|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Autoencryption and table security
I'm not sure what this matters now that all services are being rolled
out to the cloud.
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama, standing with British Prime
Minister David Cameron, said that “If we find evidence of a terrorist
plot…and despite having a phone number, despite having a social media
address or e-mail address, we can’t penetrate that; that’s a problem.”
According to the /Wall Street Journal/
he then indicated that he believes Silicon Valley companies want to
solve this problem, because “They’re patriots.”
An interesting statement, given that just a few months ago, Silicon
Valley companies were being criticized by U.S. government agencies for
adding automatic encryption
to smart phones—a move the government sees as not so patriotic. The
latest software released for Android and Apple phones and pads
automatically encrypts user data, and the companies said they are not
keeping a master key, so they can’t help the government get into user
data, even if they want to. Other communications and social networking
apps, like What’sApp
have also been rolling out automatic encryption.
So what’s the story? Is Silicon Valley determined to protect user
privacy, or is it ready and willing to turn over data to the government
You could see it as a delicate dance, or as walking a fine line. Or, you
could be a little more cynical, and view it through the eyes of the Dr.
Seuss classic, /The Sneetches/.
I was introduced to this parable back in the ‘90s. The book is typically
used to teach lessons about discrimination. But Silicon Valley venture
capitalist Tim Draper had a different interpretation in mind when he
gave a copy of the book to my husband. The intent, Draper noted, was to
help my husband understand Microsoft’s moves at the time. Since
then, /The Sneetches/ has been a story that I think about regularly when
I watch the goings on in business and technology today.
Short synoposis: two sets of creatures—star-bellied Sneetches and
plain-bellied Sneetches—live in a world in which the star-bellied
Sneetches are top dogs. An entrepreneur named Sylvester McMonkey McBean
comes in with new technology—he can add stars to plain-bellied
Sneetches, for a fee. The plain-bellied crew all signs up, and now
nobody can tell the two groups apart. The original elite aren’t happy,
so McBean offers a new tech fix, at a higher fee: star removal. This
goes back and forth until the Sneetches are broke—and McBean drives off
with all the money. Only then do the two sides work out their differences.
So McBean provides the technology that gives and the technology that
takes away—sort of like a tech industry that gives privacy protection,
yet is, apparently also interested in working with the government to get
around privacy protection.
You can see an animated version of the Sneetches here
(or read the text here
think about whether it’s a good or bad thing that Silicon Valley is in
the position of brokering our privacy.