Bruce Schneier: Surveillance Is Now the Business Model of the Internet

We give our data to corporations and governments demand access

World-renowned cryptographer Bruce Schneier believes that nowadays surveillance is the business model of the Internet.

“We build systems that spy on people in exchange for services. Corporations call it marketing,” Schneier said drily, painting a rather accurate picture of the world today.

Security Week reports that in his keynote speech at the SOURCE conference in Boston, Schneier has mentioned that the way power is perceived now has changed due to the growth of mass data collection and tracking. He gave a pretty clear example about the dissidents that use the Internet to make their voices heard and to organize, while governments use the same Internet sources to arrest them and shut them down.

“That's how you get weird situations where Syrian dissidents use Facebook to organize, and the government uses Facebook to arrest its citizens,” Schneier said, reminding everyone of what’s become a common incident.

During his presentation, he also addressed the topic of the NSA mass surveillance practice, particularly the metadata collection program. Schneier believes that governments are trying to mislead us by downplaying the entire issue. “Metadata is us,” he said, referring to exactly how much information can be obtained from it.

“Metadata is fundamentally surveillance data,” the expert explained. After all, it contains information about who made the call, who answered it, where they both were and how much time they spent on the phone. By mixing this information with a timestamp and additional information, you can paint a pretty clear image of a target’s life.

Even better for governments, which say that they’re not after the contents of your conversations, it’s just that metadata is easier to store, search, and analyze.

On the other hand, it’s not just the governments and the NSA that want to get their hands on such data, but companies as well.

According to Schneier, consumers willingly hand over their information to companies such as Google and Facebook so that they can use a product for free. In exchange, the tech giants want the data so they can sell more stuff.

“I like to think of this as a feudal model. At a most fundamental model, we are tenant farming for companies like Google. We are on their land producing data,” the security expert said.

Users have learned to trust Google and Facebook with their data, but governments getting involved have also learned to take advantage of this by demanding some of the collected data or taking it without permission.

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