Over the last week or so, @urkomasse and I have had a twitter conversation. In it, he gently takes me to task for advocating the use of iPads in schools. The main critique is that Apple, unlike Android, is probably “in bed” with the National Security Agency (NSA).

Worse, encouraging the use of iPads among children makes them more susceptible the spectre of “trusted computing,” a term I’ve often used in reference to Windows computers and for which I must rely on Richard Stallman (of GNU fame) to define clearly in Can You Trust Your Computer?

Who should your computer take its orders from? Most people think their computers should obey them, not obey someone else. With a plan they call “trusted computing”, large media corporations (including the movie companies and record companies), together with computer companies such as Microsoft and Intel, are planning to make your computer obey them instead of you. (Microsoft’s version of this scheme is called Palladium.) Proprietary programs have included malicious features before, but this plan would make it universal.

And, I can’t help but agree with this blog entry:

now hundreds of millions of dollars later we can safely say that your electronic devices do not belong to you anymore. Any email, chat, phone conversation you have made in the last few years is probably stored somewhere in a datacenter belonging to the NSA.
And any data-analyst could -as easily as you- get into your computer if you are a “person of interest” browsing your files, passwords and financial details so that they could paint you in the image of the villain they want in a court –or elsewhere-. (Source: Is Cryptography a lost fight?)

Stallman was right, eh? Well, it’s clear that it’s not just Windows computers we have to fear anymore is it? It’s actually every computing device on the planet, from the now defunct Blackberry which prided itself on security to the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, every proprietary operating system made (e.g. Windows, Mac), to company-owned encryption program. In fact, trust and computing don’t go together if you expect to protect your privacy.

The NSA tackled the issue at the same speed with which the devices changed user behavior. According to the documents, it set up task forces for the leading smartphone manufacturers and operating systems. Specialized teams began intensively studying Apple’s iPhone and its iOS operating system, as well as Google’s Android mobile operating system. Another team worked on ways to attack BlackBerry, which had been seen as an impregnable fortress until then. (Source: How the NSA Spies on Smartphones)

Privacy, as we know, is dead. But as someone said, human beings still crave privacy, whether it’s privacy while we’re in the restroom with the door locked (watch out for that hidden camera!) or in a forest beneath a canopy in a leafy paradise (watch out for the drone!). But privacy on your computers, your tablets? Forget about it.

Big Brother is watching, spying, recording, all with the approval of the current Administration (and past ones, too) with our elected representatives either too ignorant, blind, or callous to care. But back to @urkomasse’s point. Should we be using trusted computing devices in schools? Should we be advocating their use?

Well, if the top priority is to teach for privacy protection clause of digital citizenship, uh, no. But that’s NOT the top priority. When I pick up my iPad, I’m set to read rabble-rousing articles on writing workshop facilitation, encryption tools, technology management, instructional coaching and leadership. Do I care if anyone reads along? Not at all; in fact, I work hard to share what I’m doing. I don’t trust my iPad because I know that “Big Brother” is watching.

The NSA’s actions are making us all less safe. They’re not just spying on the bad guys, they’re deliberately weakening Internet security for everyone—including the good guys. It’s sheer folly to believe that only the NSA can exploit the vulnerabilities they create. Additionally, by eavesdropping on all Americans, they’re building the technical infrastructure for a police state.
We’re not there yet, but already we’ve learned that both the DEA and the IRS use NSA surveillance data in prosecutions and then lie about it in court. Power without accountability or oversight is dangerous to society at a very fundamental level. (Source: Bruce Schneier)

In fact, I don’t trust ANY of the computers I use except those I’ve reformatted, and then loaded my preferred free open source software GNU/Linux distribution. If I wanted to really be protected, I’d never plug that machine into the network. And, I’d take advantage of all the encryption.

Unfortunately, I live in the world. I have to connect to the Internet for my job, my livelihood, and I have to use iPads (aww shucks). While Android offers many opportunities for increased security, it would be foolish to trust such a buggy system that varies from one device to another. In truth, my Android phone transmits my location to anyone who cares, I suspect it can be hacked quite easily. So, I suppose, there’s only one way to do look at this:

Public Tech:
My phone calls, Work equipment, iPad, Android Phone – All these devices are public and accessible to the Government. My only goal is to safeguard them–and any confidential data on them–from identity thieves and malware/virus creators that seek to compromise the security of those devices. Yes, the Government is party to that hacking since they’ve weakened security overall, but what can I do? Stop using them? That’s what makes the NSA so insidious and evil (no offense guys, I know you’re doing your best to protect America from internal/external terrorists…tell me more about the Star Trek bridge chair at NSA HQ, though):

Source: The Guardian

But…wait…if you’re sitting in the Star Trek chair, NSA, does that make Americans…Romulans/Klingons/undesirables of the Federation? That’s harsh. No, you’re more like the Borg, where everything must be assimilated. Or, worse, like the evil captain (Captain Ransom) from the U.S.S. Equinox who sacrifices Federation principles he’s sworn to uphold to get the ship home from the Delta Quadrant (unlike Captain Janeway on Voyager), rewriting ethical subroutines on the computer programs meant to aid them:

Yes, that does look more appropriate.

Private Tech:
My non-connected, FOSS-loving equipment that’s encrypted. Of course, what the heck am I encrypting? Not much since I work in K-12 education, I don’t have anything that’s top secret. My goal is simply to protect against identity theft and my hobby is encryption software, etc. After all, some day, I’m going to write that espionage novel like the ones I’ve read since I was 13 years old.

I have to come back to this quote from Bruce Schneier, responding to the question:

Question: Great. So you’ve recently suggested five tips for how people can make it much harder, if not impossible, to get snooped on. These include using various encryption technologies and location-obscuring methods. Is that the solution?

Response: My five tips suck. They are not things the average person can use. One of them is to use PGP [a data-encryption program]. But my mother can’t use PGP. Maybe some people who read your publication will use my tips, but most people won’t.
Basically, the average user is screwed. You can’t say  “Don’t use Google”—that’s a useless piece of advice. Or “Don’t use Facebook,” because then you don’t talk to your friends, you don’t get invited to parties, you don’t get laid. It’s like libertarians saying “Don’t use credit cards”; it just doesn’t work in the real world.
The Internet has become essential to our lives, and it has been subverted into a gigantic surveillance platform. The solutions have to be political. The best advice for the average person is to agitate for political change.

Yes, I can use all that but how many people I interact with know how? Very few…and they are not inclined to learn.

Is this the best approach? No, it’s not. The cage door has been closed for awhile now…we were just blind.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom. 

Maya Angelou

Check out Miguel’s Workshop Materials online at http://mglearns.wikispaces.com

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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