An excellent article on Huff Post (of all places), maybe drawing up on key points already pointed out elsewhere. I’ve been following with great interest the Edward Snowden saga and all the issues it raises concerning civil rights, freedom of speech, and technology.
To me, so far, here is the point that Snowden’s saga brings to the forefront:
(The Terror Con – by Robert Scheer)
As The New York Times reported Saturday: “When the United Arab Emirates wanted to create its own version of the National Security Agency, it turned to Booz Allen Hamilton to replicate the world’s largest and most powerful spy agency in the sands of Abu Dhabi. It was a natural choice: The chief architect of Booz Allen’s cyber strategy is Mike McConnell, who once led the NSA and pushed the United States into a new era of big data espionage. It was Mr. McConnell who won the blessing of the American intelligence agencies to bolster the Persian Gulf sheikdom, which helps track the Iranians.”
Tracking the Iranians, you say? But they’re not the enemies who attacked us on 9/11, and indeed they are Shiites, who were implacably hostile to the Sunni fanatics of al-Qaida. The reasoning makes sense only if you follow the money that the UAE can pay. “They are teaching everything,” one Arab official told The New York Times about Booz Allen’s staffers. “Data mining, web surveillance, all sorts of digital intelligence collection.”
How great. Now, it’s not just the government we elect but also those everywhere, even in desert emirates, that can mine our data.
“The NSA data mining,” Keller assures us, “is part of something much larger. On many fronts, we are adjusting to life in a surveillance state, relinquishing bits of privacy in exchange for the promise of other rewards.”
This is the point: ALL or MOST governments, especially the most ruthless ones, will want to spy on everyone, or on anyone they want to target. It takes a lot of naiveness to believe that groups greedy for power or who have power already will only “mine” data (and metadata at that!) and not look at the content, if they have the technology to do both!
And this won’t only be a desire of “governments,” as an organized body of faceless individuals holding the same nationality. There will always be individuals or groups who want this kind of power, independently of the laws or of their government and who will infiltrate the organizations who do the surveillance. And it makes most local or intra-national laws worthless, if groups, individuals, or governments around the globe can breach these laws through technology whenever they please and for any objective they might have.
Lastly, obviously the greatest mistake above is to pretend that the correct verb tense was the one used, the future, and not the somewhat recent past. All of this is already in motion.
Until this last week, it had never really dawned on me how much we were sadly on our way to a 1984 scenario. And how truly awful the world will become when human beings once again show that they will massively use these new technologies for evil and to eliminate freedom, to persecute those who fight against oppression, and to destroy healthy dynamics in societies, instead of its opposite.
I don’t want to veer too much away from the point above, which is so enormous. But… very à propos then that, by coincidence, a new movie on Hannah Arendt has just come out.
And we can once again express our admiration for George Orwell, who once worked as a dishwasher in a hotel. However, as I was just reading this morning, the question remains if it was partially by choice, in order to gather writing material and to more deeply reflect upon social injustice from a real-lived experienced, or by need. Maybe an uncanny mixture of both. Which reminds me that I have never read all or even most of his works. What have I been missing?