbound traffic marks you as an accomplice
to crime, whether witting or unwitting?  Do you want to lay on the
ISPs the duty to guarantee a safe Internet?  They own the pipes and
if you want clean pipes, then they are the ones to do it.  Does
deep packet inspection of your traffic by your ISP as a public
health measure have your support?  Would you want an ISP to deny
access to a host, which might be your host, that is doing something
bad on their networks?  Who gets to define what is "bad?"

If you are saying to yourself, "This is beginning to sound like
surveillance" or something similar, then you're paying attention.
Every one of you who lives in a community that has a neighborhood
watch already has these kinds of decisions to make.  Let's say that
you are patrolling your street, alone, and there have been break-ins
lately, there have been thefts lately, there has been vandalism
lately.  You've lived there for ten years and been on that neighborhood
watch for five.  You are on duty and you see someone you've never
seen crossing the street first from one side then the other, putting
a hand on every garden gate.  What do you do?  Confront them the
way a polite neighbor would?  Challenge them the way a security
guard would?  Run home to lock your own doors and draw your drapes?
Resign from the neighborhood watch because you are really not ready
to do anything strenuous?

Returning to the digital sphere, we are increasing what it is that
can be observed, what is observable.  Instrumentation has never
been cheaper.  Computing to fiddle with what has been observed has
never been more available.  As someone who sees a lot of fresh
business plans, I can tell you that these days Step Six is never
"Then we build a data center."  Step Six, or whatever, is universally
now "Then we buy some cloud time and some advertising." This means
that those to whom these outsourcing contracts go are in a position
to observe, and observe a lot.  Doubtless some of what they observe
will be problematic, whether on legal or moral grounds.  Should a
vendor of X-as-a-Service be obliged to observe what their customers
are doing?  And if they are obliged to observe, should they be
obliged to act on what they observe, be that to report, to deploy
countermeasures, or both?

As what is observable expands so, naturally, does what has been
observed.  Dave Aitel says "There's no reason a company in this day
and age can't have their own Splunk or ElasticSearch engine that
allows them to search and sort a complete history of every program
anyone in the company has ever executed."[DA]  Sometime in the last
five to ten years we passed the point on the curve where it became
much cheaper to keep everything than to do selective deletion.  When
you read the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure with respect to
so-called e-discovery, you can certainly conclude that total retention
of observed data is a prudent legal strategy.  What is less clear
is whether you have a duty to observe given that you have the
capacity to do so.  All of which also applies to what others can
observe about you.

This is not, however, about you personally.  Even Julian Assange,
in his book _Cypherpunks_, said "Individual targeting is not the
threat."  It is about a culture where personal data is increasingly
public data, and assembled en masse.  All we have to go on now is
the hopeful phrase "A reasonable expectation of privacy" but what
is reasonable when one inch block letters can be read from orbit?
What is reasonable when all of your financial or medical life is
digitized and available primarily over the Internet?  Do you want
ISPs to retain e-mails when you are asking your doctor a medical
question (or, for that matter, do you want those e-mails to become
part of your Electronic Health Record)?  Who owns your medical data
anyway?  Until the 1970s, it was the patient but regulations then
made it the provider.  With an Electronic Health Record, it is
likely to revert to patient ownership, but if the EHR belongs to
you, do you get to surveil the use that is made of it by medical
providers and those that recursively they outsource to?  And if
not, why not?

Observability is fast extending to devices.  Some of it has already
appeared, such as the fact that any newish car is broadcasting four
unique Bluetooth radio IDs, one for each tire's valve stem.  Some
of it is in a daily progression, such as training our youngsters
to accept surveillance by stuffing a locator beacon in their backpack
as soon as they go off to Kindergarten.  Some of it is newly
technologic, like through the wall imaging, and some of it is simply
that we are now surrounded by cameras that we can't even see where
no one camera is important but they are important in the aggregate
when their data is fused.  Anything, and I mean anything, that has
"wireless" in its name creates the certainty of traffic analysis.

As an example relevant to rooms such as this, you should assume
that all public facilities will soon convert their lighting fixtures
to LEDs, LEDs that are not just lights but also have an embedded,
chip-based operating system, a camera, sensors for CO/CO2/pollutant
emissions, seismic activity, humidity & UV radiation, a microphone,
wifi and/or cellular interfaces, an extensible API, an IPv4 or v6
address per LED, a capacity for disconnected "decision making on
the pole," cloud-based remote management, and, of course, bragging
rights for how green you are which you can then monetize in the
form of tax credits.[S]  I ask again, do you or we or they have a
duty to observe now that we have an ability to do so?  It is, as
you know, a long established norm for authorities to seize the video
stored in surveillance cameras whether the issue at hand is a smash
and grab or the collapse of an Interstate highway bridge.[M]  What
does that mean when data retention is permanent and recording devices
are omnipresent?  Does that make you the observed or the observer?
Do we have an answer to "Who watches the watchmen?"[J]

By now it is obvious that we humans can design systems more complex
than we can then operate.  The financial sector's "flash crashes"
are the most recent proof-by-demonstration of that claim; it would
hardly surprise anyone were the fifty interlocked insurance exchanges
for Obamacare to soon be another.  Above some threshold of system
complexity, it is no longer possible to test, it is only possible
to react to emergent behavior.  Even the lowliest Internet user is
involved -- one web page can easily touch scores of different
domains.  While writing this, the top level page from cnn.com had
400 out-references to 85 unique domains each of which is likely to
be similarly constructed and all of which move data one way or
another.  If you leave those pages up, then because many such pages
have an auto-refresh, moving to a new subnet signals to every one
of the advertising networks that you have done so.  How is this
different than having a surveillance camera in the entry vestibule
of your home?

We know, and have known for some time, that traffic analysis is
more powerful than content analysis.  If I know everything about
to whom you communicate including when, where, with what inter-message
latency, in what order, at what length, and by what protocol, then
I know you.  If all I have is the undated, unaddressed text of your
messages, then I am an archaeologist, not a case officer.  The
soothing mendacity of proxies for the President saying "It's only
metadata" relies on the ignorance of the listener.  Surely no one
here is convinced by "It's only metadata" but let me be clear: you
are providing that metadata and, in the evolving definition of the
word "public," there is no fault in its being observed and retained
indefinitely.  Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain famously
noted that if you preferentially use online services that are free,
"You are not the customer, you're the product."  Why?  Because what
is observable is observed, what is observed is sold, and users are
always observable, even when they are anonymous.

Let me be clear, this is not an attack on the business of intelligence.
The Intelligence Community is operating under the rules it knows,
most of which you, too, know, and the goal states it has been tasked
to achieve.  The center of gravity for policy is that of goal states,
not methods.

Throughout the 1990s, the commercial sector essentially caught up
with the intelligence sector in the application of cryptography --
not the creation of cyphers, but their use.  (Intelligence needs
new cyphers on a regular basis whereas commercial entities would
rather not have to roll their cypher suites at all, much less
regularly.)  In like manner commercial firms are today fast catching
up with the intelligence sector in traffic analysis.  The marketing
world is leading the way because its form of traffic analysis is
behavior-aware and full of data fusion innovation -- everything
from Amazon's "people who bought this later bought that" to 1 meter
accuracy on where you are in the shopping mall so that advertisements
and coupons can appear on your smartphone for the very store you
are looking in the window of, to combining location awareness with
what your car and your bedroom thermostat had to say about you this
morning.  More relevant to this audience, every cutting edge data
protection scheme now has some kind of behavioral component, which
simply means collecting enough data on what is happening that
subsequently highlighting anomalies has a false positive rate low
enough to be worth following up.

If you decide to in some broad sense opt out, you will find that
it is not simple.  Speaking personally, I choose not to share
CallerID data automatically by default.  Amusingly, when members
of my friends and family get calls from an unknown caller, they
assume it is me because I am the only person they know who does
this.  A better illustration of how in a linear equation there are
N-1 degrees of freedom I can't imagine.  Along those same lines,
I've only owned one camera in my life and it was a film camera.
Ergo, I've never uploaded any photos that I took.  That doesn't
mean that there are no digital photos of me out there.  There are
3+ billion new photos online each month, so even if you've never
uploaded photos of yourself someone else has.  And tagged them.  In
other words, you can personally opt out, but that doesn't mean that
other folks around you haven't effectively countermanded your intent.

In short, we are becoming a society of informants.  In short, I
have nowhere to hide from you.

As I said before and will now say again, the controlling factor,
the root cause, of risk is dependence, particularly dependence on
the expectation of stable system state.  Yet the more technologic the
society becomes, the greater the dynamic range of possible failures.
When you live in a cave, starvation, predators, disease, and lightning
are about the full range of failures that end life as you know it
and you are well familiar with each of them.  When you live in a
technologic society where everybody and everything is optimized in
some way akin to just-in-time delivery, the dynamic range of failures
is incomprehensibly larger and largely incomprehensible.  The wider
the dynamic range of failure, the more prevention is the watchword.
Cadres of people charged with defending masses of other people must
focus on prevention, and prevention is all about proving negatives.
Therefore, and inescapably so, there is only one conclusion: as
technologic society grows more interconnected, it becomes more
interdependent within itself.  As society becomes more interdependent
within itself, the more it must rely on prediction based on data
collected in broad ways, not in targeted ways.  That is surveillance.
That is intelligence practiced not by intelligence agencies but by
anyone or anything with a sensor network.

Spoken of in this manner, official intelligence agencies that hoover
up everything are simply obeying the Presidential Directive that
"Never again" comes true.  And the more complex the society they
are charged with protecting becomes, the more they must surveil,
the more they must analyze, the more data fusion becomes their only
focus.  In that, there is no operational difference between government
acquisition of observable data and private sector acquisition of
observable data, beyond the minor detail of consent.

David Brin was the first to suggest that if you lose control over
what data can be collected on you, the only freedom-preserving
alternative is that everyone else does, too.[DB1]  If the government
or the corporation or your neighbor can surveil you without asking,
then the balance of power is preserved when you can surveil them
without asking.  Bruce Schneier countered that preserving the balance
of power doesn't mean much if the effect of new information is
non-linear, that is to say if new information is the exponent in
an equation, not one more factor in a linear sum.[DB2]  Solving
that debate requires that you have a strong opinion on what data
fusion means operationally to you, to others, to society.  If,
indeed, and as Schneier suggested, the power of data fusion is an
equation where new data items are exponents, then the entity that
can amass data that is bigger by a little will win the field by a
lot.  That small advantages can have big outcome effects is exactly
what fuels this or any other arms race.

Contradicting what I said earlier, there may actually be a difference
between the public and the private sector because the private sector
will collect data only so long as increased collection can be
monetized, whereas government will collect data only so long as
increased collection can be stored.  With storage prices falling
faster than Moore's Law, government's stopping rule may thus never
be triggered.

In the Wikipedia article about Brin, there is this sentence, "It
will be tempting to pass laws that restrict the power of surveillance
to authorities, entrusting them to protect our privacy -- or a
comforting illusion" thereof.[W]  I agree with one of the possible
readings of that sentence, namely that it is "tempting" in the sense
of being delusional.  Demonstrating exactly the kind of good
intentions with which the road to Hell is paved, we have codified
rules that permit our lawmakers zero privacy, we give them zero
ability to have a private moment or to speak to others without
quotation, without attribution, without their game face on.  In the
evolutionary sense of the word "select," we select for people who
are without expectation of authentic privacy or who jettisoned it
long before they stood for office.  Looking in their direction for
salvation is absurd.  And delusional.

I am, however, hardly arguing that "you" are powerless or that
"they" have taken all control.  It is categorically true that
technology is today far more democratically available than it was
yesterday and less than it will be tomorrow.  3D printing, the whole
"maker" community, DIY biology, micro-drones, search, constant
contact with whomever you choose to be in constant contact with --
these are all examples of democratizing technology.  This is perhaps
our last fundamental tradeoff before the Singularity occurs: Do we,
as a society, want the comfort and convenience of increasingly
technologic, invisible digital integration enough to pay for those
benefits with the liberties that must be given up to be protected
from the downsides of that integration?  If risk is that more things
can happen than will, then what is the ratio of things that can now
happen that are good to things that can now happen that are bad?
Is the good fraction growing faster than the bad fraction or the
other way around?  Is there a threshold of interdependence beyond
which good or bad overwhelmingly dominate?

We are all data collectors, data keepers, data analysts.  Some
citizens do it explicitly; some citizens have it done for them by
robots.  To be clear, we are not just a society of informants, we
are becoming an intelligence community of a second sort.  Some of
it is almost surely innocuous, like festooning a house with wireless
sensors for home automation purposes.  Some of it is cost effectiveness
driven, like measuring photosynthesis in a corn field by flying an
array of measurement devices over it on a drone.  I could go on,
and so could you, because in a very real sense I am telling you
nothing you don't already know.  Everyone in this and other audiences
knows everything that I have to say, even if they weren't aware
that they knew it.

The question is why is this so?  Is this majority rule and the
intelligence function is one the majority very much wants done to
themselves and others?  Is this a question of speed and complexity
such that citizen decision making is crippled not because facts are
hidden but because compound facts are too hard to understand?  Is
this a question of wishful thinking of that kind which can't tell
the difference between a utopian fantasy, a social justice movement,
and a business opportunity?  Is this nowhere near such a big deal
as I think it is because every day that goes by without a cascade
failure only adds evidence that such possibilities are becoming
ever less likely?  Is the admonition to "Take care of yourself" the
core of a future where the guarantee of a good outcome for all is
the very fact that no one can hide?  Is Nassim Taleb's idea that
we are easily fooled by randomness[TF] at play here, too?  If the
level of observability to which you are subject is an asset to you,
then what is your hedge against that asset?

This is not a Chicken Little talk; it is an attempt to preserve if
not make a choice while choice is still relevant.  As The Economist
in its January 18 issue so clearly lays out,[TE] we are ever more
a service economy, but every time an existing service disappears
into the cloud, our vulnerability to its absence increases as does
the probability of monopoly power.  Every time we ask the government
to provide goodnesses that can only be done with more data, we are
asking government to collect more data.

Let me ask a yesterday question: How do you feel about traffic jam
detection based on the handoff rate between cell towers of those
cell phones in use in cars on the road?  Let me ask a today question:
How do you feel about auto insurance that is priced from a daily
readout of your automobile's black box?  Let me ask a tomorrow
question: In what calendar year will compulsory auto insurance be
more expensive for the driver who insists on driving their car
themselves rather than letting a robot do it?  How do you feel about
public health surveillance done by requiring Google and Bing to
report on searches for cold remedies and the like?  How do you feel
about a Smart Grid that reduces your power costs and greens the
atmosphere but reports minute-by-minute what is on and what is off
in your home?  Have you or would you install that toilet that does
a urinalysis with every use, and forwards it to your clinician?

How do you feel about using standoff biometrics as a solution to
authentication?  At this moment in time, facial recognition is
possible at 500 meters, iris recognition is possible at 50 meters,
and heart-beat recognition is possible at 5 meters.  Your dog can
identify you by smell; so, too, can an electronic dog's nose.  Your
cell phone's accelerometer is plenty sensitive enough to identify
you by gait analysis.  The list goes on.  All of these are data
dependent, cheap, convenient, and none of them reveal anything that
is a secret as we currently understand the term "secret" -- yet the
sum of them is greater than the parts.  A lot greater.  It might
even be a polynomial, as Schneier suggested.  Time will tell, but
by then the game will be over.

Harvard Business School Prof. Shoshanna Zuboff has had much to say
on these topics since the 1980s, especially her Three Laws:[ZS]

.  Everything that can be automated will be automated

.  Everything that can be informated will be informated

.  Every digital application that can be used for surveillance and
   control will be used for surveillance and control

I think she is right, but the implication that this is all outside
the control of the citizen is not yet true.  It may get to be true,
but in so many words that is why I am standing here.  There are a
million choices the individual person, or for that matter the
free-standing enterprise, can take and I do not just mean converting
all your browsing over to Tor.

Take something mundane like e-mail:  One might suggest never sending
the same message twice.  Why?  Because sending it twice, even if
encrypted, allows a kind of analysis by correlation that cannot
otherwise happen.  Maybe that's too paranoid, so let's back off a
little.  One might suggest that the individual or the enterprise
that outsources its e-mail to a third party thereby creates by
itself and for itself the risk of silent subpoenas delivered to
their outsourcer.  If, instead, the individual or the enterprise
insources its e-mail then at the very least it knows when its data
assets are being sought because the subpoena comes to them.  Maybe
insourcing your e-mail is too much work, but need I remind you that
plaintext e-mail cannot be web-bugged, so why would anyone ever
render HTML e-mail at all?

Take software updates:  There is a valid argument to make software
auto-update the norm.  As always, a push model has to know where
to push.  On the other hand, a pull model must be invoked by the
end user.  Both models generate information for somebody, but a
pull model leaves the time and place decisions to the end user.

Take cybersecurity technology:  I've become convinced that all of
it is dual use.  While I am not sure whether dual use is a trend
or a realization of an unchanging fact of nature, the obviousness
of dual use seems greatest in the latest technologies, so I am
calling it a trend in the sense that the straightforward accessibility
of dual use characteristics of new technology is itself a growing
trend.  Leading cybersecurity products promise total surveillance
over the enterprise and are, to my mind, offensive strategies used
for defensive purposes.  A fair number of those products not only
watch your machine, but take just about everything that is going
on at your end and copies that to their end.  The argument for doing
so is well thought out -- by combining observational data from a
lot of places the probability of detection can be raised and the
latency of countermeasure can be reduced.  Of course, there is no
reason such systems couldn't be looking for patterns of content in
human readable documents just as easily as looking for patterns of
content in machine readable documents.

Take communications technology:  Whether we are talking about
triangulating the smartphone using the cell towers, geocoding the
Internet, or forwarding the GPS coordinates from onboard equipment
to external services like OnStar, everyone knows that there is a
whole lot of location tracking going on.  What can you do to opt
out of that?  That is not so easy because now we are talking not
about a mode of operation, like whether to insource or outsource
your e-mail, but a real opt-in versus opt-out decision; do you
accept the tracking or do you refuse the service?  Paraphrasing
Zittrain's remark about being a customer or being a product, the
greater the market penetration of mobile communications, the more
the individual is either a data source or a suspect.

Take wearable computing:  Google Glass is only the most famous.
There've been people working on such things for a long time now.
Folks who are outfitted with wearable computing are pretty much
identifiable today, but this brief instant will soon pass.  You
will be under passive surveillance by your peers and contacts or,
to be personal, some of you will be surveilling me because you will
be adopters of this kind of technology.  I would prefer you didn't.
I am in favor neither of cyborgs nor chimeras; I consider our place
in the natural world too great a gift to mock in those ways.

When it comes to ranking programs for how well they can observe
their surroundings and act on what they see without further
instructions, Stuxnet is the reigning world heavyweight champion.
Unless there is something better already out there.  Putting aside
the business of wrecking centrifuges, just consider the observational
part.  Look at other malware that seems to have a shopping list
that isn't composed of filenames or keywords but instead an algorithm
for rank-ordering what to look for and to exfiltrate documents in
priority order.  As with other democratizations of technology, what
happens when that kind of improvisation, that kind of adaptation,
can be automated?  What happens when such things can be scripted?

For those with less gray hair, once upon a time a firewall was
something that created a corporate perimeter.  Then it was something
that created a perimeter around a department.  Then around a given
computer.  Then around a given datum.  In the natural world,
perimeters shrink as risk grows -- think a circle of wildebeeste
with their horns pointed outward, the calves on the inside, and the
hyenas closing in.  So it has been with perimeters in the digital
space, a steady shrinking of the defensible perimeter down to the
individual datum.

There are so many technologies now that power observation and
identification of the individual at a distance.  They may not yet
be in your pocket or on your dashboard or embedded in all your smoke
detectors, but that is only a matter of time.  Your digital exhaust
is unique hence it identifies.  Pooling everyone's digital exhaust
also characterizes how you differ from normal.  Suppose that observed
data does kill both privacy as impossible-to-observe and privacy
as impossible-to-identify, then what might be an alternative?  If
you are an optimist or an apparatchik, then your answer will tend
toward rules of procedure administered by a government you trust
or control.  If you are a pessimist or a hacker/maker, then your
answer will tend towards the operational, and your definition of a
state of privacy will be my definition: the effective capacity to
misrepresent yourself.

Misrepresentation is using disinformation to frustrate data fusion
on the part of whomever it is that is watching you.  Some of it can
be low-tech, such as misrepresentation by paying your therapist in
cash under an assumed name.  Misrepresentation means arming yourself
not at Walmart but in living rooms.  Misrepresentation means swapping
affinity cards at random with like-minded folks.  Misrepresentation
means keeping an inventory of misconfigured webservers to proxy
through.  Misrepresentation means putting a motor-generator between
you and the Smart Grid.  Misrepresentation means using Tor for no
reason at all.  Misrepresentation means hiding in plain sight when
there is nowhere else to hide.  Misrepresentation means having not
one digital identity that you cherish, burnish, and protect, but
having as many as you can.  Your identity is not a question unless
you work to make it be.  Lest you think that this is a problem
statement for the random paranoid individual alone, let me tell you
that in the big-I Intelligence trade, crafting good cover is getting
harder and harder and for the same reasons: misrepresentation is
getting harder and harder.  If I was running field operations, I
would not try to fabricate a complete digital identity, I'd "borrow"
the identity of someone who had the characteristics that I needed
for the case at hand.

The Obama administration's issuance of a National Strategy for
Trusted Identities in Cyberspace[NS] is case-in-point; it "calls
for the development of interoperable technology standards and
policies -- an 'Identity Ecosystem' -- where individuals, organizations,
and underlying infrastructure -- such as routers and servers -- can
be authoritatively authenticated."  If you can trust a digital
identity, that is because it can't be faked.  Why does the government
care about this?  It cares because it wants to digitally deliver
government services and it wants attribution.  Is having a non-fake-able
digital identity for government services worth the registration of
your remaining secrets with that government?  Is there any real
difference between a system that permits easy, secure, identity-based
services and a surveillance system?  Do you trust those who hold
surveillance data on you over the long haul by which I mean the
indefinite retention of transactional data between government
services and you, the individual required to proffer a non-fake-able
identity to engage in those transactions?  Assuming this spreads
well beyond the public sector, which is its designers' intent, do
you want this everywhere?  If you are building authentication systems
today, then you are already playing ball in this league.  If you
are using authentication systems today, then you are subject to the
pending design decisions of people who are themselves playing ball
in this league.

And how can you tell if the code you are running is collecting on
you or, for that matter, if the piece of code you are running is
collecting on somebody else?  If your life is lived inside the
digital envelope, how do you know that this isn't The Matrix or The
Truman Show?  Code is certainly getting bigger and bigger.  A
nameless colleague who does world class static analysis said that
he "regularly sees apps that are over 2 GB of code" and sees
"functions with over 16K variables."  As he observes, functions
like that are machine written.  If the code is machine written,
does anyone know what's in it?  The answer is "of course not" and
even if they did, malware techniques such as return-oriented-programming
can add features after the whitelist-mediated application launch.
But I'm not talking here about malware, I am talking about code
that you run that you meant to run and which, in one way or another,
is instrumented to record what you do with it.  Nancy Pelosi's
famous remark[NP] about her miserable, thousand page piece of
legislation, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out
what is in it" can be just as easily applied to code: it has become
"We have to run the code so that you can find out what is in it."

That is not going to change; small may be beautiful but big is
inevitable.[BI]  A colleague notes that, with the cloud, all pretense
of trying to keep programs small and economical has gone out the
window -- just link to everything because it doesn't matter if you
make even one call to a huge library since the Elastic Cloud (or
whatever) charges you no penalty for bloat.  As such, it is likely
that any weird machine[SB] within the bloated program is ever more

Mitja Kolsek was who made me aware of just how much the client has
become the server's server.  Take Javascript, which is to say servers
sending clients programs to execute; the HTTP Archive says that the
average web page now makes out-references to 16 different domains
as well as making 17 Javascript requests per page, and the Javascript
byte count is five times the HTML byte count.[HT]  A lot of that
Javascript is about analytics which is to say surveillance of the
user experience (and we're not even talking about Bitcoin mining
done in Javascript that you can embed in your website.[BJ])

So suppose everybody is both giving and getting surveillance, both
being surveilled and doing surveillance.  Does that make you an
intelligence agent?  A spreading of technology from the few to the
many is just the way world works.  There are a hundred different
articles from high-brow to low- that show the interval between
market introduction and widespread adoption of technology has gotten
shorter as technology has gotten more advanced.  That means that
technologies that were available only to the few become available
to the many in a shorter timeframe, i.e., that any given technology
advantage the few have has a shorter shelf-life.  That would mean
that the technologies that only national laboratories had fifteen
years ago might be present among us soon, in the spirit of William
Gibson's famous remark that the future is already present, just
unevenly distributed.  Or maybe it is only ten years now.  Maybe
the youngest of you in this room will end up in a world where what
a national lab has today is something you can look forward to having
in only five year's time.  Regardless of whether the time constant
is five or ten or even fifteen years, this is far, far faster than
any natural mixing will arrange for even distribution across all
people.  The disparities of knowledge that beget power will each
be shorter lived in their respective particulars, but a much steeper
curve in the aggregate.

Richard Clarke's novel _Breakpoint_ centered around the observation
that with fast enough advances in genetic engineering not only will
the elite think that they are better than the rest, they will be.[RC]
I suggest that with fast enough advances in surveillance and the
inferences to be drawn from surveillance, that a different elite
will not just think that it knows better, it will know better.
Those advances come both from Moore's and from Zuboff's laws, but
more importantly they rest upon the extraordinarily popular delusion
that you can have freedom, security, and convenience when, at best,
you can have two out of three.

At the same time, it is said that the rightful role of government
is to hold a monopoly on the use of force.  Is it possible that in
a fully digital world it will come to pass that everyone can see
what once only a Director of National Intelligence could see?  Might
a monopoly of force resting solely with government become harder
to maintain as the technology that bulwarks such a monopoly becomes
democratized ever faster?  Might reserving force to government
become itself an anachronism?  That is almost surely not something
to hope for, even for those of us who agree with Thomas Jefferson
that the government that governs best is the government that governs
least.  If knowledge is power, then increasing the store of knowledge
must increase the store of power; increasing the rate of knowlege
acquisition must increase the rate of power growth.  All power tends
to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,[LA] so sending
vast amounts of knowledge upstream will corrupt absolutely, regardless
of whether the data sources are reimbursed with some pittance of
convenience.  Every tax system in the world has proven this time
and again with money.  We are about to prove it again with data,
which has become a better store of value than fiat currency in any

Again, that power has to go somewhere.  If you are part of the
surveillance fabric, then you are part of creating that power, some
of which is reflected back on you as conveniences that actually
doubles as a form of control.  Very nearly everyone at this conference
is explicitly and voluntarily part of the surveillance fabric because
it comes with the tools you use, with what Steve Jobs would call
your digital life.  With enough instrumentation carried by those
who opt in, the person who opts out hasn't really opted out.  If
what those of you who opt in get for your role in the surveillance
fabric is "security," then you had better be damnably sure that
when you say "security" that you all have close agreement on precisely
what you mean by that term.

And this is as good a place as any to pass on Joel Brenner's

   During the Cold War, our enemies were few and we knew who they
   were.  The technologies used by Soviet military and intelligence
   agencies were invented by those agencies.  Today, our adversaries
   are less awesomely powerful than the Soviet Union, but they are
   many and often hidden.  That means we must find them before we
   can listen to them.  Equally important, virtually every government
   on Earth, including our own, has abandoned the practice of relying
   on government-developed technologies.  Instead they rely on
   commercial off-the-shelf, or COTS, technologies.  They do it
   because no government can compete with the head-spinning advances
   emerging from the private sector, and no government can afford
   to try.  When NSA wanted to collect intelligence on the Soviet
   government and military, the agency had to steal or break the
   encryption used by them and nobody else.  The migration to COTS
   changed that.  If NSA now wants to collect against a foreign
   general's or terorist's communications, it must break the same
   encryption you and I use on our own devices...  That's why NSA
   would want to break the encryption used on every one of those
   media.  If it couldn't, any terrorist in Chicago, Kabul, or
   Cologne would simply use a Blackberry or send messages on Yahoo!
   But therein lies a policy dilemma, because NSA could decrypt
   almost any private conversation.  The distinction between
   capabilities and actual practices is more critical than ever...
   Like it or not, the dilemma can be resolved only through oversight
   mechanisms that are publicly understood and trusted -- but are
   not themselves ... transparent.

At the same time, for-profit and not-for-profit entites are collecting
on each other.  They have to, even though private intelligence
doubtless leads directly to private law.  On the 6th of this month,
the Harvard Kennedy School held a conference on this very subject;
let me read just the first paragraph:[HKS]

   In today's world, businesses are facing increasingly complex
   threats to infrastructure, finances, and information.  The
   government is sometimes unable to share classified information
   about these threats.  As a result, business leaders are creating
   their own intelligence capabilities within their companies.

In a closely related development, the international traffic in arms
treaty known as the Wassenaar Agreement, was just amended to classify
"Intrusion Software" and "Network Surveillance Systems" as weapons.[WA]

So whom do you trust?  Paul Wouters makes a telling point when he
says that "You cannot avoid trust.  Making it hierarchical gives
the least trust to parties.  You monitor those you have to trust
more, and more closely."[PW]  As I've done with privacy and security,
I should now state my definition of trust, which is that trust is
where I drop my guard, which is to say that I only trust someone
against whom I have effective recourse.  Does that mean I can only
trust those upon whom I can collect?  At the nation state level
that is largely the case.  Is this the way Brin's vision will work
itself out, that as the technology of collection democratizes, we
will trust those we can collect against but within the context of
whatever hierarchy is evolutionarily selected by such a dynamic?

It is said that the price of anything is the foregone alternative.
The price of dependence is risk.  The price of total dependence is
total risk.  Standing in his shuttered factory, made redundant by
coolie labor in China, Tom McGregor said that "American consumers
want to buy things at a price that is cheaper than they would be
willing to be paid to make them."  A century and a half before Tom,
English polymath John Ruskin said that "There is nothing in the
world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little
cheaper, and he who considers price only is that man's lawful prey."
Invoking Zittrain yet again, the user of free services is not the
customer, he's the product.  Let me then say that if you are going
to be a data collector, if you are bound and determined to instrument
your life and those about you, if you are going to "sell" data to
get data, then I ask that you not work so cheaply that you collectively
drive to zero the habitat, the lebensraum, of those of us who opt
out.  If you remain cheap, then I daresay that opting out will soon
require bravery and not just the quiet tolerance to do without
digital bread and circuses.

To close with Thomas Jefferson:

   I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent
   the government from wasting the labors of the people under the
   pretense of taking care of them.

There is never enough time.  Thank you for yours.


[NAS] "Professionalizing the Nation's Cyber Workforce?"

[PB] _Against the Gods_ and this 13:22 video at
 ...Bernstein was himself quoting Elroy Dimson and Paul Marsh from
 their 1982 paper, "Calculating the Cost of Capital"...

[PHI] Personal Health Information, abbreviated PHI

[SMC] "Penalties for failure to report and false reporting of child
abuse and neglect," US Dept of Health and Human Services, Children's
Bureau, Child Welfare Information Gateway

[CFAA] U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 47, Section 1030

[USC] U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 1, Section 4

[VDB] Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report

[ICS] Index of Cyber Security

[DA] "What is the next step?," Dave Aitel, 18 February 2014

[S] Sensity's NetSense product, to take one (only) example

[M] For example, the 2007 collapse of I-35 in Minneapolis.

[J] "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?," Juvenal, Satire VI ll.347-348

[DB1] _The Transparent Society_, David Brin, Perseus, 1998
[DB2] "The Myth of the 'Transparent Society'," Bruce Schneier
[DB3] "Rebuttal," David Brin

[W] minor quotation from

[TF] _Fooled by Randomness_, Nassim Taleb, Random House, 2001

[TE] "Coming to an office near you," The Economist, 18 January 2014
 cover/lead article, print edition

[ZS] "Be the friction - Our Response to the New Lords of the Ring," 6 Jun 2013

[NS] National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, 2011

[NP] 2010 Legislative Conf. for the National Association of Counties

[BI] "Small Is Beautiful, Big Is Inevitable," IEEE S&P, Nov/Dec 2011

[SB] LANGSEC: Language-theoretic Security

[HT] Trends, HTTP Archive

[BJ] Bitcoin Miner for Websites

[RC] _Breakpoint_, Richard Clarke, Putnam's, 2007

[LA] "All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts
absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men, even when they
exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd
the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority."
-- Lord John Dalberg Acton to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 1887

[JB] "NSA: Not (So) Secret Anymore," 10 December 2013

[HKS] Defense and Intelligence: Future of Intelligence Seminars

[WA] "International Agreement Reached Controlling Export of Mass
and Intrusive Surveillance," 9 December 2013

[PW] "You Can't P2P the DNS and Have It, Too," Paul Wouters, 9 Apr 2012

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