2 years ago in Quotes
For the masses, the feeling that technology develops along an inevitable path reflects their lack of agency — the fact that the crucial decisions about the technological conditions of society will be made by a largely self-regulating confraternity of elites. For engineers and scientists, technological development appears to be driven by a combination of what they can imagine, what is technically feasible, and what governments or markets demand. Even those whose particular genius produces the breakthroughs feel this as an inevitability, as if they are possessed by some inner logic that is the real force ushering in this new world.
6 years ago in Quotes
The fallacy is to believe that under a dictatorial government you can be free inside. Quite a number of people console themselves with this thought, now that totalitarianism in one form or another is visibly on the up-grade in every part of the world. Out in the street the loudspeakers bellow, the flags flutter from the rooftops, the police with their tommy-guns prowl to and fro, the face of the Leader, four feet wide, glares from every hoarding; but up in the attics the secret enemies of the regime can record their thoughts in perfect freedom — that is the idea, more or less.
I guess that is why the EU is mostly complaining about potential industrial espionage; no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater, is there.
Stasi couldn’t record what newspaper articles you were reading. For how long. And in what order. That, along with pretty much every thought you have ever explored while sitting at a computer, is now part of your permanent record – even if you never told a single human being.
[..] once you have prevented a murder, it’s easy to justify that you should be able to use the ubiquitous wiretapping to also prevent, say, rape and aggravated assault. No policymaker will protest that.
Once you are preventing serious violent crimes, it’s easy to justify that the NSA and the Police should use the ubiquitous wiretapping to prevent all violent crimes. People who protest that in the name of civil liberties will be shot down; “it’s a fundamental civil liberty to not be a victim of a violent crime”. And so, surveillance will be Newspeaked into civil liberties in televised debates by Big Brother hawks.
Once the wiretapping is preventing all violent crime, it will be repurposed to prevent all prison-time crime (described as “serious crime”), and from there, to prevent all crime. And those who speak up against this will be accused of “siding with criminals”.
My internal battle to fight off the constant fear of not knowing what could happen to me at the hands of the government affects my judgment. I don’t know if this has affected my writing. Intuition tells me it hasn’t, but I have trouble trusting my intuition. It is the breakdown of trust — trust of oneself, trust of others — that is the worst consequence of living a transparent life.
The Chinese government talks about building a “harmonious society.” But how can a society become truly harmonious if surveillance cameras are everywhere and everyone has to live with suspicion and fear? What kind of lives can we lead without trust?
[..] it's not possible to be fully human if you are being surveilled 24/7.
My Fellow Users,
I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on--the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.
What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.
This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.
I used to work for Blizzard. The Chinese government requested that we modify the WoW client so that they could intercept all chat. As far as I know, no-one said anything, including me - and Blizzard, of course, was more than happy to comply, given the size of the market and the risk of being forbidden to do business there. There were plenty of other MMOGs happy to play ball and eat that cake.
I didn't say anything. It was happening to "them", Chinese nationals. Not only that, but "they" should know better than to say sensitive things online, because even if we didn't install the back door, I reasoned, it wouldn't be too hard to get that data through various other means.
I really regret not only my participation, but not making a big stink about it. No-one did. I strongly suspect that that same system is being being used domestically, now. Clearly it was the wrong thing to do. I've regretted my role in that implementation for several years. I shouldn't have participated, and I should have protested. Even if it didn't stop it, at least the company leadership might have felt the heat. But I was a coward and I didn't want to lose my job, didn't want to fight a legal battle, and, like I said, it was just China spying on it's people, which everyone knew they do anyway.
And who knows? The news probably would have been ignored, or, if it wasn't, I might have been branded as a coward and a disloyal employee, betraying the people who put food on my table. And I being under 30, overpaid, over-priviledged, etc. I can hear the Fox News commentators even now. That, to me, has been the most difficult thing about Snowden, is that here's someone who did the right thing, who revealed wrong-doing on the part of our government, and there are a lot of people who say he's the wrongdoer, who attack him as disloyal and worse. A back door in a game used by China? Who would even care about that? And if they did, I'd just be torn to shreds, unemployable and with heaven-knows-what kind of future.
The reaction to Manning and Snowden, particularly the lack of strong public support, sends a strong signal that people don't want to know. They don't want to upset the apple cart. They don't want to challenge the government, they don't want to question it, not even when it's clearly violating it's own most important rules - the rules that, presumably, we've been fighting to promote these last 200 years. It seems hopeless.
The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair. These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice – that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law.
The political divide about surveillance is about whether or not the ends justify the means. I believe they don’t, or rather that those who focus on the immediate benefits of surveillance are myopic to its other effects on society. Those people by the way are well meaning – always keep Hanlon’s Razor in mind : never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. What it means about surveillance is that we don’t need to have intent to create a fascist regime – we can just sleepwalk into it.
"Where's Waldo" is a simple concept that most people can understand and have an opinion about. A country spying on its own citizens is an important thing to deal with, but sufficiently complex that most people would rather just ignore it.