Keeping your data private in the age of PRISM

Keeping your data private in the age of PRISM

In the aftermath of the announcement regarding the NSA, FBI and other US government agencies mining data from computing industry giants, I can see a lot of people being left with questions. Even the government in the UK has potentially been complicit with the PRISM project. Governments collecting data about their citizens is certainly not a new thing but in the western world, it has always been more clandestine and a lot more work. The internet simply facilitates the process making it easier for everyone involved to take part; just as it makes it easier for us as end users to search and find the things *we* look for online.

The tough thing for most people to swallow seems to be the players that are involved though. Microsoft, Google, Skype (now a Microsoft-owned company) and most recently Apple. That’s a big list of big names. However, under pressure from governments and with the idea of both domestic and global stability in mind, one can understand how this was put through board meetings and approved.

The most common point raised in discussion about the topic is the breach of privacy. This is also usually followed by the counter-point of “If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about”. A familiar argument ensues and the the division between camps grows a tiny bit wider. The fact of that matter is, both sides have a valid point. Various constitutions and charters in place allow for some degree of privacy under law in most of the world. This might seem to be a gross betrayal of those laws misrepresented as security, but there is some truth to the idea that security and protection are the ‘why’. Much the same, there is some truth to a user not having to worry if they’re not breaking the law. Governments aren’t looking for naughty texts between consenting adults, little league photos, the minutes of a meeting about a merger with a competing company or that memo about cleaning the microwave after using it.

The scale of it all is where the reality steps in. From those 9 major players, the volume of data is so vastly large that the possibility of a real live person coming across your bad sunburn photo from Mexico or your year-end fiscal spreadsheet is so negligibly small that it almost doesn’t warrant attention. Algorithms parse the stream of data looking for particular things that might indicate some degree of risk. The data is, theoretically, then reviewed and redirected either back into the stream or submitted for further investigation if there are any major indicators. It’s not a perfect system, by any means, but it’s a kind of random sampling that has been successfully used all throughout history to manage large sets of data.

Does this make the cloud any less secure or private? No, not really. Data is stored in massive data centers around the world. PRISM seems to aim at screening that data in data centers that are much the same. Even just standard traffic could be monitored if there was a deep enough integration into how the web functions.

Should I be worried about my data being leaked? Again, no, not really. The amount of energy and resources applied to keep this kind of thing out of the public eye is merely a fraction of the resources applied to managing the data in a secure fashion.

Being one of Toronto’s top Managed Services Providers, BIT Incorporated¬†takes your privacy very seriously. We continually keep on top of news, industry trends and technologies in the interest of keeping our client’s data protected and private. All of our data replication, offsite backup and disaster recovery scenarios run through site-to-site secure VPNs that are fully encrypted. We remove the worry about your privacy and security so you can focus on what drives your business forwards. After all, your success is our success!


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