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Leaving the Screen Door Open for the G-Man

by French Caldwell  |  July 17, 2013  |  2 Comments

Colleagues today were discussing again the Snowden revelations about service providers giving governments access to digital business and social media data.  One colleague suggested that we should not use the term back door in this context since by the traditional IT security definition this would imply that government agencies had direct access to the operational systems of service providers.

photo (2)That’s a good point. Another way to think about the access for governments is that it’s the back screen door that is left unlocked.  The door to the house remains locked.  Facebook, Yahoo and others are putting out things on the back porch that the government milkman can pick up.

When talking to relatives and friends, they seem okay with that.  But when I raise to them that if Facebook is doing that for NSA, don’t you think they are doing it for other governments, then they get a bit nervous.

But they still insist that they don’t put anything on Facebook that would get them in trouble.  And then I ask, are all your friends doing the same?  And what about their friends?  What if you get scooped up in an investigation because you have a relationship, even 2nd or 3rd degree, with someone else?  What if you were denied a clearance on that basis, or a job?

I guess we just don’t remember history.

Category: cybersecurity  public-policy  social-technology  

French Caldwell
VP and Gartner Fellow
15 years at Gartner
19 years IT industry

French Caldwell is a vice president and Gartner Fellow in Gartner Research, where he leads governance, risk and compliance research. Mr. Caldwell also writes and presents on knowledge management. His research includes analysis of the impact… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Leaving the Screen Door Open for the G-Man

  1. Erik Heidt says:

    I like this “screen door” metaphor and I think it is appropriate. (It also makes me think about an old joke about putting screen doors on submarines…) The situation also makes me think of the “key hidden under the mat” situation too. But the hidden key provides plausible deniability (you don’t know who might have used it), in this case these organizations know what is happening – and I am sure it is pretty painful for them.

    Just my 2 cents. Erik

  2. Ken Williams says:

    Facebook, et al, opened all the curtains because the NSA is a very important peeping Tom. This metaphor captures the perversion factor of privacy unwittingly lost.

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