After the NSA, Is the Internet Forever Changed?

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


In 2013, the NSA caught nearly everyone off guard, including tech giants like Google and Facebook, who have been fighting ever since to preserve the foundations of trust and confidentiality that their customers rely upon and the industry has prided itself on.

Telecom companies have long been excluded from this realm of apparent safety. They've taken our money for calls, and worked with and for higher powers for decades. But all the while, the web has been free—free from the strictures of a heavy government hand and safe for our photos and emails and data.

Well, that's what everyone thought anyway. Are the tech giants of today just friendly competitors with an enlightened sense of customer service, or just the same scary communication monoliths of old?

In his new piece for Wired, “How the NSA Almost Killed the Internet," Steven Levy explores how companies like "Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and the other tech titans have had to fight for their lives against their own government."


Steven Levy

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman


T.J. Raphael

Comments [11]

Mr Hockenberry, while the knowledge of mainframe programming languages may be obsolete to you, COBOL is alive and well! IBM estimates that over 200 billion lines of COBOL code are still being used across industries such as banking, insurance and retail. In fact, mobile and other forms of e-commerce are increasing mainframe usage. For example, anytime you check your bank account balance, you are executing a mainframe transaction.

Jan. 09 2014 06:08 PM
Angel from Miami, FL

This is why we have the dark net.

Jan. 09 2014 10:01 AM
Bronx Bruce from The bronx

Impressed that Mr. Hockenberry learned COBOL and FORTRAN but his, I assume, off-the-cuff comment they are both obsolete 'business' programming languages and is quite incorrect. FORTRAN is far from being gone / obsolete and it scientific applications was the primary (and continuing) purpose for it's development.

Hey, another thing - could you cut down on what I guess your producers think are cool, hip musical interludes? I was looking forward to a change from Talk of The Nation but I sense youse guys are trying hard - perhaps too hard - to dial up TTA hipster coefficient. It's more razzmatazz than needed and gets me thinking that I may wanna join the ranks of those calling for the return of Talk.

Jan. 08 2014 04:25 PM
stephen from manhattan

I wish the media would stop using the term "income inequality." The issue is income DISPARITY. Why should the CEO of McDonald's make millions of dollars a year when the average McDonald's employee is making minimum wage which does not sustain an individual's existence never mind a spouse and one or two children? No reasonable person believes all American's incomes should be equal but even the least educated and the least skilled should be able to make a fair and self-sustainable wage.

Jan. 08 2014 03:09 PM

You can have all the positive protections, but there are bound to be slip-ups, and the wrong people can get private info. and not just the NSA. Anyone who gives out their credit crd. info are at risk, but less so then those who give their bank number out with debit card. We may not know ourselves very well, but our bank account tells a lot about who we are. Use more cash so your bank/cc info doesn't get passed around ~ accidentally.

I trust, less, and less that any information I've put on line is safe from prying eyes. Why post an address on FB or Tag faces of friends and family? Why tell what schools you went too? It's not about hiding info because of doing something bad, or that you plan to do something bad, but to preserve privacy.

Jan. 08 2014 03:00 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Government will never know who we are, only who we think we are; no one tells the truth of who they are online, or in phone conversation because let's face it, we mostly don't know who we are. It's all a crap shoot guessing game.

Jan. 08 2014 02:26 PM
Chris from Burien, WA (Seattle)

Your lead in today reminded me of an experience in Maine in 1982.
I was working summer stock theatre in Skowhegan. One of our shows was "Slueth". In the prop list was a touch tone phone. I called the local phone company, of which over-all are terrific about lending items to theatres, to ask for a loan of a phone.
The response was an instant NO! The reason given was that Maine only has dial phones and if they see touch tones they will want them.
We traveled down to New Hampshire to get the loaner and the show went on without complaint.

Jan. 08 2014 01:06 PM
Chris Conley from Florida

I felt much like one of your cited commenters in that, if I didn't do anything wrong, I didn't have a worry. Then I was reminded that Nixon's White House manufactured misdeeds to trash their "enemies". Now, I can only hope that we will never elect another paranoid president and that we will still be able to monitor our governments monitoring of us.

Jan. 08 2014 01:05 PM

Just once in my life I would love to hear a discussion of tech and computer science without the girl being the dummy. "Math is hard! Programming is hard! Ewwww!" Just once before I die, k?

Jan. 08 2014 12:59 PM
Mike from Oregon

I remember the internet being originally designed to be open and not private. To try to re-design it to be private would be difficult, I think.

Jan. 08 2014 12:22 PM
Edward Brown from NYC

Standards are very important, but they tend to ignore two major problems:

Large commercial interests exert pressure, often covert, in the standards-making process.

Implementation of standards depends upon people to take them seriously and adhere to them even if doing so costs them extra time, effort, and money. The events depicted in The China Syndrome depicted events typical of what typically happen. Not to mention graft paid to inspectors.

I can believe that technology and planning can be hugely effective, but only if it is applied honestly--a naive assumption

Jan. 08 2014 09:57 AM

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