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National Security and Personal Privacy – Both Are Possible

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National Security and Personal Privacy – Both Are Possible

pexels-photo-867345.jpegWith the data the U.S. government has, it could write detailed biographies on nearly every resident. 

While it’s true the U.S. government requires access to information to keep our nation safe, it need not be at the expense of personal privacy. Unfortunately, in the case of the National Security Administration’s (NSA’s) leaked Ragtime files, personal privacy appears to have taken a back seat. Was this data truly collected “incidentally” as claimed by the NSA?

The Ragtime program collects the contents of communications, such as emails, online exchanges and text messages, of foreign nationals under the authority of several U.S. surveillance laws. Until recently, there were four known variants of the program. These variants were originally revealed by the leaks of whistleblower Edward Snowden:

  • Ragtime-A, involving the U.S.-based collection of foreign-to-foreign counterterrorism data
  • Ragtime-B, collecting foreign government data that travels through the U.S.
  • Ragtime-C, focusing on the nuclear counterproliferation effort
  • Ragtime-P, standing for Patriot Act and authorizing the collection of bulk metadata on calls and emails sent over the networks of telecom providers

However, recently released information indicates the amount of data collected may be larger than previously thought. There now appears to be 11 total variants. One is called “Ragtime-USP,” which may stand for “U.S. person” and target Americans.

These findings resurface an age-old question:

Where should we draw the line between personal privacy and national security?

Of course, the government needs to use all applicable and appropriate data possible to help military efforts and keep our nation safe. At the same time, the government must strongly secure data and protect individual privacy. Unfortunately, to date, its practices have leaned toward sacrificing data security and personal privacy in the name of national security. It does not have to be this way; the government CAN get insights from data without sacrificing national security when the guidelines below are followed.

These same principles also apply to the private sector.

Limit data-gathering programs to their stated purposes. When the NSA gathers communications from foreign nationals, the data inherently includes information on individuals the foreign nationals communicate with – including U.S. citizens. The stated purpose of the Ragtime program is to capture the communications of foreign nationals. However, the reality is that individuals who are brought into a conversation by others are subject to having their communications collected, monitored and analyzed. If the NSA can continue to claim, without opposition, that this breach (by design) of the program’s stated purpose is a byproduct of keeping the U.S. safe, it will take no actions to re-engineer systems and processes.

Private sector businesses should keep the data of those within arm’s reach of their clients in mind as they craft their own data security and privacy policies. Gather only the data of those with whom you have a relationship, and discard the rest. If you don’t you could run afoul of the growing numbers of data protection laws and regulations that require you to obtain explicit consent prior to collecting personal information from individuals.

Hold agencies accountable. Government agencies should be held to the same security and privacy standards as the private sector and, importantly, be accountable for following those standards. Only entities that have a proven record of implementing and maintaining strong security and privacy controls should be allowed to hold such gigantic repositories of sensitive and privacy-impacting data. So far, the NSA has not demonstrated accountability for the data it has collected. And lawmakers show little desire to implement security and privacy controls that may get in their way of reaching as much data as possible in the name of national security.

Regulators hold your agencies accountable; those of us in the private sector must insist on the same from them.

Private sector businesses also need to be responsible and accountable for implementing and maintaining strong and effective information security and privacy controls. They should also know and be in compliance with applicable data protection laws, regulations and other legal requirements.

Examine data retention policies. Another issue that has not been addressed through these surveillance programs is data retention. The programs suck up all the data possible and then keep it forever. The amount of data the NSA has on U.S. residents could be used to create detailed biographies of nearly every person in the U.S. This is a dangerous position for an organization without the proper security measures in place. Unfortunately, hundreds of millions of personal data records have been compromised in recent years due to vulnerabilities at the NSA and its associated vendors.

Private sector businesses with similar stores of data must perform regular information security and privacy assessments (SIMBUS360 can help!) to ensure they are doing everything they can to protect clients and customers.

Implement strong security controls and privacy protections. The NSA has not demonstrated these capabilities to date. Furthermore, the majority of government lawmakers have long enabled the NSA’s lack of security and privacy controls. An objective, validated and non-partisan entity with ongoing audit oversight would be best to provide the security protections required.

Similarly, businesses and other organizations should consider working with neutral third parties to affirm they are following all required compliance statutes, as well as thinking through how their evolving technologies, systems and business models may be opening their firms up to new threats. Certainly, such organizations can do their own ongoing assessments internally, but bringing in objective third parties to do assessments every now and then (at least once every year or two, and when significant operational changes occur) allows for a different perspective. Objective eyes often find things missed by those in the environment each day.

Indeed, when it comes to personal privacy and national security, we need to change it from an “either/or” conversation to an “and” conversation. While the NSA and your average law firm, accounting practice or health care provider may not have the same objectives, they do have much in common. Today’s growth-minded businesses understand data is a powerful currency, and will only increase in value as time goes on. As they are collecting, analyzing, storing and sharing data, there must be just as much strategy applied to protecting data.

To Create the Future, Change the Conversation

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Peter Block photo 1

Cheryl Esposito welcomes Peter Block award winning author, thought leader, and consultant to corporate, government, and community organizations in the realm of empowerment, stewardship, chosen accountability, and the reconciliation of community.

Peter’s many books include The Answer to How Is Yes: Acting on What Matters, which won the Independent Book Publisher Book Award for Business Breakthrough Book of the Year; and Community: The Structure of Belonging. Peter suggests that our major challenge in moving toward a relevant future is to focus on what we can create, rather than what problems we can solve. He has stopped talking about what’s wrong and how to fix it. Instead, he observes, “Nothing new gets created by better problem solving or by focusing on low-hanging fruit,” he says. “No matter how sophisticated we are as a learning organization, if our conversations are limited to measurable outcomes, we are simply getting better at a system, not creating a new future.”

Want to know how to do this? Join Cheryl Esposito & Peter Block on ‘Leading Conversations‘ to explore creating the future by changing the conversation!

Former House Intelligence Chair, Mike Rogers, says greatest threat to U.S. is cyber warfare – government not acting quickly enough.

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Former House Intelligence Chair, Mike Rogers, says greatest threat to U.S. is cyber warfare – government not acting quickly enough.

Former House Intelligence Chair, Mike Rogers, says greatest threat to U.S. is cyber warfare – government not acting quickly enough.

by American sociobiologist, Rebecca D. Costa


Among the plethora of threats facing the United States – from ISIS and the resurgence of Al Qaeda in the Middle East, saber rattling by Putin, and Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, to border security and energy dependence – the one that keeps former Chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence, Mike Rogers, awake at night is cyber terrorism.

Appearing on The Costa Report, the former Chair said cyber attacks on Sony Pictures and the Sands Casino were opening shots. “We’re really in a cyber war and most Americans just don’t know it,” said Rogers. “The Chinese, the Russians, the Iranians – and now we also have a whole host of international organized-crime players in on the game – all of them cost us economic prosperity, and some of them, through the most-destructive cyber attacks, really risk our national security.”

The former 7-term Congressman from Michigan noted that the perpetrators of the assault on Sony came from North Korea — a country ranked among the least capable cyber actors in the world.  Rogers said the North Korean hackers had to leave North Korea to launch their attack because the necessary infrastructure was not available in their own country. “They took over the server of the hotel where they were located, and used that hotel server to attack the company (Sony) to expose embarrassing emails, steal intellectual property, and conduct destructive attacks using something called a wiper virus, which they used to erase data,” Rogers said.  Rogers further explained that once the data had been erased, it “could never be recovered again.”

The attacks on Sony and the Sands marked the first time foreign nations had use cyber terrorism to make a political point. Iran targeted the computer systems at the Sands Casino to punish the company’s CEO for publically stating that that Iran should not be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon. The attack is estimated to have cost the Sands an estimated $40-$60 million.

“The sad part, I think, is that this is only going to get worse,” Rogers warned.

“Nations with much-greater cyber capabilities, such as Russia and China, are a far more-dangerous threat … China has already gotten code into our electric grid,” he said. “If they ever decided to invade Taiwan, or become more aggressive in the South China Sea, they would have the ability to flip a switch and turn out our lights. So we know that nation states are already capable of really serious consequences, and this destructive-data part is what worries me most.”

Exacerbating Roger’s worries is a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC which indicates that national security does not rank among the top three concerns of Democratic primary voters. The survey revealed that Democrats consider jobs creation, health care and climate change a greater priority than security, whereas Republican primary voters consider national security, debt and job creation to be the top priorities (in that order).

“It’s concerning that most Americans can’t get on the same page about what our threats are,” said Rogers, who many suggest is a likely 2016 Vice Presidential candidate. “None of the other programs work if we can’t get the national security part right. When our next president gets sworn in — and I don’t care who it is — that person is going to get slapped in the face with the rest of the world’s problems, and if we don’t deal with those issues in a timely way, they just get more complex and more difficult to solve.”

Tune into VoiceAmerica Business every Tuesday @ 6am PST for The Costa Report

To hear the full interview with former Congressman and House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers, visit rebeccacosta.com

Who Rules Your Life? Is Democracy Scary, and How Can We Make It Better?

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7th Wave
Who Rules Your Life? Is Democracy Scary, and How Can We Make It Better?


Join us on our blog to continue the fascinating and stimulating conversation about Democracy and how afraid we all are of having to listen to everyone’s feelings and take them into consideration! Share your feelings about who is “ruling” us. Explore how your own childhood experiences have shaped your political beliefs. We’d love to hear from you on the blog and we will respond, so that we can co-create an online community where it’s safe to be real.

Is there a Silver Lining for Global Competitors? By Té Revesz

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Is there a Silver Lining for Global Competitors? By Té Revesz

Charles Kolb is President of French-American Foundation-United States

“Everywhere we look,” says former White House advisor, Charles Kolb, “the U.S. seems to be driven by short-term thinking and short-term decision making.”

SHORT TERMISM has become the mindset of corporate America and a value embedded in American culture. Corporate decision making is driven by quarterly earnings performance, government by next election. Capital markets regarded by many as casinos rather than vehicles for long-term investment. Even education policy is driven by short term test results. The results? U.S. students lag their international peers, infrastructure crumbles, innovation declines, corporate governance becomes an oxymoron and long term shareholder value is actually destroyed. Can the U.S. turn it around? How? Meanwhile, how can international competitors use the U.S. fixation on short termism to their advantage when marketing in the U.S. and competing with U.S. companies abroad?

We are all operating in a dynamic global marketplace, whether we reach across borders to find new customers and fresh ideas or face overseas competitors in our home market.

Global Reach embraces the opportunities and challenges we encounter when operating in multiple countries and cultures. We talk with entrepreneurs and executives about their strategies for winning in fast changing world markets: cross-cultural communication, global branding, media and marketing, transportation and manufacturing, the future of finance, alternative investment strategies, innovation and IP protection.

Global Reach interviews thought leaders about 21st century megatrends that impact international entities: trends like the business and politics of sustainability, the morphing nature of competitiveness, globalization, global companies vs national governments, worldview and growth prescriptions, emerging markets issues, and the corporate impact on society (governance, ethics and leadership).  Tune in for a new episode of Global Reach for “As Americas Fixation on the Short Term Erodes U.S. Competitiveness and Shareholder Value Is there a Silver Lining for Global Competitors?” on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel.

Guest Biography: Charles Kolb

Former White House advisor Charles Kolb is President of French-American Foundation-United States, the principal non-governmental organization linking France and the US. Before July 2012, he served as President of the Committee for Economic Development, a leading, nonpartisan, business-led research and policy organization that promotes sound macroeconomic policy affecting the US economy. From 1992-to-1997, Kolb served as General Counsel of United Way of America. During the George H. Bush administration he served as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy (1990-1992). From 1983 to 1990, he held positions at the Office of Management and Budget and US Department of Education. Prior to government service, he practiced law in Washington, DC. He also was a law clerk to US District Court Judge Joseph H. Young. He also authored a book on policymaking in the first Bush White House as well as numerous law review and op-ed articles.

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