Senator John McCain Uses Cybersecurity Hearing To Try To Shame Twitter For Not Selling Data To The CIA

from the NO-ONE-CARES dept

John McCain — fighting for the government’s right to get all up in your everything — has decided to embrace the “grumpy” part of his “grumpy old legislator” personality.

Back in July, McCain expressed his displeasure with Apple declining his invitation to show up and get yelled at/field false accusations at his hearing on encryption. He dourly noted that he was “seeking the widest variety of input,” but his invited guests included Manhattan DA Cy Vance, a former Bush-era Homeland Security advisor and former NSA deputy director Chris Inglis. Not having Apple to kick around peeved McCain, who finished off the “discussion” with subpoena threats.

Another encryption hearing hosted by McCain devolved into the senator ranting about something no one cares about but him: a tech company not immediately prostrating itself in front of an intelligence agency. Here’s Marcy Wheeler’s summation of McCain’s “contribution” to the discussion.

His tertiary point seems to have been to attack Apple and Twitter for making efforts to protect their customers. After getting a witness to comment about Twitter’s long-term refusal to let Dataminr to sell Twitter data to the CIA, he suggested perhaps the response should be to “expose” the company.

“Expose” how? This was “exposed” already, with the aftershocks of the exposure being “so what?” and “who cares?” Twitter simply enforced a pre-existing policy, pointing out to a third-party data mining company that it wasn’t allowed to sell Twitter data to the government for surveillance use. This blocked the CIA from drinking from the Dataminr/Twitter firehose, which made the CIA sad and Twitter look stalwart and — generally speaking — didn’t prevent the government from using any number of other methods to scoop up public tweets for surveillance purposes.

It also made McCain mad and he’s still aching about it three months later. So, Wheeler has decided to help McCain out by publicizing Twitter’s decision to hold a third-party social media data miner to the terms of its agreement with the government. Two more headlines have been added to her post, both breaking the news that was broken months ago and did little to appreciably nudge surveillance/outrage needles in any direction.

But it’s still a big deal to McCain. He spent a little over two minutes (starting about 46:50 in the recording posted here) crafting his molehill into a mountain before cajoling NSA director Michael Rogers into answering what should have been a hypothetical question. While Admiral Rogers uncomfortably admitted he “didn’t understand” why Twitter would enforce a pre-existing policy, McCain was unable to get anyone in the room to say anything on the record about “exposing” Twitter for its apparently nefarious decision to enforce the rules of Dataminr’s agreement.

Wheeler has a better question:

Of course, you might ask why McCain is demanding that our tech companies to make money off of surveillance of you. And why he considers Twitter such an exception.

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Comments on “Senator John McCain Uses Cybersecurity Hearing To Try To Shame Twitter For Not Selling Data To The CIA”

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Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: McCain

Erm… please can you disengage your cognitive dissonance? Thank you.

Okay… during his military service McCain was a govt. employee and it was TOTALLY his job to serve the government. Today he is a senator and therefore an actual part of the governing process, i.e. a servant of the government.

The chokepoint in your logic is the role of government. The government is not a lion in a cage being held back with a whip and a chair while we put our heads in its mouth and hope to walk away unscathed. The government is supposed to be the servant of the people and is tasked with carrying out the administration of the nation. Whoever manages and controls the administration controls the nation, whether this is outsourced to private enterprises or not.

Ever since “government” was identified as a boogeyman to fear and loathe, a “them and us” situation has obtained. Now the government, which has been alienated from the people by such thinking, tends to consider non-government people as boogeymen to be feared and kept under control — like the lion in the cage being held back with a whip and a chair.

When government serves the people, it’s working as intended. Solution: get the government to serve the people.

It begins with understanding what’s involved in governance and working from there. It also means being in touch with your representatives and holding them to account. I’m sure McCain would very soon change his attitude if his constituents were constantly sending messages to the effect of, “Sir, we are not terrorists and America was not conceived as a police state so why are you working to turn it into one? Stop this or we’ll vote Dem in November.”

You see the trouble with McCain is that he’s got the wrong people pulling his strings, and you can tell that by the fact that he’s demanding that tech companies to make money off of surveillance of you. I’ll bet there’s someone with deep pockets and an eye on the upcoming election behind that.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: poo on you

McCain has been making an increasing number of frankly stupid and insane statements. Declaring Obama “directly responsible” for the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, for example. And of course his attacks on privacy and security.

By insinuating senility, I at lease give him a credible excuse. Would the alternative be more “thoughtful?”

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Don’t throw Apple into the Microsoft/Google Mix. The Data collection is not even remotely the same. in fact Apple services suffer in ways because of Apple not collecting personal data from their users. Way over on the other end is Google, where all they do is collect personal data and spoon feeding you ad’s. 2 completely different business models. Google makes most of their money from Google Search, Apple makes most of their money from selling Hardware.

Microsoft is in the middle, maybe since Windows 10 way closer on the Google side of the scale. They do have Bing after all, but Windows 10 is also doing a lot of spying o you. Yes, I’m using it to.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: What have you got to lose?

I’m really glad he asked that question. The only reason the “deterrent” argument has held sway for so long is that we were convinced that all the loons were on the other side.

Now we’re being made to question that assumption. Believe me, no one who is actually willing to unleash hell is going to fear that the other guy might do it, too.

Anonymous Coward says:

7 years in a POW camp takes its toll. The people keep re-electing him don’t they, must be what they deserve. Cut the old fuck a little slack and then realize why Donald Trump is on the ticket this time around. If we are to move forward as a nation we need to leave the past where it is, in the past. No Clinton, no Bush, no shit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Some people think it is time to dump the “cult of personality” and decide politics based upon the issues.

How novel, but I’m afraid that would not be allowed by those in power simply because they do not wish to relinquish any of their perceived power – real or not, it’s theirs and they are not giving any of it up. It’s like they flunked kindergarten – you know, when you learn to share.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Perhaps Senator McCain should take a look at all of the data his top people have already allowed to be exposed.

Perhaps the idea of getting the governments house in order should proceed any discussion of suspending constitutional and legal rights because terrorism.

Once they manage to protect the data they already have, they might want to look at all of the influence being sold on both sides of the aisle that seems to run counter to what is actually best for the people they allegedly represent.

They might want to look at how lead companies spent $750k to buy laws to keep from being sued by people their product hurt well after the dangers were known.

They might want to look at how the net worth of Congress people seems to jump up crazily on the alleged pittance we pay them, they they complain they can’t live on to people making under $8 an hour.

They might want to expose how corrupt the system is, and actually take steps to kill off corruption & punish those on both sides profiting from it.

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