Kevin Coleman is a senior fellow at the Technolytics Institute and former chief strategist at Netscape. (File)
I cannot recall any other time in history when so many people I know were concerned about what President Obama was going to say about the NSA’s monitoring programs. Thinking through his position, he had to try to balance the need to collect digital intelligence on a global scale to proactively combat the growing number of threats the United States and our allies face in this growingly connected digital world with the privacy guaranteed by the Constitution. There were a few unexpected points in his address on the topic, delivered Jan. 17.
First was his fairly strong “in-your-face” statement directed toward the most vocal of those nations who condemn the intelligence collection programs that Edward Snowden disclosed. He basically called them out, saying they were also gathering cyber intelligence in much the same way as we were and shouldn’t be throwing stones.
The second area that surprised many was his comments about the private sector’s cyber monitoring activities. While he did not go into detail, his comments clearly acknowledged their activities and alluded to their significance. As a reinforcement on that point, a class I am teaching on cyber for the military covers new location-based cyber intelligence collection activities that go far beyond collecting data on cell phone calls.
The collection of personal information is not new by any stretch of the imagination! I was at Internet Pioneer – Netscape when Scott McNealy, responding to reporters, said, “You have zero privacy anyway, get over it.” That was more than a decade ago.
One of the biggest concerns many have is that we may be collecting so much data we miss the needle in the haystack. However, the biggest concern is how our adversaries are modifying their operations to avoid the cyber intelligence collection activities that Snowden disclosed.