Google’s Eric Schmidt is at the Davos World Economic forum right now talking up his company’s potential to end government surveillance and censorship completely using solely “strong encryption,” reports Rich McCormick of The Verge.
The American NSA has proven itself quite adept at finding cracks in Google’s systems, and China’s real-time censorship machine is unlike any other in the world.
Nevertheless, Schmidt is confident, from the Verge:
Schmidt said that Google was attempting to strengthen its encryption so the world’s governments “won’t be able to penetrate it” and obtain private data. Those efforts creates problems for “governments like China’s,” which he thought responsible for “80 to 85 per cent of the world’s industrial espionage.”
The Google chairman also said he saw the eventual relaxation of Chinese censorship over time as the number of people using social media in the country continued to grow.
Schmidt’s statement at Davos mirrors what he said last November, “The solution to government surveillance is to encrypt everything … We can end government censorship in a decade.”
The strength of encryption was never really in question; however, stronger encryption really would only stop mass surveillance.
Most of the NSA’s (often most effective) programs target specific computers with malware, intercept and alter hardware, compromise 3rd party software — all of which are already pretty selective (as opposed to “indiscriminately” scooping mass amounts of data).
The NSA also attacks massive endpoint data centres around which much of the world’s cloud traffic flows (and about which two Google employees “exploded in profanity” when they found out about the NSA hack).
Google immediately promised to further “encrypt” those data end points, but even then, the NSA is chartered to try and find new ways to exploit.
“It’s an arms race,” Eric Grosse, vice president for security engineering, told the Washington Post. “We see these government agencies as among the most skilled players in this game.”
It appears as if all that Google can hope to stop in reality would be active and comprehensive snooping on the general global populace.
Schmidt’s mention of cracking China’s great firewall with encryption is somewhat ambiguous.
“It is possible, within the next decade, using encryption, we would be able to open up countries that have strict censorship laws … giving people a voice,” he told WSJ’s Rebecca Blumenstein. Schmidt didn’t specify, only saying that an increasing number of Chinese using social media “would ultimately overcome government censorship.”
One could easily suspect Schmidt’s goal of gaining more of a market share in China would be the foot in door for Google’s ambitions to implement anti-government surveillance encryption.
As Google and the NSA battle over encryption, a subculture of hackers and cryptoanarchists offer a variety of ways to randomize one’s fingerprints on the web, but none of them are completely foolproof.
And even if government surveillance were vanquished forever, there’s still the private corporations and private citizens — the amount of info Google has on nearly every Internet-using individual in the world is hard to comprehend.
Michael Shelden, author of “Orwell: The Authorised Biography,” told NPR that while George Orwell foresaw the net of government surveillance, he never imagined that private companies would hold access and often sell personal information.
NPR reporter Alan Greenblat noted that a woman on a train shared an image she took of a man who spent the ride talking about cheating on his wife. That image has been shared roughly 286,000 times.
“We have the capacity now to be a huge nation of informers,” Shelden says.
No amount of encryption can stop a smart phone and the viral web.
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