With the recent revelation this past week that we do in fact live in a total surveillance state, my first and primary reaction was similar to most people, that is terrible and completely unacceptable. As the ACLU put it, it is “Beyond Orwellian.” Apparently even some of the high ups in Silicon Valley that are the ones who handed all our info over said they didn’t think that any system like PRISM existed that could actually process and track it all. PRISM exists. We are all being tracked.
However, I’ve also seen other people say that it was really naive for any of us to think we had any privacy online anyway, and that instead of fighting it we need to acknowledge it and figure out how to work with it. As defeatist as that sounds to me, I wonder if there may some merit to that view. I’m not saying that’s how I feel, but it is what I am contemplating right now.
I remember when the Patriot Act first launched and pro-Bush people would say, “If you aren’t doing anything illegal you have nothing to worry about.” It doesn’t take much study of history to see what bullshit that type of thinking is, McCarthyism being an easy example. My question now is, how could we make this the case? The thought I am entertaining is, if the War on Drugs were completely ended, if our culture was to finally advance past all of its ancient barbaric puritanical sexual hang-ups, and if it was universally acknowledged that any non-violent ideology whatsoever, however radical, is legal and free, then perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad? If people weren’t conditioned to feel any shame about their sexuality, recreational activities, or beliefs, then what is left to fear? What else could we be persecuted for or blackmailed over? Would terrorists and predators be the only people left with anything to fear? Or is the issue just about the principle of privacy, and not about the practical ramifications?
There were articles published a few months ago about how in a few years every street in NYC will be under 24 hour video surveillance. Spacely Sprockets (Mayor Bloomberg) said that he isn’t as much an advocate of it as he is just someone who is aware that this is the direction technology is going. This sounded like a lame cop out, but I also wonder if it may be true. I bet in a few years there could be some sort of real time Google Street View, where you can watch anything on any street at any time, anywhere, whether you are government or not. Could a lack of public privacy just be an inevitable outcome of the information age? I would like to think not, but at this point I really am not sure.
If the fight for privacy is futile, at least the fight against shame isn’t.
Or maybe it’s just all bad. I don’t know.
NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily (The Guardian)
President Obama’s Dragnet (The NY Times)
Facebook, Google, Apple, and More Giving Your Data Directly to NSA (Gawker)
What is PRISM? (Gizmodo)
Tell Obama: Stop Spying on me (FreePress)
This was originally a facebook post and my friend Corwin posted a reply so brilliant I had to add it:
“As soon as awareness comes to be that awareness attempts to gather information. If you view modern technology as a tool that aids awareness in gathering data, then this is an obvious part of a progression. Yes, as long as you communicate in any way there will be individuals or groups attempting to eavesdrop on that communication. At this point that is neither good nor bad. At some point this is processed through a series of filters within an individual or hive or government or corporate structure WITH AN AGENDA AND PREFERENCES. That is the point where things become dangerous. As a human society we are unconsciously becoming more hive minded (which is neither good nor bad) due to advancements in communicative pathways. How this is utilized is up to the individual. By individual, in this case, I mean person or other structure with an agenda and preferences. This is the moment when such things become dangerous. An easy tell of whether or not this kind of eavesdropping is heading in the wrong direction is how top-heavy this communication structure becomes. A tiny fraction of the population with the ability to see all without repercussion, without oversight other than itself, the same fraction that also owns the machinery of communication, which the rest of the hive now has to rely on (in most cases) to survive, now, because there is nowhere left to go. Yes, this IS terrifying. In this complex version the queen bee shouldn’t ever be trusted. The modes of communication must peacefully be kept WIDE open. If there is any attempt to stunt the transferral of data to the hive itself, the queen bee needs to check her bitch ass, or I’m gonna get a damn twitter account and bitch about it in a way that…crap. Yup, we’re fuxt.”
art by Banksy