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[liberationtech] On the technical and legal aspects of security, transparency, and audibility of the NSA surveillance data.
jancsika at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 1 12:19:07 PDT 2013
On 06/30/2013 06:16 PM, Jae Kwon wrote:
> There is debate about whether the NSA's PRISM program is related to
> Palantir's products.
> Whether they are related or not, it seems that the government's claims
> of transparency and audibility of the NSA's PRISM program is related
> (perhaps directly) to the claims of Palantir's. Search for "immutable
> auditing" below:
> It seems that even professor Lessig has bought into their marketing.
tldr; just add an _additional_ splitter to the internet and you've
almost certainly broken whatever audit trail they claim to provide in
time for dinner and a movie. :)
It really matters very little who the company is:
If a system has the feature of "immutable auditing", then that system
also solves what's known as the "double-spend problem" in digital
currencies-- i.e., any parties who want to make a transaction can use
the system itself to make sure the tokens haven't been spent yet.
Using such a system for a digital currency is obviously more lucrative
than using it for auditing transactions in some narrow domain. I.e.,
your market would be people who have a need for fungible digital
tokens-- basically everyone in the modern world-- vs. an extremely small
subset of everyone in the world.
AFAICT, Palantir does not offer their solution as a digital currency.
In conclusion, Palantir probably does not offer "immutable auditing" in
any meaningful sense of the phrase.
What is so striking about Lessig's statement is that he seemed to be
making a stark separation between policy solutions and technical code
solutions, and he put Palantir on the technical side. I suppose I could
understand if he were saying he'd like to see more people he knows and
trusts working with the government to strike a balance between privacy
and surveillance, but he was clearly saying that Palantir's systems
provided strong _technical_ protections against government misuse. If
that is true, then as a long-standing advocate of free culture I think
Lessig has a responsibility to reveal to his readers exactly how
Palantir's system achieves this feat in his understanding. A system
that can really provide an "immutable audit" trail has a plethora of
uses for privacy advocates even beyond a digital currency. To mention
such technology in passing without further explaining how it works is at
the very least the height of laziness.
If neither Lessig nor Palantir cannot divulge how Palantir is able to
achieve this feat without threatening the security of the system, then
that probably speaks volumes about the efficacy of the system. (And the
quote I cannot find ATM from the cryptography guy back in the 1800s who
said you should be able to describe how a cryptosystem works without
breaking it probably applies here.)
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