NewsThe End of Privacy

Breach of trust

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Science  30 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6221, pp. 495-497
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6221.495

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Each year, recruiters from the National Security Agency (NSA), said to be the largest employer of mathematicians in the United States, visit a few dozen universities across the country in search of new talent. It used to be an easy sell. The agency has long supported U.S. mathematics with education programs and research grants. But the recruiters' task has become more complicated since 2013 after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began releasing documents revealing, among other things, that the agency has been harvesting e-mail and phone records from ordinary American citizens on a massive scale. NSA may also have purposefully compromised a mathematical standard used widely for securing personal computers the world over. U.S. mathematicians are conflicted over whether to cut ties with their secretive supporter.