Bill Clinton's run for presidency nearly derailed when rumors surfaced that he had smoked marijuana during his time in England. In an effort to control the damage, Clinton admitted that he indeed experimented with the illegal drug but "didn't inhale." Imagine how history might have changed if a video of a glassy-eyed Clinton with a joint between his lips had shown up on Youtube (which, of course, didn't exist at the time).
Flash forward two decades, there's no place to hide anymore, no privacy. Compromising photos and videos shared online, surveillance cameras catching stupid acts, regrettable blog posts written during rebellious, youthful days, asinine comments on Facebook and Twitter, all can be unearthed -- the Internet remembers everything -- and undermine a person's reputation.
This begs the question: Can any millennial make it out unscathed and become the future president? "It's incredible, the world we live in," says Stan Stahl, chief information security officer of Private.me, a browser that keeps personal data private and secure.
Stahl knows all about the shady world of high-tech security, double-dealings and false privacy. The former math professor helped secure teleconferencing at the White house, databases inside Cheyenne Mountain, and the communications network controlling the country's nuclear weapons arsenal.
CIO.com talked with Stahl to get his take on the current state of Internet privacy.
CIO.com: There's a lot of fear around Internet privacy. Can you help separate fact from fiction?
Stan Stahl: Back when I was in the aerospace industry and had top secret clearance, there was a saying, "Those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know." I don't have a clearance anymore, and so I don't have any insight other than what's published publicly about Snowden and other cases. But one can read between the lines. The government clearly has the legal and technical capabilities to pretty much do surveillance on anybody who's not really careful about what they're doing.
Even that might not be enough. One of the public stories is how the NSA compromised Tor (a government-funded online anonymity tool). Tor has been considered a kind of standard for anonymity on the Web. There's also potential that NSA paid RSA, and we don't know exactly what they got for their money. That's going to be deeply classified. It at least raises the suspicion that there may be backdoors to encryption products and identity products that the government will have access to.
We know the government buys zero-day exploits, some of those I'm sure are being used against ISIS in Syria and places like that, although again I'm not privy to that information. It would be naive of us to believe that this isn't also being used to target specific groups here in the states. They've got a ton of money and some really, really smart people -- I used to work with some of the brilliant NSA folks.
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