A multitude of events in the last week or so have made me want to blog about (and learn more about) the cryptographic theory of privacy. Journalist James Bamford’s new book about the NSA came out, the third in his trilogy. Bamford described his findings on Democracy Now last Tuesday, including how government contractors were hired to eavesdrop on US soldiers in Iraq:
Not only were they eavesdropping on a lot of these conversations, some of which were very intimate, but they would have sort of locker room chats about what they were hearing, and they would post—or they would notify their co-workers that you should listen to this, what they call “cut,” their conversations. You should listen to this conversation or that conversation. They’d laugh about it.
Also last week, (or maybe two weeks ago) the National Academy Press published a new report called Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists. The report’s primary recommendation, that “Programs Should be Evaluated for Effectiveness, Privacy”, is not too revolutionary, but the report contains some interesting summaries of technology and public opinion.
And kicking off this season of privacy discussion, there were demonstrations across the EU on Oct 11 in a world-wide protest against surveillance entitled Freedom not fear.
Or, almost kicking it off… just a few weeks before this tsunami of privacy, Adam Smith posted an interesting sounding paper to the arxiv, Efficient, Differentially Private Point Estimators. This sort of cryptographic approach to privacy is where I’m going with this post. But let me first mention why I’m going there.