Mathematicians Urge Colleagues To Refuse To Work For The NSA

Kashmir Hill:

In January, the math community had its big event of the year — the Joint Mathematics Meeting — where 3,000 mathematicians and math students gathered to talk about new advances in the field and jostle for jobs. The National Security Agency is said to be the largest employer of mathematicians in the country and so it always has a sizeable presence at the event to recruit new candidates. This year, it was even easier for the agency as the four-day conference took place at the Baltimore Convention Center, just 22 minutes away from NSA headquarters in Fort Meade. Thomas Hales, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, who describes himself as a “mathematician who’s upset about what’s going on,” is dismayed at the idea of the brightest minds in his field going to work for the agency. In reaction to the Snowden revelations — which started exactly a year ago – about NSA’s mass surveillance and compromising of encryption standards, Hales gave a grant to the San Francisco-based civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation to fly a representative to Baltimore to try to convince mathematicians young and old not to go help the agency with data-mining and encryption-breaking.