NSA revelations: What is the biggest surprise

According to NY Times report the NSA has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world. If you quickly look back at all the revelation related to Snowden what was, let’s say, the biggest surprise for you, and why? I mean especially from the technological point of view, not from the political like spying on Merkel etc. Read few comments.

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation, Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University

The biggest surprise for me was that the NSA had understood the true value of “big data”, and acted accordingly: namely to use the data not just for surveillance, that is to spy on people and know what they did in the past, but to utilize the vast amounts of data collected to predict how human beings WILL behave in the future. The core power of big data is precisely the ability to better predict the future.

Such predictions cannot tell us why things are going to happen, only that there is a strong likelihood THAT things are happening. The fundamental problem arises when such “correlational” predictions are used to assign responsibility and punishment to individuals. Because that is abusing big data analysis for causal purposes. Unfortunately, because humans always want to see the world as a series of causes and effects, humans are prone to abuse big data correlations that way. And the imminent danger is that the US government falls into this very trap – thus undoing not just the idea of innocence and guilt, but also of human free will. In short: the danger is less “1984” than “Minority Report”.

Ian Brown, Associate Director of Oxford University’s Cyber Security Centre, Oxford University

While the fact that NSA/GCHQ etc. are monitoring people’s online activities isn’t news, the scale and scope of their acticities was a surprise. Also, I think that NSA and GCHQ hacking into the private networks linking data centres of companies such as Google and Microsoft, and NSA’s undermining of encryption standards, were both strategically unwise – beneficial in the short-term to US intelligence gathering, but very damaging in the long run to US economic interests, and to worldwide online security.

Predrag Tasevski, post-master in EUROCOM in the field of Cyber Security, Founder of cybersecurity.mk

I had quick look at article that you have send me and frankly it is nothing new. The penetration of the USA devices has been known for a long time. This penetration from NSA it is not done to regular bulk people, but however it is done to the special – selected people. And the method and approach of radio frequency to penetrate computers is well know around the scholars.
The biggest surprise for me indeed is why NSA has been keeping this for a long time, and reveal it now? In the IT security community we known that this is happening and it will happens more and more in near future. Looking further to this problem is that they most probably have penetrated even  mobile and other portable devices, too.

Dorothy DenningDistinguished Professor of Defense Analysis, Naval Postgraduate School

Probably the bulk metadata collection. I didn’t think they were collecting anything about US persons in bulk.

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