Now That The NSA Has Made It The Norm, Total Surveillance During The Sochi Olympic Games Is No Longer Noteworthy

from the welcome-to-the-(permanent)-olympics dept

In addition to being an opportunity to stretch copyright and trademark rules way beyond the law, over the years, the Olympics has also become an occasion when the feeble “because terrorism” excuse is deployed to justify all kinds of additional restrictions on personal freedoms. It will come as no surprise to learn that the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Vladimir Putin’s pet project, will continue the tradition:

every phone call, every email, every social media message in Sochi will be accessible, traceable by Russia’s Federal Security Service — the FSB — the organization in charge of securing the Olympics.

The CBC News report quoted above goes on:

it’s the extent of all the surveillance the FSB is planning that has deepened much of the disquiet, at home and abroad, over the coming games.

For Russia, surveillance measures may be something of a force of habit.

If this piece had been written a year ago, those paragraphs could have been read unironically. But today, in the post-Snowden world, it is impossible not to replace “FSB” with “NSA” or “GCHQ”. Since we now know that practically “every phone call, every email, every social media message” in the world — not just in Sochi — is accessible to the US authorities, it’s as if we find ourselves in a global Olympics lockdown. But unlike the quadrennial Olympics, this particular circus shows no sign of moving on.

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Comments on “Now That The NSA Has Made It The Norm, Total Surveillance During The Sochi Olympic Games Is No Longer Noteworthy”

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MWL-G says:

There's a difference

…the Olympics has also become an occasion when the feeble “because terrorism” excuse is deployed to justify all kinds of additional restrictions on personal freedoms.

There’s not just an actual clear and present threat of terrorism from Chechens, there have already been deadly acts with more promised by people who don’t seem to care about what happened the last time they did this. I’m waiting for reports on the deployment of another FOAB.

Nick (profile) says:

Re: There's a difference

Honestly, I’m actually kind of fine with it in this case. As MWL-G said, there have already been multiple attacks on foreign and civilian targets – possibly at random – in the area BECAUSE of the Olympics. Once they get underway, there are going to be many factors of 10 more people around, making for better targets.

But, this surveillance MUST be temporary. As soon as the threat is over with, and things return to normal, it should be scaled back.

The difference between this period leading up to / including the Olympics and our own situation is CLEAR and PREVIOUS evidence of a threat. Unlike our own, in which we are told to “trust” in the NSA that they need to stay vigilant despite a large, organized attack not having happened for over a decade (Boston was by two guys who did it without massive support from any group).

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: There's a difference

Also, the Russians aren’t trying to keep the surveillance a Big Secret.

This is less egregious that the NSA programs if only because of that. Of course, I don’t find it any more palatable, but I can avoid it by not going to Sochi (not that that’s a risk, anyway, as the Olympics never fail to irritate me under the best of circumstances.) If a place is so dangerous that that level of surveillance is actually necessary, that’s a place that people would be very wise to avoid.

Jack says:

Re: Re:

@AC – I think you just heard the programming term “code cave” and decided to repeat it not knowing what it meant… A code cave is simply a place in memory where run-time generated code is stored. They are also created by compilers between functions for alignment… They don’t have anything to do with communications…

Had you said something like “this is where encrypted VPNs come in handy”, “steganography is a handy skill to have”, that would have made sense…

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

But, come on, “code cave” sounds both cool and ominous. Like a geekier Bat Cave!

Sounds like the basement at any big tech corporation to me.

You know, that dark place downstairs where they keep the really good programmers. They slide pizza under the door every now and then and let them out into the sunlight on weekends to keep them happily coding along.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Yet for all of the security, if an incident was to occur...

It can happen any time anywhere regardless of how insanely strict security becomes. The question is how can such people be dissuaded from carrying such crimes with a good measure of security, justice and also understanding of the motives. Simply putting on some security theater will solve nothing.

plaguehush says:

Re: Re: And yet...

The point in fighting with guerilla-style tactics is not to win a ‘war’ by killing and maiming your way to victory with superior numbers. It is to cause the enemy to destroy themselves in the panic caused by small, isolated, (comparitively) low impact events. The ‘terrorism’ comes from the internal response to a guerilla action, not the action itself.

The best defense against this has always been the equivalent of the british “stiff upper lip”. A “Keep Calm and Carry On”-style resolve to not let the bastards grind you down. To move on and show that even a bomb-going off in your home town isn’t going to change the way your society is, or the way you choose to live your life.

The way the US (and much of the western world) is reacting, they are playing right into the hands of what small guerilla organisations exist. It’s our lockdown of our society that is causing us damage, not the guerilla acts themselves.

@blamer (user link) says:

to access-trace Vs to surveil

Merely logging all Sochi comms is NOT crime prevention.

Even if it were to dissuade a majority of the would-be crims.

Traceability (and accessibility, with/without warrants) can help the backwards-looking, forensics, prosecutions. Again justice isn’t fully dissuasive to the violently criminal.

The key issue is how much it helps the forward-looking. If it saved 1 local’s life (or pick a number) was it all worth it? That’s surely the nub of our genuine security-privacy disagreements. Is it not??

Moreover, to “surveil” is (historically merely of suspected spies/crims, now of everyone) is to “notice or perceive something and register it as being significant”.

Whilst those “somethings” are non-existent or top-secret, then what hope can we have that the NSAs of the world aren’t over-reaching into invasions of their citizens’ privacy.

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