Ex-DHS Director Michael Chertoff: The Public Spying On Famous People With Their Smartphones Is A Bigger Issue Than NSA Spying

from the wanna-run-that-by-me-again? dept

Former director of Homeland Security (and current profiteer off of any "security" scare) Michael Chertoff has penned quite an incredible op-ed for the Washington Post, in which he argues that the real threat to privacy today is not the NSA spying on everyone, but rather all you people out there in the public with your smartphones, taking photos and videos, and going to Twitter to post things you overheard more important people say. Seriously. It starts out by claiming this is a "less-debated threat":
So it is striking that two recent news stories illustrate a less-debated threat to privacy that we as a society are inflicting on ourselves. Last week, a passenger on an Acela train decided to tweet in real time his summary of an overheard phone conversation by Gen. Michael Hayden, a former director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA (and my current business partner). The same day, a photo was published of Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler at a summer party where he was surrounded by underage youths who apparently were drinking.
But he then goes on to argue that this kind of thing is more troubling than the NSA revelations, which Chertoff suggests is no big deal:
Of course, the delicious irony is obvious: In one case, the former NSA chief becomes a victim of eavesdropping. In the other, a politician critical of teen drinking fails to intervene when he is surrounded by it. But both stories carry a more troubling implication. The ubiquitousness of recording devices ­— coupled with the ability everyone has to broadcast indiscriminately through Twitter, YouTube and other online platforms — means that virtually every act or utterance outside one’s own home (or, in Gansler’s case, inside a private home) is subject to being massively publicized. And because these outlets bypass any editorial review, there is no assurance that what is disseminated has context or news value.
It would appear that Chertoff seems to believe that there should be no expectation of privacy for the things you actually do in private -- generating metadata about who you call, where you go, what websites you visit, etc. But, stuff that you actually do in public should never be "broadcast" because it might embarrass famous people.

And, yes, it's the famous people being embarrassed that seems to most concern Chertoff:
If a well-known person has an argument with a spouse or child at a restaurant, should it be broadcast? If a business personality expresses a political opinion at a private party, should that opinion (or a distortion of it) be passed on to the rest of the world? If a politician buys a book or a magazine at an airport, should a passerby inform everyone?
See? Think of those poor well-known people, having people telling others about what they do. What a shame! Incredibly, he argues that it's this exposing of the public actions of famous people that creates real chilling effects -- and not the NSA's spying, which he calls "exaggerated."
Are we creating an informant society, in which every overheard conversation, cellphone photograph or other record of personal behavior is transmitted not to police but to the world at large? Do we want to chill behavior and speech with the fear that an unpopular comment or embarrassing slip will call forth vituperative criticism and perhaps even adversely affect careers or reputations? Do we need to constantly monitor what we say or do in restaurants, at sporting events, on public sidewalks or even private parties?
I don't know what clueless PR flack thought this was a good strategy, but the clear connotation is hard to miss: Look, we the powerful people get to spy on everyone, but the second you turn the tables and spy on us and the things we do in public, what a horrible shame! Something must be done!


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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 11:48am

    Uh, yeah, and meanwhile, no one's going to jail, we're still spied on...

    and Mike runs fluff like this. The surveillance state goes on as though the NSA "leak" never took place. So in practice, all that's happened is that the dolts are now up to speed. -- Gosh. Who here was prescient enough back in June or July to say that it's only a limited hangout psyop before the next stage (all codified and "legal" as is in process)?

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 11:54am

    GOOGLE is GOD!

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 11:58am

    an overheard phone conversation by Gen. Michael Hayden, a former director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA (and my current business partner).


    I think we have the explanation for Chertoff's outrage right there.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:04pm

    Again Techdirt

    Stop pointing out that we, the Powerful, are stupid. Its not fair. We have the power.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:04pm

    *snort*

    More important people?

    Screw Chertoff, no one is more important than Jane & Joe American in the U.S. This is why this country will fall, because people in power think they are more important as proven by "Mic Squirt-It-off" and by Americans worshiping their worthless leaders!

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:07pm

    did anyone expect anything different to come out of the mouth of someone that was probably involved in this crap or at least knew it was in operation!
    i haven't seen or heard of any comments about the way the people who are being watched 24/7 should feel anything other than grateful! it's fine for those saying this, they aren't under the spotlight. i bet their families would be far less pleased if they knew the extent to which the security agencies are going to ensure they know every word spoken or written, every journey taken, in fact, everything about their lives!
    this is a despicable practice that should never have been allowed to start, let alone encouraged, but as with almost everything, as long as it is ONLY 'THE PEOPLE' that have it happening to them, who gives a toss, eh??

     

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    Designerfx (profile), Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:09pm

    so ironic

    And yet, the NSA had all of the information from all of this public broadcasting of public conversations before the rest of (us) public ever accessed it!

    Oh the irony.

     

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  8.  
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    Rapnel (profile), Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:26pm

    Christ!

    And these fucking people lead us.

    Fucking tool.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:27pm

    Another fine case of misdirection. Oh look over there! There's spying going on and it's not us.

    This has been one of the main methods to divert attention from the real issue of totally ignoring the rights of privacy of citizens they are invading.

    They've lied, misdirected, and covered up, and frankly they've had enough rope to show their colors. I believe nothing I hear coming out dealing with support of the NSA from either self-interested parties, politicians, nor the administration on this.

    Face it the time for admitting wrong doing is long past and not in their vocabulary.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:39pm

    I agree, lets shut down the celebrity tracking shows/sites AND the NSA

    I agree, lets shut down the celebrity tracking shows (like The Insider), celebrity tracking websites, AND the NSA.

    It's good to know that if the NSA is against even limited targeting and invasions of privacy of some people (celebrities) that they must also think by extension that their own violations of privacy are FAR worse considering the infinitely larger number of victims.

    And the humiliation is no less either by the rest of us. Atter all, would you want lists of all your porn searches and other embarrassing websites you visit to be known by the whole world?

     

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  11.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:41pm

    What's that smell?

    The scent of desperation is getting stronger.

     

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  12.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Again Techdirt

    Stop pointing out that we, the Powerful, are stupid. Its not fair. We have the power.

    But you lack the touch.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:42pm

    Re:

    On a train = in public

    A skype conversation between two people = in private

    Nice try, but no.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:46pm

    Re: I agree, lets shut down the celebrity tracking shows/sites AND the NSA

    How rude to call NSA the public and foreign officials celebrities. I repel!

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:46pm

    This idiot is going to love it when Google Glass comes out.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:46pm

    Re: *snort*

    Perhaps when the masses start setting up the guillotines on the steps of capitol hill, they'll start to listen.

     

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  17.  
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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Christ!

    correction, we 'follow' them. Shame on us.

     

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  18.  
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    DogBreath, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:49pm

    Hey Chertoff....

    In the immortal words of Connery to Trebek:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kX8Qqu_WBIc

    If what is good for the goose is good for the gander, then what is good for the gander is also good for the goose. Get used to it!

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Re:

    I'm sorry, you apparently missed the bolded part which is what I was referring to.

     

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  20.  
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    Jerrymiah, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 12:57pm

    The general public spying on famous peoples ....

    Yes. I think this sould become the norm. When these asshples realize they too can be spied upon, may be they'll change their tunes. I believe every private person in the US should carry a smart phone and register the conversations of those involved in all these conpiracies should have the same thing done to them. This should apply mostly to the likes of Obama, Hayden, Clapper, Feinstein the weasel, Eric Holder our Gestapo Chief, just to name a few.

     

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    IrishDaze (profile), Nov 1st, 2013 @ 1:03pm

    18 comments in and no one has mentioned the fact that private parties broadcasting public details of famous people doing interesting things _is_not_the_same_thing_ as the government drag-netting then collating every detail of our lives into dossiers that ARE BEING SHARED with any other governmental agency.

    Look at someone's intimate details for a year, and you can FIND something to prosecute them for. The surveillance gives the government the power to prosecute because it feels like it. Again, _not_the_same_thing_ as the public broadcasting interesting things famous people do in public.

     

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  22.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 1st, 2013 @ 1:13pm

    Re:

    I suspect that nobody mentioned that because it's just too painfully obvious to be worth mentioning. It's the core of why Chertoff's comparison is laughable.

     

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  23.  
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    IrishDaze (profile), Nov 1st, 2013 @ 1:21pm

    Obvious point is obvious. D'oh!

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 1:22pm

    BUT THE PUBLIC NEVER USE OUR TAX MONEY!!!!!

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 3:10pm

    so it's more important to allow those who are rich, famous, powerful or any combination, to have and maintain their freedom and privacy, but, yet again, the 'people' dont count? they are not entitled nor do they deserve the same considerations, because they are simply 'ordinary people'? what sort of bias twat are you?

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Nov 1st, 2013 @ 4:36pm

    A continuation of the same song

    Just like germany was all for the NSA's activities when they thought it was 'just' spying on their citizens, but threw a massive fit when it was found that those in the government were also being spied on, the line of thinking is 'Spying on the peons is fine, spying on the nobility is unacceptable', so of course she'd find people taking pics/vids of celebrities or those in position of power objectionable, while seeing nothing wrong with the mass surveillance of the citizenry.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 6:08pm

    I have rights!

    What about the 300 million victims you're illegally spying on?

     

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  28.  
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    Ninja (profile), Nov 4th, 2013 @ 1:26am

    Re: Again Techdirt

    Start this song

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BRv9wGf5pk

    And read the comment again for even more epic lulz

     

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  29.  
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    js, Jan 1st, 2014 @ 3:58am

    Is Chertoff a baboon . he is acting like one lol .

     

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