In a stirring editorial in the New Scientist, University of Edinburgh mathematician Tom Leinster calls on the world's mathematicians to boycott working for the NSA, which describes itself as the "largest employer of mathematicians in the US" and which may the world's number one employer of mathematicians. Leinster suggests that mathematicians could refuse to work for the NSA, that university heads could refuse to grant professors leave to work at NSA or GCHQ, that national mathematical societies could refuse NSA job-posting ads, and even "expel members who work for agencies of mass surveillance."
At a bare minimum, we mathematicians should talk about this. Maybe we should go further. Eminent mathematician Alexander Beilinson of the University of Chicago has proposed that the American Mathematical Society sever all ties with the NSA, and that working for it or its partners should become "socially unacceptable" in the same way that working for the KGB became unacceptable to many in the Soviet Union.
Not everyone will agree, but it reminds us that we have both individual choices and collective power. Individuals can withdraw their labour. Heads of university departments can refuse staff leave to work for the NSA or GCHQ. National mathematical societies can stop publishing the agencies' job adverts, refuse their money, or even expel members who work for agencies of mass surveillance.
At the very least, we should acknowledge that these choices are ours to make. We are human beings first and mathematicians second, and if we do not like what the secret services are doing, we should not cooperate.
Maths spying: the quandary of working for the spooks [Tom Leinster/New Scientist]
(Image: ILGWU leaders address a crowded hall [Madison Square Garden?]. The banner above the podium reads: "On with the Strike -- On to Victory!", Kheel Center, CC-BY)
Motherboard has retracted this story: “Correction: This piece was based on the premise that a new piece of WannaCry ransomware spread in the same manner as the one that was responsible for widespread attacks on Friday, and that it did not contain a so-called kill switch. However, after the publication of this article one of […]
For more than a decade, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been suing the NSA over its extraordinarily broad interpretation of its powers under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act — a law that the NSA says gives it the power to spy on Americans any time they mention a foreigner.
The Intercept publishes a previously-unseen set of Snowden docs detailing more than $500,000,000 worth of secret payments by the Japanese government to the NSA, in exchange for access to the NSA’s specialized surveillance capabilities, in likely contravention of Japanese privacy law (the secrecy of the program means that the legality was never debated, so no […]
The Ticwatch 2 Active Smartwatch is a simpler take on an active wearable that raised over $2m dollars on Kickstarter and is currently offered in the Boing Boing Store.Somewhere in between the single-day battery life and platform-specificity of the Apple Watch and Android Wear devices, there exists the Ticwatch. Instead of trying to shoehorn another […]
Loot Crate is a subscription service that delivers a box of curated pop culture goods to your doorstep. To sample their geeky wares, you can order a single mystery box exclusively from the Boing Boing Store.Each month Loot Crate sends you 6-7 unique items and apparel, including collectibles, books, and t-shirts. Pulling inspiration from all […]
Yes, yes there is. The ultraportable Twisty Glass Mini boasts all of the simplicity of its forebear, while fitting just a little bit better in your pocket.The Mini is perfect for casual smokers, and anyone who doesn’t have the patience or fine motor skill for rolling papers. This piece keeps the convenient design of its older […]