Saturday, May 29, 2021

Union Government on Privacy in Social Media

Government is asking Whatsapp to share the origin of any message. But, to share that information, Whatsapp has to disable End-to-End Encryption, which would make the chat messages prone to attack. If the chat messages are not encrypted, even the Government may hack them.

For a non-technical person, it may be hard to digest that, with Whatsapp End-to-End Encryption, even Whatsapp cannot read your messages. To read the messages, one has to get hold of your mobile (or data in your mobile), or the mobile of the other person with whom you chatted, or the backups (if they are enabled). Without that, it is not possible to read the messages. 

Whereas, for other social networks, if they can get hold of the servers where the site is hosted, they can get all the data. But, with Whatsapp, it is not possible. One needs to hack all the individual mobiles to get the data. 

When Blackberry phones were popular, Indian Government shamelessly asked them to reduce the no.of bits in the encryption key. When the encryption key has less no.of bits, it is relatively easy to hack the data even if it is encrypted. But, if there are more bits in the key, it becomes hard to hack the data. 

With the history of the Indian Government, on what it is doing with the social networks, it is very clear that it wants to hack the users' chat messages. Eventhough, it is saying that it wants to find only the origin, but, their behavior does not say that. 

If they really want to get only the origin of the message without disabling the End-to-End Encryption, then they need to show a way on how to do that. Whatsapp clearly says, they cannot do that (either because they do not know or there is simply no way to do that). Indian Government simply says, "You find out". It is like, Indian Government ordering a pharmaceutical company to find a table for corona which would cure the disease in a day. 

Science and Technology does not work by orders from the Government. Scientists and Experts need to spend time and finally they may find something. Government needs to ask scientists to check the feasibility of this. When the scientists find some solution, they need to publish it for everyone in the world to read and check. If no one in the world finds any loophole in that solution, then the Government can ask Whatsapp to implement that solution. Without doing anything, just asking them to find the origin of the message is nothing but asking them to not encrypt the chat messages and leave them for hackers to hack. [The first hacker could be potentially Indian Government itself.] 

In fact, in Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (Where Cryptography is a part), scientists may even prove that it is impossible. When they prove that it is impossible, we can never find the origin of the message by keeping the End-to-End Encryption. 

Even if the scientists find a way to find the origin, by keeping End-to-End Encryption, it is still a major privacy violation of the users. 

If I am talking to my friend personally, then I have full right to talk whatever I want, as long as myself and my friend are fine with that. Government or any other person/organization does not have any role in what I talk to my friend. Even if it is offensive/illegal/objectionable or whatever might be, as long as me and my friend are fine with that, no one should be involved in our matter. This is a basic privacy that everyone expects.

But, if I talk offensive/illegal/objectionable content in any public forum, then the law of the land would be applied and the Government may take appropriate action against me. But, if I am talking between four walls with a friend in the physical world, or in one-to-one communication in a digital world, no one should interfere in that. 

Now, whatever I talk to my friend, if my friend shares that information with his/her other friend, then even that communication between those two people should be between those two only. No one should enter between them. Even if the content that he/she shared with his/her friend was provided by me, I don't have any right to interfere. It is their personal communication.

Now, if my friend's friend shares that information with someone else and they share it with their friends and if it goes to many people, and at some point if one person makes it public, then who needs to be punished. It is the one who made that information public should be punished. But, Government wants to find me and punish me. 

Government should punish only those who have done that in public. It is not the Government's business to see what individuals are talking about in their personal life. It is a gross violation of the privacy of Individuals. 

If the Government comes to this level of interfering with an individual's life, then we cannot talk to others freely like how we are talking till now. Even with our very close friends, we may have to talk in a parliamentary language, and we may be prohibited from talking about gossip, unproven news and many other things. 

Government made a huge issue, when Whatsapp was trying to share unimportant information (Other than the chat messages) to its parent company. They said it is a violation of users' privacy. Now, it is asking for something by which there is a serious privacy violation of the people.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Review of "New Confessions of an Economic Hitman" by John Perkins

I would have liked "New Confessions of an Economic Hitman" more, if it was written from the view point of a capitalist rather than from a view point of a communist or socialist. 

The summary of the book is, the big corporations, banks and US government are destroying many countries. IMF and world bank give loans to poor countries in the name of developing that country. They over estimate the growth and give more loans for projects that are not sustainable. The big corporations (mainly from US) get the projects to develop the infrastructure in that country. Essentially the entire loan money is going back to US. After that, the country is burdened with both principle and interest and eternally indebted to US for everything.

If any government does not accept, then US government brings CIA or others, and tries to topple the government or assassinates the head of the state and installs a puppet of CIA. The author gave many examples for this.

The part that I was not happy with the author is, he projected as if even giving loans and taking projects etc., is bad. He has shifted all the blame from the countries which are in poverty to the banks which gave loans. 

I feel only threatening is bad. If others are done in acceptance of that government, then it is not bad. In fact, that is very good and we must encourage that more.

If I were a head of a country, and if IMF/World bank is coming to me and offering me a loan and if I have option of taking a loan or not, then it is good. After taking loan, what do I do with the loan is my responsibility. If I don't use that money for the country and use it for my personal gain or waste money by investing in the projects that do not give any returns, then I am bad, not IMF or world bank.

Similarly for the projects that were given to US corporations. If my country is a poor country, most probably, my country might not be having enough infrastructure. I may have to import the technology. If US is ready to sell that technology for a fair price, what is the problem in buying from US corporations? 

If the price is more from US companies and the bank dictates me to buy from US companies, then may be I should not take loan in the first place. Or I should do the cost benefit analysis, like, if I take loan elsewhere, what is the additional burden on the interest and what is the savings due to less expenditure on the project and decide.

If I am threatened to take loan, then it is bad. If I am bribed to take loan, then it is not wrong from the point of view of US or banks. Because, if bribing is the only option for a bank or corporation to increase their business, they may do that. If I take bribe, people of my country should realize that, I am a corrupt person and should bring down me and my government.

IMF, World bank, US Government or US Corporations are not responsible for ending poverty in my country. The head of the state is responsible for the country (unless he/she is threatened). In the book, the author wrote as if the banks are responsible for ending the poverty in many countries.

In one instance, the author says, Boeing threatened Washington state to give huge tax breaks. If the state does not give, it would move the production facilities to another state. This is not threatening. Every company has right to decide where to operate. They decide based on many factors, which includes tax exemptions. It is unfair to comment on their decisions. 

In few places, the author said different companies stole money from US tax payers. Whereas, the correct terminology is in many of those contexts is, the companies found ways to avoid/reduce the taxes. Legally avoiding/reducing tax is not at all same as stealing tax money from tax payers.

He talked negatively about tax haven countries. Every sovereign country has right to decide their tax laws. It is unfair to comment on that. Each country can decide taxes on the business that is happening on their country's land. If the government thinks the companies are showing zero profit, they can impose more tax on their sales etc. and get the revenue by some other means. 

At one place, he used the organizations that collected the debt from poor countries as vultures. We take money from someone and when they ask us to repay the money, we say that they are vultures. This is very very unfair.