Top Ten Cyberlaw predictions for 2014: Another Whistleblower

Mark Leiser: I am a PhD Candidate in Cyber Law at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. I have written submissions for the Leveson Inquiry into the culture and ethics of the media and for the Scottish Parliament on the use of social media during trials. My PhD is supervised by Professor Andrew Murray at the London School of Economics and focuses on the effectiveness of cyber-regulation. My research and interests revolve around main areas of Internet law and policy including internet governance & regulation, democracy, social media, privacy, and intellectual property. My PhD research focuses on developing a system of modelling to measure the effectiveness and legitimacy of Internet Regulation. I write in a personal capacity.

A very loose collection of cyberlaw predictions for 2014. More social media lunacy The cloud gets a whole lot larger. The Internet starts to erase itself, much to Google’s chagrin. Facebook implodes. For the first time in the history of 3D printing, a 3D printer gets printed by a 3D printer. Everyone locks everything on the Internet down. Legal challenges to Cameron’s porn filters. The Daily Mail continues to advocate for the blocking of every offensive website, except for the dailymail.com. Intellectual Property lawyers continue sending letters demanding things be removed from the Internet, highlighting their complete misunderstanding of the Streisand effect.

Coming in at Number 10.

Another major whistle-blower. Not more Edward Snowden revelations- that would be too easy. How about another Edward Snowden altogether? It has been a remarkable downward slide for the hackee. Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks are on trial as we speak for hacking that can be traced all the way back to the trial of Tommy Sheridan. Internet collective Anonymous has been playing havoc on computer systems of anyone and anybody it doesn't like. And now the NSA is under fire for doing exactly what Will Smith and Gene Hackman warned us of in 'Enemy of the State'.

Why do I think there will be another leaker?

At the time of the leaks, Snowden did not work for the NSA. He worked for a private firm named Booz Allen Hamilton who had been contracted by the NSA to analyse data on their behalf. Let’s be clear- the Americans and the Brits use a lot of private contractors these days to facilitate their intelligence and this comes at a price: oversight and background checks, for example. After Snowden’s revelations, there were several discrepancies with his CV as the organisation was unable to verify (after the leaks) that he was enrolled in the University he had been claimed to be enrolled in, or taken the courses he had claimed to have enrolled.

The last couple of years have, depending on your persuasion, seen people and organisations like Anonymous, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Snowden become quasi-celebrities/heroes/traitors. Maybe another whistle-blower from one of the intelligence services like the CIA, FBI, MI6, GCHQ will speak up about their data collection? Or maybe it will be someone from any of the major foreign intelligence services who have cooperated with the NSA that will come forward.

However, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone from within the inner workings of a technology company leaks information about who know what and when and will answer for one and for all who really knows what goes on behind the scenes of all of those server farms and data cables. Or maybe it will be more interesting revelations about corporate abuses and malfeasance. After all, in a December 2013 letter to the people of Brazil, Snowden wrote:

"These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power."

Is it a stretch then to foresee a leak determine how much influence a corporation has over a specific political action, say, like going to war? Will a country stand up to the US, grant him full political asylum once and for all? Or will the US come full circle and grant a full pardon in the same vein as Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg?

Although pressure in some corners has been building for some time now for President Obama to soften the rhetoric over Snowden, as recently as this past weekend, former US ambassador to the United Nations and neocon John Bolton and former CIA director James Woolsley (Clinton) called for him to hung in the town square. Woolsley said:

"I think giving him amnesty is idiotic.He should be prosecuted for treason. If convicted by a jury of his peers, he should be hanged by his neck until he is dead."

Bolton added:

"My view is that Snowden committed treason, he ought to be convicted of that, and then he ought to swing from a tall oak tree. But even if you don’t believe that, if you’re gonna say anything publicly, that is closer to what you should be saying to enhance our own bargaining leverage."

Both comments are particularly interesting considering the American courts have issued a series of rulings that question the constitutionality of the NSA’s sweep program. Although the European Commission ultimately announced that it will not suspend the safe harbor data privacy agreement with the US despite calls from the European Parliament, it goes to show how angry people got on this side of the pond over the NSA grabbing all of this information.

When Federal judges start referring to your program as ‘Orwellain’ and comment that the founding fathers would be ‘aghast’ at the scope of the communications dragnet, the NSA might be in a spot of bother. If the US courts start ruling this type of vacuum cleaner sucking up of data (personal and metadata) is unconstitutional, it might have the knock-on effect of making it easier for people to speak out against these types of government actions. If that is the case, expect more Snowdens to come forward.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.