Presenter: Bruce Schneier, Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University Data is the by-product of life as we know it today. Every interaction we have with computerized devices produces data. As data creation increases, so does data storage and data usage. From this data collection, metadata (data about the data) can be extrapolated. The problem arises when we question why and how this data and metadata has been and will be used. The dark truth to living in the information age is that while this constant connectivity binds us and apparently solves a universe of problems, our dependency on devices makes us targets of surveillance and creates a myriad of new issues. We live in a world where the data we unknowingly and knowingly create is collected relentlessly (e-mails, social media, credit cards, calls, texts, etc.). We must ask ourselves as a society to what limit is this collection acceptable? In order to combat what we may consider digital espionage, it seems we must sacrifice privacy for security and vice versa. Mr. Bruce Schneier provides a starting point to uncovering the answer: transparency. Efforts have been made around the world to ensure citizen security online but there is still a long journey ahead before we can separate metadata surveillance from espionage. “We are living in the golden age of surveillance .” –Bruce Schneier Key Takeaways Metadata is surveillance data. Metadata can be classified as the time and place where we make a call, how long that call was, and who was on the other end. It also includes the websites we visit, what we clicked, and how long we lingered on the webpage. Metadata is first and foremost a product. This ubiquitous data collection is sold to corporations, like Facebook and Google. In other words, we are the products for advertisers. This sensitive metadata can also be used by adversaries to blackmail, embarrass, make a profit, or otherwise use as a weapon of coercion. Security and privacy are not mutually exclusive. We are not secure when privacy is violated and privacy does not exist with security. It is not enough to focus on one factor. Prioritizing the need for security over surveillance will become increasingly more important as technology has a greater presence in government and critical infrastructure.  Transparency is key to navigating a world of complex data. The current culture of data usage allows large corporations and government to take what data they want and use it to manipulate individuals via surveillance and advertising. Society must demand transparency and hold the government and organizations accountable for the data they collect. One network, one world, one answer. It is no longer the case where a country can secure itself and not other nations. We all use the same devices that use the same internet networks. We are all connected and we are all at risk in this constant state of digital espionage. The security infrastructure we build impacts all of us. Possible solutions include implementing comprehensive data protection laws like in Europe and using encryption to increase technological security for the individual and society. “Data is really a pollution problem of our age.” –Bruce Schneier Editor’s Note: The preceding is an essay from a special print report produced by Diplomatic Courier after the 2017 World Government Summit in Dubai, UAE. To read the full report download our free app on your device or view the digital edition here.  

Bailey Piazza
Bailey Piazza is a Diplomatic Courier contributing editor and correspondent.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.