Keeping Government Out of Your Business

R Colin Johnson:

The U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) grants government agencies permission to surveil citizens who assume privacy in their electronic communications. Today such oversight, even by the U.S. Congress, is opaque (summarized and anonymized), and any notification of those being monitored nearly always takes place after the fact.

New Mexico State University (NMSU) researchers presented a paper at the ACM Conference on Computers, Communications and Security (CCS 2019, London) in which they claimed to be able to automate proactive oversight that prevents privacy violations before they occur, using algorithms and blockchain in the form of what they call the Enforcer software.

Said Stephanie Forest, director of the Biodesign Center for Biocomputation, Security, and Society at Arizona State University in Tempe, “Electronic surveillance is the single biggest security threat we face today. It comes in many forms, ranging from the surveillance we agree to when we purchase and activate network-enabled electronic devices, to stealthy monitoring of which we are unaware.” Forrest said the paper, Scalable Auditability of Monitoring Processes using Public Ledgers, tackled the problem “of how to audit electronic surveillance processes involving multiple actors, focusing on government surveillance, especially agencies and companies, that violate court-sanctioned authorities. Methods such as these represent an important check and balance in our democracy and provide a way to audit government-sanctioned surveillance.”