PRISM, security, and the user

The extent, if not totality, of the US spy program PRISM has shocked the world. It still does, as new details occur and no official plans to improve transparency or legitimacy are announced.

The activities uncovered put yet another spotlight on the vulnerability of the “information society” we live in and we appreciate for its comfort. As the term already suggests, information plays the key role and it is also key to gain or exert power. Therefore, criminals work on malware to gain information about our credit cards and to steal business secrets. Companies are after your intimate behavior to personalize advertising. And now it turns out that also friendly constitutional democracies filter data on massive scale as part of their “intelligence” (how far this even involves “business intelligence” is one of the unanswered questions).

In this light, improving the security of messages and the transmission networks themselves becomes critical.

As an example for secure messages, SiMKo, the top security devices by Deutsche Telekom, aim to protect government communications – as it seems now, this is not only necessary against spy organizations but also to keep friendly secret services at bay. T-Systems works with IXDS to not “just” deliver top security but to keep up usability and joy of use up at the same time. [I work for IXDS]

I also joined the project SASER, an EU funded research activity for a more stable, secure, and efficient network technology. As part of the Interaction Design Lab, we will develop visualization tools for complex data that help security analysts to find and stop vulnerabilities or attacks.

More secure technology and “security habits” certainly help on an individual level. Attempts towards total surveillance, however, need to be blocked on society (or political) level. Only if we value transparency and accountability more than secrecy, even in the event of terror, we can keep a vivid freedom of speech and our democracy healthy.

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