Former Top NSA Official Says Tech Firms Should Be More Transparent About Data Collection

from the well,-yes,-but... dept

Chris Inglis, who had been deputy director of the NSA until recently (and one of the key people who was out there responding to questions about Snowden) is now officially in his (long planned) retirement (though, he’s expected to pop back up shortly in the private sector). And as a first order of business, he’s apparently imparting some of the “wisdom” he learned over the last few months, by telling tech companies they need to be more transparent about the data they collect:

“There’s an enormous amount of data held in the private sector,” Mr. Inglis said, in his first published interview since leaving government. “There might be some concerns not just on the part of the American public, but the international public.”

[….] “These companies at least have a public relations issue, if not a moral obligation, to really make sure you understand that this is to your benefit,” Mr. Inglis said. “As an individual, myself, I continue to be surprised by the kinds of insights companies have about me.”

Now, first off, he’s right. Companies collecting tons of data on their users should absolutely be a hell of a lot more transparent about what they’re collecting (and should give more controls allowing people to opt-out of certain collections). However, it seems quite rich to hear that coming from someone at the NSA, perhaps the least transparent organization ever — and one that worked hard to make sure that the tech industry was completely barred from being transparent about what sorts of data the NSA gets from them.

To try to spin that as an issue for the tech companies is just silly. As plenty of people have pointed out over and over again, your use of a tech company’s services is voluntary. You can avoid it if you don’t like it. And, yes, while more information and user controls would be helpful, in the few instances where there have been data leaks, or when it has become clear what kinds of info companies collect, most people have actually been totally fine with it. That’s quite different from the NSA. With a company, people may be trading information for a service which they value — and they’re making the choice that the tradeoffs are worth it. That’s not true with the NSA. It’s not by choice and there’s no tradeoff.

No matter what, the idea that Chris Inglis is suddenly the spokesperson for transparency is simply ridiculous.

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Comments on “Former Top NSA Official Says Tech Firms Should Be More Transparent About Data Collection”

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the IT Skeptic (user link) says:

much the same

I’m all for the lid being blown off the NSA. They’ve clearly had it their own way for too long thanks to the internet and gone way too far.

And this latest pronouncement is clearly a threat to Google and Microsoft to tow the line or have their own practices “Snowdened”.

But don’t be saying it’s different for the tech companies.
Like I have a choice if I now decide I don’t like Google’s practices.
And maybe most people would be totally cool with having a WELL BEHAVED NSA as a tradeoff for not being blown to smithereens on their next flight.

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