Cryptography leaders condemn NSA in open letter

By George Chidi
Saturday, January 25, 2014 19:09 EDT
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'Protesters Rally Against Mass Surveillance In Washington, DC On Oct. 26, 2013' [Shutterstock] http://tinyurl.com/qbylrbj
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Some of the leading names in code-breaking research signed a letter published Friday that condemns the NSA’s surveillance activities.

The letter at MassSurveillance.info notes media reports of “domestic and international surveillance on a massive scale, that it engages in deliberate and covert weakening of Internet security standards, and that it pressures US technology companies to deploy backdoors and other data-collection features.” The researchers signing the letter “deplore these practices and urge that they be changed.”

Among the more noteworthy signatories is Dr. Ronald Rivest, an MIT professor, one of the modern fathers of consumer-accessible cryptography and the founder of RSA Security. His firm, which was bought by EMC in 2006, has come under fire in recent weeks after Edward Snowden revealed that the RSA had taken money from the NSA to push an encryption standard that the government had secretly compromised.

Several others are former federal employees, notes the Washington Post, including former chief technologists of the Federal Trade Commission. Others have accepted defense grants for their research, such as Georgia Tech’s Wenke Lee and MIT’s Nickolai Zeldovich.

“The value of society-wide surveillance in preventing terrorism is unclear, but the threat that such surveillance poses to privacy, democracy, and the US technology sector is readily apparent,” the authors state. “Because transparency and public consent are at the core of our democracy, we call upon the US government to subject all mass-surveillance activities to public scrutiny and to resist the deployment of mass-surveillance programs in advance of sound technical and social controls.”

The authors linked to ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com, an industry group of large Internet firms like Facebook and Yahoo!, which has been pressing for a greater degree of transparency in the government’s data surveillance efforts.

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