The United States and the nations of the European Union don’t see eye to eye on many topics: the more interesting version of football, the appropriate minimum age of alcohol consumption, and the use of international military force being among them. Yet for several years, one such conflict — on data protection — has grown from a divide into a gulf, and just about two months ago, the bridge connecting the two collapsed.
Today, new scientists and engineers, economists and financiers, academics and professionals leave MIT and begin their careers, among them many of my closest friends and colleagues. What strikes me most about this time of year is the atmosphere: not the fatalism that follows exam week or the relief at having reached a vacation, but rather a quiet (or not so quiet) sense of anticipation and hope for life beyond the Institute from those convening in Killian.
Earlier this week, John Oliver of HBO’s Last Week Tonight presented a compelling piece on the upcoming deadline for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act — the law passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks which greatly enhanced the government’s powers of surveillance. At the time, the public asked few questions, demanding action for greater security and disregarding the potential cost. Twelve years later, Edward Snowden leaked classified documents from the National Security Agency about the breadth and depth of the NSA’s surveillance programs from that point forward, sparking national and international debate.