The NSA and America’s Technological Security Problem

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   I know most of you didn’t see my comment last week about encrypting phone application data, but recently I have been interested in the topic of security and its connection to development. Now at first one could say, what does the recent NSA scandal have to do with ICT4D? Well actually the NSA scandal is very important in the ICT4D world for many reasons. First, the recent scandal has shown to the US, and indeed the world, that almost no security, piece of technology or software is immune to being hacked by a powerful governmental organization. Second, most of the ICT’s in the developing world don’t have anywhere near the security we do in the US, so while other governmental organizations are considerably less powerful then the NSA it also requires less effort to break into these applications. Governments and other organizations being able to break into ICT for development and access peoples information could lead to major problems. This issue was recently seen in the discussion of Uganda’s anti-gay laws, because people were talking about an ICT that could help reach those people. If that data was somehow confiscated real people could die, which is one of the many potential consequences of taking a lighthearted approach to security in ICT4D. Many times we use mobile phone applications or some other technology that can possibly carry a lot of data that would be very bad in the hands of the wrong people. Any powerful group or government could use that data and do any number of horrible things with it. As development “people” we should definitely care about securing the data of the people that we are supposed to be helping. Another application of the concept of security in development is what I mentioned in my previous comment, we could encrypt data to protect people we are trying to help. Obviously many governments wouldn’t like this, but it could be used to great effect to help oppressed minorities that we potentially could not have assisted before. To bring this all back to my first point we, as development majors, should be very pro open internet. That is, placing restrictions on security agencies to keep the internet “free” should be something as a community we should absolutely support. If you have any thoughts on this last opinion or on the connections between security and ICT4D’s please comment below.

Jackson Boleky 3/20/14                    

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