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New Group Seeking Privacy/Security Balance Loads Up On Former Government Officials And RSA Employees

from the don't-get-your-hopes-up dept

“I helped to organize it [Digital Equilibrium Project] with McKinsey’s help with the idea that people on various sides were talking past one another, often without the facts,” former Executive Chairman of RSA Art Coviello told eWEEK. “Our participants bring significant networks and resources to bear from themselves and the organizations they work with, and we’re confident we have the resources to execute on the mission.”


“We hope to create a groundswell of thinking—not through acrimonious and emotional debate, but through active listening and fact-based dialogue so we can we make progress before it is too late,” he said.

So says Art Coviello of his new project — one that he hopes will bring some coherence to the balancing act between security and privacy.

This is the same Art Coviello who said anonymity is the “enemy of privacy.” Why? Because it allows bad people to do bad things and get away with it — a sentiment echoed by any number of law enforcement officials and intelligence agency heads.

Coviello’s timing couldn’t be better. Against the backdrop of the FBI’s efforts to force Apple to help it break into iPhones, Coviello hopes a balanced discussion of the issues may result in workable common ground between parties he feels often “talk past each other.”

But the Digital Equilibrium Project isn’t going to be the balanced discussion Coviello is framing it as. The list of participants seems to indicate the discussion will result in severe inner ear damage, rather than equilibrium.

Stewart Baker
Former 1st Assistant Secretary of DHS General Counsel of the NSA

Michael Chertoff
Executive Chairman of The Chertoff Group
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security (’05-’09)

Edward Davis
Former Boston Police Commissioner

Michael McConnell
Former Director of the NSA and
Director of National Intelligence

[and head of Booz Allen, which goes unmentioned on DEG page…]

JR Williamson
Corporate Chief Information Officer, Northrop Grumman

Richard Clarke
Former White House Advisor
Chairman and CEO, Good Harbor Security Risk Management
[Former “cybersecurity czar” to be more precise, one who has suggested the government “search” internet traffic travelling in and out of the US (to prevent theft by China{?}). On the plus side, he did sign a letter to the Administration stating that mandated encryption backdoors are a terrible idea.]

That’s only part of the stacked deck, but what a hand! NSA, DHS, Boston PD, military-industrial contractor, a cybersecurity “czar…”

From there, it gets marginally better.

Tim Belcher
Former CTO, RSA

[RSA worked closely with the NSA to recommend an undermined encryption standard]

Jim Bidzos
Chairman and CEO, Verisign

[Verisign has worked with ICE and others to make site seizures easier, participated in global internet censorship]

Art Coviello
Former Executive Chairman, RSA

[See above]

Kasha Gauthier
Program Committee Co-Chair, NICE
Special Advisor, Boston College Cybersecurity Masters Program

[Not mentioned: Gauthier’s position as Director of Academic and Community Alliances at RSA. Also serves as Director of Marketing and Strategy.]

It gets much better from there. Most of the remaining names on this list have a long history of protecting privacy and working towards enhancing security for all internet users, not just government agencies.

Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Ph.D.
Executive Director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute at Ryerson University

[Former Ontario Privacy Commissioner, who has stated that “encryption is freedom” and taken legal action against local law enforcement for sharing sensitive medical information with US law enforcement agencies.]

Larry Clinton
President and CEO, Internet Security Alliance

[The ISA is a trade alliance which lobbies on behalf of businesses. In light of FBI v. Apple, this is possibly a good thing. Clinton’s statements indicate he feels the government’s belief that “information sharing” will solve cybersecurity woes is largely unfounded.]

Brian Fitzgerald
Chief Marketing Officer, Veracode

[Veracode was founded by white hat hackers and routinely provides updates on the current state of cybersecurity in the nation. Just as routinely, it finds government agencies to be the worst at security.]

J. Trevor Hughes
President and CEO, International Association of Privacy Professionals

[IAPP is a non-profit, “non-advocacy” group, which would make it about as unbiased as anyone can get in this discussion.]

Nuala O’Connor
President and CEO,
Center for Democracy and Technology

[O’Connor was the DHS’s first Chief Privacy Officer and did that job well enough to earn the praise of the ACLU and others — a tough thing to do with the inherent limitations of the position, which did not allow her to publicly criticize the DHS’s failures. Since then, she has headed up the Center for Democracy and Technology, which advocates for privacy, freedom of speech and surveillance reform.]

If the RSA insiders are “swing votes,” this discussion could actually end up “balanced.” But it seems unlikely to result in the common ground Coviello says he’s seeking. He wants to break up “polarized, entrenched views” but a majority of those participating will likely advocate for positions that closely align with the government and its contractors.

Fortunately, this wasn’t assembled by Congress or the administration, where it might do some actual damage. Some decent discussion may result from this blend of privacy advocates and former government officials, but the composition is still too one-sided to state this with any confidence.

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Comments on “New Group Seeking Privacy/Security Balance Loads Up On Former Government Officials And RSA Employees”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Socrates says:

Re: People noticeably missing from this list

Spafford, Schneier, Kaminsky, Forno, Felten, Cheswick, Halderman, Snowden, Ranum, Bellovin, Weinstein, Appelbaum, Boyd, Gillmor, Landau, Green, Bowne, Mackinnon, Soghoian, Saitta, Blaze, Galperin. Among others.

In my opinion, this is the most important comment so far!

Framing this as a “debate” is misleading. Compromised crypto leads to compromised security. Making infrastructure more susceptible to abuse, makes it more susceptible to abuse not safer.

The “debate” would fizzle by having a participant that would expose that this is as daft as having a “debate” about if 2+2 should be 4.

Anonymous Coward says:

Always love how the security vs privacy talking point is left open ended. Security from whom? If we are talking secure my data from everyone else but those I specifically give access then we are good because I would exclude the US government on most information. But I know that those types of people are referring to the US government as the good guy.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Fortunately, this wasn’t assembled by Congress or the administration, where it might do some actual damage.”

It might not do immediate damage, but this group will be able to create all kinds of headlines and content for mainstream news programs to lap up.
And it will all inevitably support censorship, more surveillance, and more deference to government.

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