Saturday, June 15, 2013

Western Infiltration of Chinese Infrastructure

Many of Snowden's revelations and claims are shocking to the public, not because they were anything new, but because of the reason laid out in the letter from Senators to the NSA: the gap between the understanding of Americans and the interpretation of law of the administration. At the end of the day, the mass scale surveillance over American citizens would probably be found legal.

Snowden also confirmed that the US had been hacking into infrastructure in China. This would not be news for the Chinese government. In 1989, after the Tian'anmen Square Slaughter, Chinese officials found dead tone when they picked up their phones, and was surprised to know all western companies and embassies had normal communications to the outside world. That made a legitimate argument for building China's own communication infrastructure, thus ZTE and Huawei.

For some people who are not sure about the information you can extract from phone records (minus the actual contents), with modern data mining techniques, the government will know more about you then a particular conversation. With very similar surveillance but on much primitive methods, former Chongqing police chief Mr. Wang Lijun, who defected to the US consulate in Chengdu for a few days before surrendered the to central government in Beijing, boasted a 128 degrees of surveillance over each individual who had ever set foot in Chongqing. The system was deployed to fight political enemies of his boss Bo Xilai, then Party Boss of Chongqing. Both Bo and Wang were arrested.

American's wary eyes on China are not always unappreciated. The red regime never knew how much irrigation land it had, until a folder of geo-sensing image was passed from the US as a neighborly gesture in the 1970s.

An interesting question would be whether Google would withdraw from the US market, given their previous statement over the rationale of withdrawing from the mainland China market all together. By all means, the government intrusion into individual privacy is way more penetrative and aggressive on the US side.

Google published a map of number of requests to censor certain data from the governments around the globe. What was unsaid in the map was that fact that the US government had unlimited direct access to its servers, a fact Google had fiercely denied until the Snowden Revelation. NSA have been mining directly on servers of nine major companies including Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. Thousands other smaller companies provide user data voluntarily in exchange of favorable treatments by the NSA. In the case of Microsoft, it even provides information on its system bugs and loopholes to the NSA before it release patches to patch them.

The fiasco should bring back memory from a 1998 movie, the Enemy of the State. For a long time, even computation scientists had been speculating the data accumulated by the NSA had surpassed its processing capability. However, based on the information made available after the Snowden incident, almost everyone had underestimated the computing capacity of NSA.

Both Snowden and Manning came from the state of Maryland.

On the other hand, it might be a pragmatical choice for American people not worried about the NSA. After all, general public are not worthy targets for NSA. It's a golden opportunity for the Americans to reflect on the invasion of privacy by the Internet, in particular social networks such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. Their potential employers had much more interests to dig out any bad jokes or shirtless pictures they posted half a century ago in middle schools.

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