Google Engineer Wins Award from the NSA and then Slams it

In accepting the award I don’t condone the NSA’s surveillance. Simply put, I don’t think a free society is compatible with an organisation like the NSA in its current form.

- Dr. Joseph Bonneau

In case you weren’t aware, Dr. Joseph Bonneau, a google engineer, received an award for the Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper of 2012 from the National Security Agency’s first annual “Science of Security Competition” on July 19th. He experienced such mixed emotions upon its receipt that he felt the need to express them publicly in a blog post. We should all be thankful he had the courage to do so.

While his post may at first seem like no big deal, it represents another example of the extraordinarily positive impact Edward Snowden’s leaks are having throughout American culture. When a person who wins an award from the NSA immediately expresses his revulsion of its practices as a result of what he learned from Snowden’s act of civil disobedience, we can rest assured the cultural grounds underneath our feet are shifting for the better. Let’s not forget that the latest version of Congress’ internet spy bill, CISPA, has been placed on the back burner as a result, and instead Congress is being forced to vote on positive things, such as the Amash Amendment.  Dr. Bonneau’s statement simply would not have been written if it weren’t for Mr. Snowden’s whistle-blowing. His key points are:

Yesterday I received the NSA award for the Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper of 2012 for my IEEE Oakland paper “The science of guessing.” I’m honored to have been recognised by the distinguished academic panel assembled by the NSA. 

On a personal note, I’d be remiss not to mention my conflicted feelings about winning the award given what we know about the NSA’s widespread collection of private communications and what remains unknown about oversight over the agency’s operations. Like many in the community of cryptographers and security engineers, I’m sad that we haven’t better informed the public about the inherent dangers and questionable utility of mass surveillance. And like many American citizens I’m ashamed we’ve let our politicians sneak the country down this path.

In accepting the award I don’t condone the NSA’s surveillance. Simply put, I don’t think a free society is compatible with an organization like the NSA in its current form.

His full blog post can be found here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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3 Comments

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  1. Perhaps refusing the award, then making these statements would have conveyed more force.

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