Joseph Bonneau, a Google engineer, was the first person to be awarded the NSA’s “Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper” award last week for his “The Science of Guessing” report. Bonneau’s paper analyzed more than 70 million user passwords to see why people are not good at making strong passwords. While winning the award is great and all, Bonneau says he is not a big fan of the NSA in the first place.
In a blog post, he thanked the NSA for the award, but then went on to say that organization’s attempts to collect data from users are not something he agrees with. “I don’t think a free society is compatible with an organization like the NSA in its current form,” he wrote.
In accepting the award I don’t condone the NSA’s surveillance. Simply put, I don’t think a free society is compatible with an organisation like the NSA in its current form. Yet I’m glad I got the rare opportunity to visit with the NSA and I’m grateful for my hosts’ genuine hospitality.
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Bonneau believes that America’s core problems do not relate to the NSA, however, but to what goes on in Washington.
Our focus must remain on winning the public debate around surveillance and developing privacy-enhancing technology. But I hope that this award program, established to increase engagement with academic researchers, can be a small but positive step.