In an interview with Wired.co.uk, Professor Tim Wu of Columbia Law School suggested that consumers had a responsibility to leave social networks found out to be collaborating secretly with intelligence services such as the NSA:
“When you have enormous concentrations of data in a few hands, spying becomes very easy. Quit Facebook and use another search engine. It’s simple. It’s nice to keep in touch with your friends. But I think if you find out if it’s true that these companies are involved in these surveillance programs you should just quit.”
Wu cautioned that he felt many facts were not yet verified but admitted he was not surprised to hear of the existence of Prism. News of the program was, he said, “shocking and dispiriting”.
“When you have enormous concentrations of data in a few hands, spying becomes very easy,” Wu told Wired. “So Facebook and Google were always obvious targets for any government that wants to know stuff about people.”
Wu was speaking after giving a keynote speech to delegates of ORGCon2013, an Open Rights Group conference held in London on 6/8. Appearing to refer to Prism during his address, Wu asserted that the current situation was one of “crisis”.
As part of his keynote, Wu described several historical examples of technologies having been used as tools of oppression or societal control, such as enforced propaganda radio broadcasts by the Nazi regime. He also commented that he felt web users ought to have a “visceral” sense of ownership over their online data.
In further comments made during interview, Wu criticized the track record of the Obama administration on civil liberty issues, saying that the Justice Department under Obama had, in his opinion, been, “a colossal disappointment in this respect”.
Responding to remarks made by President Obama immediately following revelations on Prism, Wu said, “I think he is underestimating the degree to which people want to feel safe and secure from eavesdropping.” Wu added, “I’m not relieved by his comments at all.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Look, politics is not our focus here, but nonetheless, there are two ways to look at Prism and what it represents: 1) It could protect us from terror plans and strikes (but who would post such plans on Facebook?); and 2) Knowledge is Power. Given the recent monitoring of AP and Fox News reporters, Prism gives this and any administration power over folks that dare to challenge/expose it now and in the future. Having immediate access to a departmental leak, an embarrassing revelation told over the phone, a skeleton in a closet, or simply a campaign strategy plan, underscores more than ever that knowledge is power. Such knowledge can be used against politicians and possibly against ordinary citizens. It all depends on how the holders of that data want to use it and the scope of access to it. If you tell your brother on a phone call that you cheated a little on your taxes, will the IRS audit you a week later? Is it 1984? Is this East Germany? Just sayin’…!