Joseph Bonneau, a software engineer at Google, was the first recipient of a new prize awarded beginning in 2012 by the NSA for the Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper for his paper The science of guessing: analyzing an anonymized corpus of 70 million passwords. The day after receiving the award he wrote a blog post that contained the following:
On a personal note, I’d be remiss not to mention my conflicted feelings about winning the award given what we know about the NSA’s widespread collection of private communications and what remains unknown about oversight over the agency’s operations. Like many in the community of cryptographers and security engineers, I’m sad that we haven’t better informed the public about the inherent dangers and questionable utility of mass surveillance. And like many American citizens I’m ashamed we’ve let our politicians sneak the country down this path.
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. [My italics-MS]
The NSA may well be thinking along the lines of King Lear: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”