Skip to content

The Limits of Surveillance

Brian McFadden
© Brian McFadden

But remember, if WMDs are outlawed, only outlaws will have WMDs. How will we defend ourselves?



  1. ThatGuy wrote:

    Not to mention all the information we part with in order to shop online or even simply put apps on our phones. I think the interesting thing is that, as this comic points out, we’ve been pretty easily convinced to part with our privacy from the government for security issues, and even more easily convinced by companies in order to use their convenient services. It seems privacy from the government is, at least for now, giving us a little more pause. I wonder who we’ll rebel against first. Intrusive agencies or intrusive corporations.

    Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    I attended a good talk this week from a guy who works on security. His take was that the NSA wouldn’t have any problems if they just made all their information do something useful. He quipped that all they would have to do is help people find their lost socks and nobody would complain anymore. He may be on to something.

    Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink
  3. ThatGuy wrote:

    That probably isn’t too far off the mark. Or perhaps they could release a bit of personal info here and there and so long as a few dozen people “like” it, the person being reported on would be okay with the leak.

    Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Permalink
  4. Arthanyel wrote:

    IK – of course. The point most people seem to miss, however (and I have intimate experience with as an electronic discovery expert) is that just being able to search all the email in the US does NOT mean being able to read, understand, or act on it. The VAST majority of information that the NSA accesses is never seen by anyone. Only the tiniest fraction that contains text that can be identified as “suspicious” even gets through the first filters.

    I do expect we will see a resurgence in the use of classic codes (not ciphers) as a result, which means that truly sophisticated terrorists won’t be caught. After all, Bin Laden was completely offline for that very reason. But we will be able to catch the stupid ones, which is something.

    If you ask people “do you have an issue with the NSA readin your email” the answer would be a resounding yes. But if you ask the other question, “do you have a problem with the NSA screening all the email in the country and only actually seeing the ones that might be planning terrorist attacks” the answer is likely to be a resounding No.

    Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Actually, you are being generous. I think that the American people can simultaneously want the NSA to spy on email and phone calls listening for terrorists, while at the same time not wanting them to spy on them. After all, they seem to be able to simultaneously be against pork and government hand outs, even while receiving those handouts themselves.

    Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
  6. PatriotSGT wrote:

    No No No IK, youv’e got us Americans all wrong. We just don’t want those people getting the pork spending and hand outs, we’re alright with getting it ourselves. So it stands to reason we’re ok with spying on them just not us…..see perfectly illogical.

    Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink