Friday 7 June 2013

Make your list

So it turns out that the NSA has been scooping up rather a bit of information about Version Verizon customers in the States. It hasn't been entirely a secret prior to now; it would be a bit surprising if the other phone companies didn't have other similar systems in place.

JD Tuccille notes that Americans travelling within America, but within 100 miles of the border, are getting stopped at checkpoints on the interstate for citizenship checks.

A couple of months ago, when Alex Tabarrok complained of his son's school being turned into a police camp, I noted some of the differences between American schools and the ones here, concluding:
You can choose to live like this too. Sure, New Zealand is getting worse, and it's definitely worse than some parts of the US if marijuana freedom is an important part of your bundle of liberties. But NZ is starting from a much better spot than the US, and it seems to be getting worse slower than other places.

Things aren't bad enough to leave yet? Fine. Freedom's a value, but so too are other things like distance from family and wealth differentials and access to Ethiopean restaurants. But write down today some bright-line rules that you think should trigger your future exit; it's easy to acclimatize to gradual changes for the worse.
If you really want to live free, write down your list of things that would actually be sufficient to trigger your emigration, then think about the places you might go that offer the best deal on the bundle of freedoms that matters most to you.

If you're instead happy getting consumption benefits from ranting about the deterioration of freedom in America, or from imagining that you'll be able to change things there, carry on.

Here in New Zealand, we should be especially vigilant against importing American spy regs. It's awfully tempting for some folks in Wellington to be seen to be team players by signing onto things the Americans want. I hope we're especially careful with the Telecommunications Interception Capability & Security Bill. New Zealand can become relatively more attractive simply by standing still.

Update: Emigration won't help you against this one. It might make things worse.
The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows them to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide Powerpoint presentation – classified as Top Secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims "collection directly from the servers" of major US service providers.

Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied any knowledge of any such program. ...

The PRISM program allows the NSA, the world's largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.

With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.

The presentation claims PRISM was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a "home field advantage" due to housing much of the internet's architecture. But the presentation claimed "Fisa constraints restricted our 'home field advantage'" because Fisa required individual warrants and confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US.
I expect we instead need a Bruce Schneier guide on secure internet use.

Is there some Chinese version of Google I can flip everything over to? If somebody's going to be sniffing through all my email, family photos, chat sessions and the like, I'd sooner it be them. At least they're honest about it.


  1. Oh, I know, Tim. I am heavily reliant on all of Google's products.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. The Chinese Version of Google, Baidu, is very good. You just ended being tracked by the PRC instead. That's all.

  4. I'm very conflicted about emigration to NZ, and a couple of years ago I was visiting the immigration website frequently. The U.S. government has habitually appalled me throughout the last two administrations, and even if I didn't value liberty highly, I get disutility from paying into a system that practices torture, targeted killings, etc.

    On the other hand, I have a very nice academic job in the States, with a competitive salary and - due to a relatively large family and charitable giving - pay obscenely low income taxes. I also live in a fantastic climate in a house that is walking distance from everything but work (which is only a minute drive).

    In short, I'm one of those people whose consumption value includes but is not exclusively made up of liberty. For now, the U.S. is where I want to be. Maybe when the kids are all grown and my tax breaks are gone I'll buy my plane ticket.

  5. Our GCSB is effectively colluding with the NSA anyway, so that's sadly not a margin on which we're any better than the US (other than that we have less capacity for doing it than they do).