Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says the most dangerous threat we — individually and as a society and country — face today is no longer military, but rather the increasingly pervasive exposure of our personal data.

He thinks nothing undermines our freedom more than losing control of private information about ourselves. And yet, we are ever more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Some might consider this an odd stance for Chertoff to take because he helped write the USA Patriot Act. That piece of legislation is a frequent target of privacy advocates, who say it represents government overreach. One of the more controversial portions of the law was Section 215, which expired in May of 2015.

Vox’s Dara Lind explains:

When the Patriot Act was first passed, 215 came under some mild criticism because of fears that the government could force public libraries to turn over someone’s borrowing records. (Remember libraries?) But in 2013, documents leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the government had been collecting the phone records of every single customer of phone companies including Verizon. And it was using Section 215 as the justification that made it legal.

On July 12, Chertoff said on Morning Edition that he hasn’t changed his mind about it, but added this caveat.

I became aware of the enormous potential for good, but also of the risks involved in data collection. And as we went through various iterations of government collection of information, what we saw was, as people became concerned that maybe something was too generous to the government, it was tweaked, and it was maybe pulled back a little bit.

His new book is called “Exploding Data: Reclaiming Our Cyber Security In The Digital Age.” Read an excerpt below.

Produced by [Bianca Martin](https://twitter.com/wBiancaMartin]

Guests

  • Michael Chertoff Executive chairman and co-founder, The Chertoff Group; former Secretary of Homeland Security (2005 – 2009)

Read an excerpt from Michael Chertoff's new book

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