Last week, the FBI arrested Jose Susumo Azano Matsura at his home in Coronado, CA. Azano was a rich, successful surveillance technology vendor who came to prominence by touting ubiquitous, intense surveillance as an answer to social problems and got rich through a no-bid contract to supply surveillance tools to the Mexican military, and expanded to supply Internet surveillance tools through his company Security Tracking Devices, with offices in Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates.
Azano's company supplied bulk-surveillance tools for spying on entire populations, as well as targeted malware intended for secret implantation on victims' laptops and phones to turn them into spy tools. They also sold access to a database, maintained by IBM, of 1.3 million names of people whom governments should be spying on.
Azano was arrested for corruption -- illegal election financing in San Diego. His scandal is just the latest in a string involving con artists, crooks and grafters who go into the spying business. For example, the founder of one major censorware company, doing business with numerous American school districts (as well as autocratic Middle Eastern leaders) was placed on the California sex-offender registry for "sexually interfering with a 14 year old girl."
One of the arguments for surveillance is that only the good guys will be able to peer into the data gathered by the bugs. But the evidence is that the kind of person who decides to get rich by spying on other people is generally not a very good guy, and these people are the people who ultimately have control over the tools that spy on kids, on citizens, on visitors, on Internet users and on members of our governments.
Designing a surveillance regime whose first line of defense is "Come on, we're all good people, what could go wrong?" is either naive or cynical on its face. But to continue to do so when we know that so many surveillance barons are monumentally unfit to serve as honorable guardians of our privacy is just plain evil.
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