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a report by the DHS Privacy O ce, the system was designed
to allow law enforcement agencies in di erent states to easily
search one another's computers, although the system "was
over-sold as a pattern analysis tool for anti-terrorism purposes."
The report found that Matrix was late in forming its privacy
policy and that it "lacked adequate audit controls." Public sup-
port fell o , states pulled out, and the project was terminated.
Since then, a number of states and cities have partnered
with DHS to create so-called "fusion centers," with the goal
of helping sensitive information flow between federal, state,
and even local law enforcement agencies. There were 58 fusion
centers around the country by February 2009, according to
the department's website, and DHS spent more than $254
million to support them between 2004 and 2007.
Few details of what actually happens at these centers have
been made public. But in April 2008, Jack Tomarchio, then
the department's principal deputy undersecretary for intelli-
gence and analysis, told the Senate Committee on Homeland
Security and Governmental A airs that information from
two U.S. fusion centers had been passed to a foreign govern-
ment, which set up a terrorism investigation as a result. "DHS
received a letter expressing that country's gratitude for the
information," he testified. "This information would not have
been gleaned without state and local participation."
At least in the eyes of the Bush administration, sacrificing
the privacy of Americans to the security of the country had
proved well worthwhile. But now the pendulum is swinging
back, showing once again that our republic values privacy and
will act to protect it from abuses---eventually.
Here's a kōan for the information age: Why do so many pri-
vacy activists have Facebook pages?
Originally conceived as a place for Harvard undergraduates
to post their photos and cell-phone numbers---information that
Harvard, because of privacy concerns, wasn't putting online back
in 2003---Facebook has grown to be the fourth-most-popular
"website" in the world, according to the Web services firm Alexa.
But Facebook is really a collection of applications powered by
private information: a smart address book that friends and
business contacts update themselves; a (mostly) spam-free
messaging system; a photo-sharing site. And on Facebook,
developers write seamlessly integrated applications.
These applications are troubling from a privacy perspective.
Say you want to complete one of those cool Facebook surveys.
Click a button and you'll be taken to a page with the headline
"Allow Access?" Then you'll be told that using the application
allows it to "pull your profile information, photos, your friends'
info, and other content that it requires to work." How much
information? There's no way to be sure, really---perhaps every-
thing you've put into Facebook.
The roughly one in five Internet users who spend an average
of 25 minutes each day on Facebook implicitly face a question
every time they type into a Facebook page: Do they trust the site's
security and privacy controls? The answer is inevitably yes.
That's the reason privacy activists are on Facebook: it's where
the action is. It's easy to imagine a future where most personal
messaging is done on such platforms. Activists and organiza-
tions that refuse to take part might find themselves irrelevant.
It was in a similar context that Scott McNealy, then CEO
of Sun Microsystems, famously said, "You have zero privacy
anyway. Get over it." In January 1999, McNealy was trying to
promote a new technology for distributed computing that Sun
had cooked up---an early version of what we might call "cloud
computing" today---and reporters were pestering him about
how the system would protect privacy. Four and a half years
later, he told the San Francisco Chronicle, "The point I was mak-
ing was someone already has your medical records. Someone
has my dental records. Someone has my financial records.
Someone knows just about everything about me."
Today it's not just medical and financial records that are
stored on remote servers---it's everything. Consider e-mail. If
you download it from Post O ce Protocol (POP) accounts, as
most Internet users still did in 1999, the mail is copied to your
computer and then deleted from your ISP's servers. These days,
however, most people use Web mail or the Internet Message
Access Protocol (IMAP), which leaves a copy on the server until
it is explicitly deleted. Most people don't know where that server
is---it's just somewhere "in the cloud" of the Internet. [Editor's
note: see our Briefing on cloud computing, beginning on p. 53.]
Services like Facebook, Gmail, and Google Docs are becom-
ing wildly popular because they give users the freedom to access
their data from home and from work without having to carry it
back and forth. But leaving your data on some organization's
servers creates all sorts of opportunities for mishap. The orga-
nization might have a bad employee who siphons out data for
personal profit. Cyberthieves might break into its servers and
try to steal lots of people's data at the same time. Or a hacker
might specifically target your data and contact the organiza-
tion, claiming to be you. All these are security threats---security
threats that become privacy threats because it's your data.
WHERE WE ARE NOW
I have spent a good part of my professional life looking for
ways to make computer systems more secure, and I believe
that many of the problems we face today are not only trac-
table---many of them have already been solved. The threat of
data theft by insiders can be mitigated by paying employees
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