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Michael Chertoff on why it's too late to protect much of our digital privacy

Ex-DHS chief Michael Chertoff on data privacy
Former DHS secretary says data privacy is about "autonomy" 06:24

Public outcry is growing after recent revelations about how technology giants like Facebook and Google collect and use our data. Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff highlights the dangers of modern technology and data collection in his new book, "Exploding Data: Reclaiming Our Cyber Security in the Digital Age."

Chertoff, who currently serves as the executive chairman and co-founder of the security consulting company The Chertoff Group, writes, "We have always been worried that Big Brother might force his way into our home, but Big Brother need not beat down the door. We are currently rolling out the red carpet to welcome him."


He expanded on that idea on "CBS This Morning" Tuesday, saying, "We are actually surveilling ourselves. We're doing a lot of the collection that we used to imagine would be the government, as individuals. We go around, we take selfies, we photograph each other, we upload things to the internet…. And that is why we have actually become Little Brother in the place of Big Brother." 

In his book, Chertoff argues that the privacy ship has essentially sailed and that instead we need to turn our attention toward autonomy.

"The idea that we're going to keep things behind closed doors really has become almost quaint. So now the question is, what happens when the data is generated? Do we have some control over it? And that I think is where the battleground is in terms of our freedom, because if people have a 100 percent view of everything that we do all the time, then the ability to manipulate us and coerce us becomes a real issue," he said.

Chertoff believes the individual needs to take some responsibility for the data they generate and for what they agree to share. That said, the price of admission for users should not be surrendering your data, he argued. 

"I do think we need to have the courts and the government do some weighing of what the balance ought to be in terms of data control. We now have platforms that are so vast that they really are almost monopolies…. People have a right to say no without sacrificing their ability to access the platform," he said.

But Chertoff pointed out, with regulation comes the challenge of how to govern in the global environment in which data operates – which does not have borders.

Chertoff, who served as secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, also addressed the ongoing crisis of immigrant children who have been separated from their families at the border.

"I think we ought to reunite the children as quickly as possible. I don't know how they've distributed them, but it seems to me it's a big priority to make sure that every kid is accounted for and then returned to their family," he said. 

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