He’s just received a three-year permit to stay in Russia after his temporary visa expired, but NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden may want to ponder whether his bold revelations were really worth it and whether they’re actually going to change anything.
Not because he’s wrong, or because people have stopped listening – but because the intelligence world he exposed has already moved on.
The next big thing in spying has come to pass, and now he’s now on the outside looking in just like the rest of us.
Massive data integration probably sounds about as interesting as working out a new way to file your tax returns, but for spooks and civil servants it makes everything possible.
It means all the government silos holding public data can start to combine them, drawing detailed patterns of who people are and what they’re up to.
The British government already has plans to merge everything from health records to driving histories and tax payments, ostensibly to benefit the population, but it’s a flawed concept. This is why:
- Parliament is not doing its job properly, and is sometimes just a rubber-stamping authority for the government if it works the system properly
- British laws on new technology are hopelessly behind the times, meaning that ill-suited definitions can be applied almost at will
- Government has an awful record on using new technology without properly considering the consequences
What does this have to do with Ed Snowden? On the surface, not much.
But in the US, intelligence agencies have just merged their huge databases into one giant cloud. Did you know how many agencies they have? Seventeen.
And they’ve hired Amazon to do the job, which means a commercial company is now handling some of the most sensitive government data in the world. And a lot of it.
Not to suggest that Amazon aren’t the best people for the job, but this has to be a major landmark in the relationship between government and private enterprise – not least because where the US goes, its military allies often follow.
> US spies combine all their data into one cloud
> British spies like the idea, so form their own merged data cloud
> The US and Britain already exchange a lot of highly secret data, so someone says ‘why don’t we just share the clouds?’
> Yep, that happens
> Separately, Britain merges all its public data into – you guessed it – one database
> Britain’s secret and public data clouds are combined
> The British government now has a full merged database, which maybe, from time to time, they let the US share.
It’s not science fiction – it’s happening now.
And where’s Snowden?