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

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29 Comments
out_of_the_blue says:

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)?

Anonymous Coward says:

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??

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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?

Jerrymiah says:

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.

IrishDaze (profile) says:

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.

That One Guy (profile) says:

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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