Security expert Bruce Schneier on social networking technology:
We never realized how much our security could be attributed to distance and inconvenience — how difficult it is to recruit, organize, coordinate, and communicate without formal organizations. That inadvertent measure of security is now gone. Bad guys, from hacker groups to terrorist groups, will use the same ad hoc organizational technologies that the rest of us do. And while there has been some success in closing down individual Web pages, discussion groups, and blogs, these are just stopgap measures.
Human detective work moves at human pace. The same bloke that linked the two pieces of data could have done a similar task by asking the station manager or a nosy newsagent. If someone is trying to track me down, then someone must think I really am worth the effort.
Its when computers talk to other computers that liberty disappears. Because a computer can correlate countless bits of data and create new records that would take many humans exponentially longer to do. And that gap, or grace period, is actually where anonymity lies, or did.
So technology makes it easier for crimminals and terrorists to target us, but also, one assumes, for the police to trace them. But it also allows the State to erode our privacy. Meanwhile, as chronicled many-a-time on this blog, ordinary citizens can use technology to pressure governments to be more open, to expose their lies, and counter official narratives. The two types of security we desire – protection from crimminal elements, and protection from state intrusion – are often in tension. It is interesting that new technologies don’t shift the balance one-way or another, but end up assisting all actors: Crimminals, The State, The Citizen.
The question is, does the technology ratchet up the tension, making violations and conflict more frequent? Or does it pre-empt and head-off many of the flash-points, before they become a problem?