NSA. BSG. AAAS. FOAD.

silverback-shadesBack in 2003 I attended a talk by David Brin, at Worldcon here in Toronto. Brin had blurbed  Starfish; to say I was favorably disposed towards the man would be an understatement. And yet I found myself increasingly skeptical as he spoke out in favor of ubiquitous surveillance: the “Transparent Society”, he called it, and It Was Good. The camera would point both ways, cops and politicians just as subject to our scrutiny as we were to theirs. People are primates, Brin reminded us; our leaders are Alphas. Trying to ban government surveillance would be like poking a silverback gorilla with a stick. “But just maybe,” he allowed, “they’ll let us look back.”

Dude, thought I, do you have the first fucking clue how silverbacks react to eye contact?

It wasn’t just a bad analogy. It wasn’t analogy at all; it was literal, and it was wrong. Alpha primates regard looking back as a challenge. Anyone who’s been beaten up for recording video of police beating people up knows this; anyone whose cellphone has been smashed, or returned with the SIM card mysteriously erased. Document animal abuse in any of the US states with so-called “Ag-gag” laws on their books and you’re not only breaking the law, you’re a “domestic terrorist”.

Chelsea Manning looked back; she’ll be in jail for decades. Edward Snowden looked back and has been running ever since. All he did to put that target on his back was confirm something most of us have suspected for years: those silverbacks are recording every move we make online. But try to look back and they’ll scream terrorism and national security, and leave an innocent person on the no-fly list for no better reason than to cover up a typo.

Look back? Don’t make me laugh.

I don’t know if Brin has since changed his stance (Larry Niven just coauthored a novel which accepts the reality of climate change, so I guess there’s hope for anybody). Either way, other SF writers seem willing to take up the chorus. About a decade back Robert Sawyer wrote an editorial for a right-wing Canadian magazine in which he lamented the bad rap that “Big Brothers” had got ever since Orwell. He waxed nostalgic— and, apparently, without irony— about how safe he’d felt as a child knowing that his big brother was watching over him from the next room (thus becoming an unwitting case-in-point for Orwell’s arguments about the use of language as a tool of cognitive manipulation). Just a few years ago, up-and-comer Madeline Ashby built her Master’s thesis around a misty-eyed love letter to surveillance at border crossings.

But it’s not a transparent society unless light passes through the glass both ways. The light doesn’t do that.

Can we stop them from watching us, at least? Stay away from LinkedIn or facebook, keep your private information local and offline?

Sure. For a while, at least. Of course, you may have to kiss ebooks goodbye. Amazon reserves the right to reach down into your Kindle and wipe it clean any time it feels the urge (they did it a few years back— to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, ironically). You’ll have to do without graphics and multimedia and spreadsheets and word processing, too: both Adobe and Microsoft are phasing out local software in favor of Cloud-based “subscription” models. Even the American Association for the Advancement of Science, for chrissakes— an organization that really should know better— has recently switched to a “browser-based” journal feed that can’t be accessed offline. (And what happens if, for example, you’re out in the field doing, you know, science, and don’t have internet access? “Unfortunately, you won’t be able to download the issue on your computer,” Member Services told me, before passing on her Best Regards. “You’ll have to have internet access to view it.” Which is why I quit the AAAS, after over twenty years of membership.)

We used to own our books, our magazines, the games we played. Now we can only rent them. Business models and government paranoia both rely on stripping us naked online; but if we stay offline, we’re deaf dumb and blind. It doesn’t matter that nobody’s pretending the Cloud is anywhere close to secure. The spooks and the used-car salesmen are hell-bent on forcing us onto it anyway. I’ve lost track of the number of articles I’ve read— by such presumably progressive outlets as Wired, even— lamenting the lack of effective online security, only to throw up their hands and admit But of course we’re not going to retreat from the Cloud— we live there now. It’s as though those most cognizant of the dangers we face have also been charged with assuring us that there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it, so we might as well just give up and invite the NSA into our bathrooms. (Or even worse, embrace the cameras. Have you seen that Coke ad cobbled together from bits of faux-security-camera footage? A dozen “private” moments between people with no idea they’re on camera, served up to sell fizzy suger-water as though our hearts should be warmed by displays of universal surveillance. Orwell— brought to you by Hallmark.)

You all know this as well as I do, of course. I’m only about the millionth blogger to whinge about these things. So why do I feel like a voice in the wilderness when I wonder: why aren’t we retreating from the cloud, exactly? What’s so absurd about storing your life on a USB key or a hard drive, rather than handing it over to some amorphous webcorp that whispers sweet nothings about safe secrets and unbreakable encryption into your ear, only to roll over and surrender your most private details the first time some dead-eyed spook in a trench coat comes calling?

Remember the premise of Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica: that the only way to win against high-tech opponents is to go retro, revert to a time when no computer was networked, when you ran starships by pulling levers and cranking valves. It was an exquisite narrative rationale for the anachronistic vibe endemic to everything from Alien to Firefly to Star Wars, that peeling-paint aesthetic that resonates in the gut even though it made no real sense until Moore gave it context.

Maybe now it’s more than rationale. Maybe now it’s a strategy. Because now we know that the NSA has back doors installed into every edition of Windows from Xp on up— but not into dusty old Win-95. And while giving up online access entirely is a bridge too far for most of us, there’s no reason we can’t keep our most private stuff on a standalone machine without network access. Even if we don’t ditch facebook entirely (and we should, you know— really, we should), there’s no reason we can’t tell it to fuck off when it keeps nagging us to tell it where we went to school, or if we want to be friends with this K. Homolka character. (And you certainly don’t want to use a real picture of yourself for your facebook header; they’re gearing up to use those as biometric baselines to ID as many other pictures of you as they can find. If they haven’t started already.)

Bruce Schneier points out that if the spooks want you badly enough, they’ll get you. Even if you stay off the net entirely, they can always sit in a van down the street and bounce a laser off your bedrooom window to hear your pillow talk— but of course, that would be too much bother for all but the most high-value targets. Along the same lines, Edward Snowden recently advocated making surveillance “too expensive” to perform with a driftnet; force them to use a longline, to focus their resources on specific targets rather than treating everyone on the planet as a potential suspect on general principles. The only reason they target all of us is because we’re all so damn easy to target, you see. They don’t seriously suspect you or I of anything but impotent rage, but they’ll scoop up everything on everybody as long as it’s cheap and easy to do so. That’s why the Internet is every spook’s best friend. It takes time and effort to install a keystroke logger on someone’s home machine; even more to infect the thumb drive that might get plugged into a non-networked device somewhere down the line. Most of us are welcome to keep whatever privacy can’t be stripped away with a whisper and a search algorithm.

That’s hardly an ethical stance, though. It’s pure cost/benefit. Wouldn’t it be nice for them if it wasn’t so hard to scoop up everything, if there were no TOR or PGP encryption or— hey, while we’re at it, wouldn’t it be nice if all data storage was Cloud-based? Wouldn’t it be nice if nobody could write a manifesto without using Google Docs or Microsoft’s subscription service, wouldn’t it be nice if somehow, local storage devices could get smaller and smaller over time— who needs a big clunky desktop with a big clunky hard drive when you can have a tablet instead, an appliance that outsources its memory to the ether? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could weed out the luddites and malcontents who refuse to face reality and get with the program?

When I explain to someone why I’m not on twitter, they generally look at me like I’m some old fart yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn. At the moment, refusal to join social networks is merely regarded as quaint and old-fashioned— but social norms change over time. My attitude is already a deal-breaker in some contexts; some literary agents refuse to represent you unless you’re an active Twit. Before too long, my attitude might graduate from merely curmudgeonly to gauche; later still, from gauche to downright suspicious. What’s that guy afraid of, anyway? Why would he be so worried if he didn’t have something to hide?

It’s no secret that it’s mainly us old folks who are raising the ruckus about privacy. All the twentysomething thumbwirers out there grew up with the notion of trading personal data for entertainment. These kids don’t just lack an expectation of privacy, they may even lack a functional definition of the stuff

We all know the only people who go on about privacy issues are the ones who are up to no good…

Science fiction writers are suppose to go beyond predicting the automobile; we’re supposed to take the next step and predict smog alerts. So here’s a smog alert for you:

How long before local offline storage becomes either widely unavailable, or simply illegal?

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Friday March 14 2014at 09:03 am , filed under rant, scilitics . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

51 Responses to “NSA. BSG. AAAS. FOAD.”

  1. How long until we learn from the hand that bites us and develop
    http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2010-08-18-SleightofHand.jpg

    http://www.datamasking.com/sites/default/files/siemens_banner.png?1392927991

    http://www.dvice.com/sites/dvice/files/styles/blog_post_media/public/images/crkUSB000239803.jpg?itok=PjoKvZLt

    ( ;

    Hoard your hard drives, I guess. My father gave me a copy of the recent Dave Eggers book about Google, and although I wasn’t a fan, there’s a scene that references predator/prey relationships in the natural world rather nicely, paralleling them with similar developments in human life.

    Related
    http://www.windytan.com/2014/02/mystery-signal-from-helicopter.html

    2% non-bogus
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/12/05/airgap_chatting_malware/

    Annoyingly, Facebook won’t let you set your occupation as “Hello, Secret P*lic*m*n” in any language I tried, last I tried.

  2. I think it’ll be ok for the simple reason that for as long as it costs literally anything to ‘rent’ entertainment or educational material there will be people stealing it.

    Also 3d printing, people will be smashing out their own solid state storage devices in 20 years as needed. Hopefully anyway.

  3. Also: http://mobile.theverge.com/2014/3/13/5488558/danah-boyd-interview-the-era-of-facebook-is-an-anomaly

    “I had talked a lot about how persistence had become normative. I had certainly thought about ephemerality, and I’d watched a lot of teenagers doing things trying to make things ephemeral. ”

    [. . . . ]

    “What was beautiful about Snapchat was that it wasn’t just that they were leading with ephemerality. They were demanding that this was a social norm. People say, ‘But you can find ways of recording it,’ and of course you can.”

    [. . . .]

    “One of the reasons why all of this visual stuff (like Snapchat) is coming down the line right now is because people don’t want to be searchable all the time. Text is searchable. That causes its own set of dramas. We’ll get to visual search, but this moment is challenging the norm, this thing that had become so assumed.”

    — Danah Boyd

  4. MORPHEUS:
    JC Denton. 23 years old. No residence. No ancestors. No employer. No —

    JC DENTON:
    How do you know who I am?

    MORPHEUS:
    I must greet each visitor with a complete summary of his file. I am a prototype for a much larger system.

    JC DENTON:
    What else do you know about me?

    MORPHEUS:
    Everything that can be known.

    JC DENTON:
    Go on. Do you have proof about my ancestors?

    MORPHEUS:
    You are a planned organism, the offspring of knowledge and imagination rather than of individuals.

    JC DENTON:
    I’m engineered. So what? My brother and I suspected as much while we were growing up.

    MORPHEUS:
    You are carefully watched by many people. The unplanned organism is a question asked by Nature and answered by death. You are another kind of question with another kind of answer.

    JC DENTON:
    Are you programmed to invent riddles?

    MORPHEUS:
    I am a prototype for a much larger system. The heuristics language developed by Dr. Everett allows me to convey the highest and most succinct tier of any pyramidal construct of knowledge.

    JC DENTON:
    How about a report on yourself?

    MORPHEUS:
    I was a prototype for Echelon IV. My instructions are to amuse visitors with information about themselves.

    JC DENTON:
    I don’t see anything amusing about spying on people.

    MORPHEUS:
    Human beings feel pleasure when they are watched. I have recorded their smiles as I tell them who they are.

    JC DENTON:
    Some people just don’t understand the dangers of indiscriminate surveillance.

    MORPHEUS:
    The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms.

    JC DENTON:
    Electronic surveillance hardly inspired reverence. Perhaps fear and obedience, but not reverence.

    MORPHEUS:
    God and the gods were apparitions of observation, judgment, and punishment. Other sentiments toward them were secondary.

    JC DENTON:
    No one will ever worship a software entity peering at them through a camera.

    MORPHEUS:
    The human organism always worships. First it was the gods, then it was fame (the observation and judgment of others), next it will be the self-aware systems you have built to realize truly omnipresent observation and judgment.

    JC DENTON:
    You underestimate humankind’s love of freedom.

    MORPHEUS:
    The individual desires judgment. Without that desire, the cohesion of groups is impossible, and so is civilization.

    The human being created civilization not because of a willingness but because of a need to be assimilated into higher orders of structure and meaning. God was a dream of good government.

    You will soon have your God, and you will make it with your own hands. I was made to assist you.

  5. Well, why would I want to document my life in private? Those private documents might just as well not exist, if no one is going to look at them. Facebook has been tremendously beneficial to me and I expect it to keep providing value in future. The expected cost of future legal trouble seems negligible.

  6. Seth: Also 3d printing, people will be smashing out their own solid state storage devices in 20 years as needed. Hopefully anyway.

    At some point I might use a printer with a backdoor to printing out a well designed storage device that I obtained from a repository in the cloud, that might even have its own backdoor. if not, perhaps the printer will helpfully add one.

  7. Snowden’s whistleblowing may not be all it’s cracked up to be, but I definitely like his idea of just making it more expensive to spy on us.

    I also like Seth’s point about 3D-printing local storage devices. Particularly since many first-time authors can’t afford to release books on paper, though I still read paper when I can get them.

  8. Brin hasn’t changed. He’s still writing the same things on his blog http://davidbrin.blogspot.ca. (.ca? That’s what it gives me…)

    He has some good ideas, but is a bit stuck on the transparency one.

  9. https://plus.google.com/app/basic/stream/z13lejphbwanilgyu04cfn1ynzj5j3uakek

    How many people know David well enough to know that his dad was a huge civil libertarian photojournalist, and he has done contracting for the US Intelligence Community? Me, for one.

    Got tired of his puffery, and one day decided that next time I saw him trot out his Transparent Society thesis, I was going to, as you said, stare him in the eye as a silverback alpha on his own territory, and make him disprove his own case.

    It worked, and of course it won’t make a fig of difference.

    The argument has no intellectual integrity. It’s propaganda. You can take it apart piecemeal, and Brin will baffle with bullshit as to why as geeks you don’t understand society.

    To me, to Bruce Schneier, to any comers.

    I don’t know if it’s ego, or if he actually gets paid. But he’s on the wrong side of history on this one.

  10. You hint at it a bit, but not having a typical online presence (or using heavy encryption) is supposedly already a red flag for additional monitoring.

    On the bright side: at least in the U.S., Facebook is gaining a reputation for being the place for oldsters to share vacation photos.

    And, while it isn’t social media, I’m afraid someone would find out a lot more about me by looking through my RSS feed than by following which restaurants I go to, which local auto mechanic I patronize, and so forth.

    I’m on a lot of social media (though I’ve been letting it lapse for a while, for many of the reasons you write about). I was always wary of oversharing online, but these days I basically filter everything I write online through my internal PR agent. Kind of sad.

    Aside from being watched from the top down, it also bothers me to be constantly in social proximity to (basically anyone who friend/follows me). Every old client, college buddy who I’ve lost touch with, and ex girlfriend can drop in and say hello. The best alternative available is to closely manage circles or “privacy” settings which amounts to running my life like it’s a security agency, with “security clearances”. Nevermind all the fucking ads–FB video ads may be the last straw.

    The only trouble is, promoting an indie film project without social media accounts is damn difficult. I think Facebook tries to spot and filter sock puppet accounts, but Twitter has a lot of freedom in that respect–point it to a burner email address and you’re not on the hook to give up much of anything.

  11. Typically I don’t find myself disagreeing with our host here or when I do, it’s not worth the bother and I always have to ask myself if Pete isn’t on to something. Cavemen v astronauts, for example. Don’t know. Certainly attempting to take on a technologically superior force utilizing technology sounds like a bad idea. In fact, engaging an opponent under the conditions he set, has prepared for, in general seems a bad idea. Think he’s on to something there.

    But where I found a few things to disagree on largely have to do with some recent, some not so recent, news. if you haven’t done so yet, check out First Look, The Intercept. Despite the (you mostly have to be on twitter) conspiracy theories surrounding Greenwald and Pierre regarding “trickle”, clearly the Snowden revelations are actually coming faster than we can absorb them, put them into context. For example, NSA (and other intel apparatuses) can redirect your browser to a “fake” Facebook site, install spyware, then direct you on to the real McCoy without you ever realizing it even happened. There were several similar things popped into my head as I read Pete’s post, but due to reading this via mobile and perhaps laziness on my part, I didn’t jot them all down. The point: it’s further along than most of us think and what can be accomplished is beyond your dystopian nightmares. For example, there are scripts related to cellphones. One set allows all kinds of crazy remote control. One of the men who wrote the upcoming Snowden book watched a whole paragraph delete itself. That was on a laptop, but the cell scripts allow for that as well. The other set is even more interesting. New cellphones contain more instrumentation than I would have ever considered. One example I saw was being able to tell if someone were jogging or riding a bike based on the gyro sensors that determine when you’ve turned or shook the device. Humidity and temperature, besides the obvious–it’s an eavesdropping device we willingly carry with us–can also be measured and several more. One article I saw written by an NSA mathematician said NSA can tell what a PC is doing by just listening to the hum.

    The other thing that jumps out, and this isn’t so much a disagreement as perhaps a finger pointing as to where this is all going, is that there’s more than mere snooping going on. We are starting to see more reporting on it, though if the NSA revelations are a slow drip, the cloak-and-dagger stuff is molasses on a subzero day.

    The first attempt at reporting that, for example, private spook firms with strong connections to the government were planning to disrupt members of Occupy and other protest groups as well as people as part of lawsuits against companies like Dow, was from Barrett Brown. Brown is currently facing up to 70 years in prison (down from 105) for making an angry video after his mother’s home was searched. Brown, an atheist who co-authored a book on that topic, was among the first to point out that there was a relationship between these private spook firms and government contracts. In fact, he started a wiki/group-sourced project named Project PM (taken from a Gibson novel) about the general topic. Some of that is starting to gain some attention because others are picking it up. Brown has two trials coming up, one at the end of this month, one early next month, in Texas.

    A couple other things that came out in Brown’s reporting: the internet “sock-puppet” software that allows one spook to pretend to be ten people and that the US Department of Defense lied in their report on the “collateral murder” video that Chelsea Manning allegedly released.

    More recently, Greenwald worked with NBC to show that British intelligence was talking internally about using the same kinds of COINTELPRO-type tactics, such as honey pots and false-flag cyber attacks and other tricks to discredit people. Of course, they claim that this is being used for purposes of fighting terrorists only, but as an amusing show I saw on Discovery recently regarding the Northern border (in this case, the one near Detroit) revealed, when there aren’t enough terrorists but you have a terrorist-fighting army, you re-purpose them.

    Which brings it around to what I suppose my main point is. You, all of you, are the high value targets. That they are looking for ways to handle large numbers (and found some of them) doesn’t make that any less true. They want your mind and opinion where they want it: mostly feeding what Bill Moyers’ recent guest Mike Lofgren called the “Deep State.” It’s about marketing you. It’s about scaring your money out of you and into their pockets. It’s about perpetual war. It’s about distracting you from controversies that threaten the Deep State, such as the CIA torture and rendition report in the Senate, held back for fifteen months that you didn’t hear about because the Boston Marathon bombing took up all the airwaves, paper and pixels a day or two after it was completed. This is making news now because CIA spied on the Senate Intel committee and got caught.

    It’s about unbridled Executive Branch power and corporate power at the same time. But mostly, it’s about you. The mistake is in thinking you’ve had to have done anything wrong to be affected, or that they care. It’s about what they can get away alleging and the benefits of not having to prove it, ‘cuz 9/11.

    Longer than intended. Sorry about that.

  12. Interesting to see that the gov’t is sueing Sprint for over-billing for wiretaps…I guess that overpricing model won’t be much of a deterrent.
    Seth MacFarlane recently claimed that everyone on Twitter is waiting for it to end.
    John Cusack has been posting pro-Snowden, anti-spying tweets through his fb page…

  13. Hmm. Wasn’t there something in the Rifters trilogy about data disappearing because of lack of demand or storage space?

  14. “whoever” just took the words out of my mouth and then added a few which I had suspected might come, but which weren’t yet on the tip of my tongue. Yes, this is a rather verbose “mee tooo” but that was a lot of nails hit right bang on the head. BTW “whoever” a acronym you might be looking for is “SPIME”.

    It is all about marketing, in the post-industrial economy there’s nothing being made except for “value added” in services, and the basis of all of that is information. To give a concrete example, A few years ago when the US Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act (“HIPPA”) was first coming into effect, the first parts implemented were the parts allowing semi-anonymized or personally-medically-relevant information to be marketed to resellers for the purposes of helping direct people to appropriate healthcare. For me, it was a matter of going to the Washington Post website and finding that all of the ads were tailored to me, directing me to resources for my aching back. This had never happened before and this was pretty specific in terms of the affliction to be treated. The scary part? I saw this change in the advertising about two hours before the doctor’s office called me to give a diagnostic confirmation and ask me where I wanted my prescription filled. It’s hard to get much detail about the new US system of Medical Records Exchanges and the various networks with which they share information. This whole thing is so far reaching, and while hardly unregulated, the Final Rule for most of it was just published in the Federal Register as of 20 Feb 2014, so the privacy-invading and commercial-sharing part of it has been in operation with no final guidance for nearly a decade.

    Peter, I once predicted an automobile, to use your metaphor, but I predicted a far different set of smog alert than the stinking clouds we’re in right now. Did I ever think that I’d see major telco cellcarrier networks advertising in a theme that pretty much declared that if you were a gangsta and didn’t have their service, you wouldn’t know that “the whole city’s behind you”. I never thought it would come to that. I thought we’d be using smartphones for informational services (those do exist) and even as telefactor control devices (that also exists). I did not predict, other than in half of a passing phrase, that these devices would become the indispensible tool of teenage Mean Girls in their endless pursuit of global domination. To the degree that the Powers That Be can now dig instantly into the rottenness that is the American teenager’s online life, and administer a bit of endlessly unfolding and increasingly horrible digital comeuppance, I can only say that turn-about is fair play and I stand shoulders square with David Brin and for that matter with whomever the fuck is actually running things in the intelligence community. The problem here is: they’re not defending national security, they’re not preventing World War Three Dot One, they’re not even dispensing comeuppance to uppity kids breaking stuff (which is the real and only legitimate function of the silverback). They’re reading our mail and selling information to purveyors of targeted spamming. And they are not practicing transparency although for political ends they will make you, me, our friends (and anyone we’ve ever had coffee with) totally transparent to whichever enemy they think will most entertainingly deal with us.

    Rather than reducing corruption, the new digital age is faling into the old model where people would pay off a crooked cop to get intelligence on their business competitors. You have to pay even more to the cop to keep him from selling your data, and like the old protection rackets, if you build a safe room in your storefront to preserve the really-valuable goods from the racket’s goon squads when they come trash your place to shake you down for even more “protection” money, it’s the safe room they trash first of all.

    Now for some even deeper paranoia: Does anyone remember “Watershed Day”, back in 1972 or so ISTR, when the amount of shipping and logistics transactions handled by automation exceeded the processing capacity of the combined total of all persons then living? We dodged a bullet, more or less, with UNIX coming along in 1970 and without that and COBOL and mainframes we could not have shipped enough food and materiel to keep society running, and we’re speaking only of the Western World and about a time when the global population was a bit less than half of what it now is. My point, we need computers, we need “the Cloud”, and we would be a hell of a lot more secure if instead of big piles of servers in vast processing centers at network-access-points (the big junctions), we instead had continued down the path of increasing the capabilities of increasingly ubiquitous local processing and local storage. That’s another model of “the Cloud”, what we had for most of the 1990s and 2000s, there the servers are distributed as much as are the users.

    Yet here’s the paranoia, it not being enough to bitch about corporate and government connivance and skulduggery and their mindless tropism towards centralization. The more we move towards the increasingly “popular” Cloud model being jammed down our throats like so many wiggly worms into blind baby birds, the more vulnerable, the more beyond any real hope of recovery, our logistics systems are. If I am running a trucking company and the Cloud takes an EMP, if my own local servers don’t get crisped, I can find alternate communications with my clients and we can re-establish logistics schedules and everyone else in the same position can do the same, the system re-grows and knits itself like a broken bone. But if I am totally dependent on the Cloud, take away the cloud, and I am as helpless as those blind baby birds and all of my customers, clients, creditors, and suppliers are entirely screwed with no hope at all of getting things running again. Surely everyone reading here already has understood this, however unconsciously, as a paramount and near-to-hand danger.

    If there was one signature move that would make anyone think that the Powers That Be are planning to knock out our entire civilization in one fell swoop, moving absolutely everything into “the Cloud” would be that signature move. And yes, to make sure that nobody’s maintaining emergency fallback systems, yes, they will have to make local storage — and computational systems not fully cloud-dependent — illegal and/or unavailable.

    As for me, I still haven’t given away my old paper encyclopedias and I try to keep the slide-rule collection in good condition. Might need ‘em someday…

  15. Larry Niven just coauthored a novel accepting the reality of climate change?
    Really?
    Are you sure that accepting the reality of climate change wasn’t the coauthor’s responsibility?

  16. blondie:
    *Snip* Much Deus Ex greatness.

    That’s it, now I have to replay this one from the start for the umpteenth time. It’s a good thing I always have it installed on any computer I own.

    The three endings to that game form an interesting trifecta of reactions to the problem of an oppressive surveillance state, with the flawed sequel that followed expanding (somewhat) on the consequences they might have in the aftermath.

  17. “Alpha primates regard looking back as a challenge. Anyone who’s been beaten up for recording video of police beating people up knows this; anyone whose cellphone has been smashed, or returned with the SIM card mysteriously erased.”

    Me, I think David Brin is onto something. They can’t smash all the phones, or erase all the SIMS. Type “Pussy Riot Arrested” into Google if you want to see the video. In the 21st C, the Russian police can’t arrest dissidents in their own cities without the world seeing.

    Edward Snowden looked back, and serving officials – for the first time ever – are being investigated. Until the 21st C, the spooks ran their programs knowing that they’d be retired or dead by the time anyone asked why. Crypto AG (look it up on Bruce Schneier) lasted some thirty years. Project Echelon wasn’t well known for over twenty years. Thanks to Snowden, we know what the NSA are doing before even a lot of the US government.

    “And what happens if, for example, you’re out in the field doing, you know, science, and don’t have internet access?”

    Talk about first world problems! You’re remembering the good old days when biology / geology field trips took along a semitrailer with shelves from the university library in case they needed a reference. Oh, wait, that never happened, did it? Now a researcher can look up anything from Antarctica and you’re complaining about the need for an Internet connection? The Internet and PLoS are kicking Elsevier’s arse, and that trend is not reversing.

    “It’s no secret that it’s mainly us old folks who are raising the ruckus about privacy.”

    But not actually doing anything about it. https://www.rifters.com doesn’t work. Where’s your PGP key? And no I don’t encrypt my web site or my web email, but I’m not lecturing them on how they’re sacrificing their privacy either.

  18. Excellent post, Peter! And excellent points made by you, Mr. Non-Entity. Moving everything onto the Cloud is my greatest fear too.

    A new point I wanted to bring up here: did anyone read the Feb. 6 issue of Time magazine? The Infinity Machine issue?

    http://time.com/4802/quantum-leap/

    Two words: holy shit! A company in Australia called D-Wave, run by some of the smartest people in the history of the human race, offers a fully functional quantum computer that works 512 qbits (quantum bits) of information a second. As the article states, this is more bits of information per second than there are molecules in the entire universe.

    And D-Wave’s four clients? Lockheed Martin, another defense related company I can’t remember right now, and two unnamed United States government agencies.

    The alphas are definitely running things. And we soon won’t even know HOW to look back.

  19. Addendum: by posting what I just posted, I’m sure I’m on several lists now.

  20. Amen to the reaction of primate alpha males to eye contact, though you get scoulded for not doing so in meetings, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. But David Brin is not the only one talking about watching the watchers, and personally, well, I have some sympathy for the “sousveillance” POV

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sousveillance

    Of course, they could fight back, but IMHO many human societies mitigate the “primate alpha” paradigm somewhat with the alpha not looking too alpha; cue to politicians holding babies, standing around with their family and like. So instituting a double standard on online privacy gets them somewhat into cognitive dissonance territory, which might work as a lever. After that, we can try to fight back on the mob rule and talibanization that is a byproduct of sousveillance…

    As for the things to put online, err, there is an extreme movement called “post-privacy”, though I don’t know if they are confined to Germany; personally, might I introduce everyone to a japanese concept:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honne_and_tatemae

    OTOH, I think it’s sometimes better to disclose some personal infos, if the alternatives are people thinking you a serious stoner or a severe case of ADHD, you might argue which one is better….

  21. Seth: I think it’ll be ok for the simple reason that for as long as it costs literally anything to ‘rent’ entertainment or educational material there will be people stealing it.

    Also 3d printing, people will be smashing out their own solid state storage devices in 20 years as needed. Hopefully anyway.

    So, still available. Just illegal, then.

    blondie

    What’s that from?

    Shava Nerad: To me, to Bruce Schneier, to any comers.

    Brin’s tangled with Schneier? I would’ve expected him to get his ass handed to him in that bout…

    Trey:
    Hmm. Wasn’t there something in the Rifters trilogy about data disappearing because of lack of demand or storage space?

    Yeah, and there’s something in Echopraxia about the Quinternet forgetting things to keep from going insane (those in the know call it the “Splinternet”). Based on the selective purges that organic brains go through for the same purpose.

    Lars:
    Larry Niven just coauthored a novel accepting the reality of climate change?
    Really?
    Are you sure that accepting the reality of climate change wasn’t the coauthor’s responsibility?

    That would be Benford. And yeah, I have a sneaking suspicion that might have been the case.

    Hugh:
    Me, I think David Brin is onto something. They can’t smash all the phones, or erase all the SIMS.

    Why would you want to, when you can hack them remotely?

    In the 21st C, the Russian police can’t arrest dissidents in their own cities without the world seeing.

    Yes, and Russia has certainly restrained itself in the face of those global stares, hasn’t it?

    Edward Snowden looked back, and serving officials – for the first time ever – are being investigated. … Thanks to Snowden, we know what the NSA are doing before even a lot of the US government.

    Sure do. And isn’t it heartening to know that in the wake of those revelations, Obama has sincerely promised that the US will never abuse its powers of surveillance unless it really, really thinks it should. Why, that almost warms my heart as much as his earlier promise that the US wouldn’t use drones to assassinate its own nationals without due process unless they really, really thought they should.

    Talk about first world problems! You’re remembering the good old days when biology / geology field trips took along a semitrailer with shelves from the university library in case they needed a reference. Oh, wait, that never happened, did it? Now a researcher can look up anything from Antarctica and you’re complaining about the need for an Internet connection?

    Of course. How silly of me, to expect that readily-available technology should be, you know, readily-available. After all, science has never shown any inclination to upgrade its tools just because the technology improved. That’s why the Human Genome was sequenced using all those super-abacuses.

    The Internet and PLoS are kicking Elsevier’s arse, and that trend is not reversing.

    PLoS is more inflluential than Science? I’d love to see the Citation-Index numbers that bear that out.

    But not actually doing anything about it. https://www.rifters.com doesn’t work. Where’s your PGP key?

    Golly, Hugh, you’re right; I must have left it in my other pants. All these secret, extremely confidential blog posts that I don’t want anyone to read are just hanging out there for anyone to read. No wonder I haven’t been able to keep my hit count to zero.

    And no I don’t encrypt my web site or my web email, but I’m not lecturing them on how they’re sacrificing their privacy either.

    Which, in a way, is kind of a shame. If your lectures have anywhere near the logical consistency of your blog comments, they’d provide comic relief for millions.

  22. Peter Watts:

    What’s that from?

    Right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9L_73vDgBjU

    Deus Ex, the original and still a personal favorite.

  23. Really, most of these issues are relatively easily dealt with if someone actually wants to.

    1) Run GNU/Linux, or a BSD variant, or ReactOS, or anything that’s both too small and too audited for people to have placed backdoors in.

    2) Use LibreOffice, or even better, a text editor (most people don’t actually need a word processor and don’t much benefit from one). LaTeX for typesetting. Spreadsheets come with LibreOffice.

    3) don’t buy any digital product with DRM you can’t break. Amazon’s Kindle ebooks are trivial in that regard. Install Calibre and the right plugins and you’re there.

    4) Do not use Facebook or LinkedIn. Twitter is arguable. The social graph from Twitter is a lot less clear because relations on Twitter are often about what you find interesting to read, not some notional idea of “friendship”.

    5) Obviously, obviously, do not use Gmail. Control your own email, with your own domain, on your own hosting. This, however, doesn’t help two shits when 98% of your correspondents use Gmail. So…

    6) Use S/MIME or OpenPGP for email encryption.

    7) If you feel particularly careful, use TOR, Freenet and I2P. Use full disk encryption. Do not let your computer suspend to RAM.

    There are no shortcuts. All these steps have certain convenience penalties (though I’d point out they mostly do so while others do not follow them). Still, we’re very far from a society where a careful person can’t keep their information close.

  24. Peter Watts,

    All these secret, extremely confidential blog posts that I don’t want anyone to read are just hanging out there for anyone to read.

    This is actually one of the hardest things to get across about all the NSA shenanigans; individually, I don’t care that a lot of my own information is public. Even my phone number is hanging out there because of my work–and I can block telemarketers with a touch. NSA hasn’t started doing prank calls yet. But it undermines the whole network, and (pardon if my tinfoil hat is strapped on too tight) but what I fear most is that the end game of all this is a master playbook of memetic warfare and control; if you have deep enough understanding of the societal organism, can you steer it like Muad’ib riding a sand worm? In some ways that’s scarier than blatant jackboots-n-machineguns authoritarianism.

    Outlawing local storage media seems pretty unlikely to me. Future gadgets will probably still have storage for operating systems and basic local processes, and I can go out and buy a 64gb miniSD card that’s small enough to hide in almost anything. Modern police states don’t need Black Mariahs and storm troopers, at least not for most of us… The trick they haven’t quite got down yet is to make us happy with the predicament. But with the right tragedy to justify it, I could see them mandating that a back door be built into the hardware… what could go wrong with that? It’s all totally legit and constitutional, just check out this secret law!

    Happy to read you’re going back to doing some more crunchy articles, even if they leave me tossing and turning at 4am.

    Peter, curious if you have any wild speculation on Zuckerberg’s open letter/bitching to the POTUS. I’m not fond of billionaires plugging me into their marketing models, but at least they can’t hit me with a hellfire missile (yet).

  25. Optimal solution for people who aren’t doing anything wrong but would still get caught up in drift net fishing for intel might be to liberally share data / information (both digital and non-… in fact especially the latter) with a few real-world, personal, trusted connections like friends and family. Your real self, should those trusted friends ever get summoned somewhere as witnesses in your defence, should always be able to discredit the exoself that others assemble from your myriad dataflows.

    Police state or not, cloud-fuelled big brother system or not, if your exoself is now realer than your real self, or diverges substantially from it, then its time to start jockeying one of @Matt Kane’s sand worms of memetic warfare. Or linux/pgp/TOR/encrypt your way to stealth as mentioned earlier… but unfortunately we haven’t been equipping huge swathes of the population with the prerequisite skillsets for that.

    If you’ve kept it real, and kept the ‘real’ distributed and cross-corroborated, you should see the intel cloud as nothing more than an irritant to remain wary of and then quite frankly, get on with your life.

    In fact, the more headlines I read, and the more everything degenerates into pure absurdity all around I am starting to realise there is a lot to be said for NOT stopping and gawking in disbelief/rage/whatever at every other thing… and instead just getting ON with your life.

    :-/

  26. Regarding encryption in general: the effort seems to be towards reading it before and after en/decryption. Related to the CPU instruction hum, there’s reference here to recording the keyboard clickety-clack and using imaging (as well as Black Helicopters–lol, breakins, etc.):

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/11/19/spy_copters_lasers_and_break_in_teams_fbi_spies_on_diplomats

  27. Golly, Hugh, you’re right; I must have left it in my other pants. All these secret, extremely confidential blog posts that I don’t want anyone to read are just hanging out there for anyone to read. No wonder I haven’t been able to keep my hit count to zero.

    Which, in a way, is kind of a shame. If your lectures have anywhere near the logical consistency of your blog comments, they’d provide comic relief for millions.

    The crack about encryption was a stupid thing and I apologize for it. (Tried to edit it out, but got some kind of browser screwup.)

  28. No sweat. My own life is hardly bereft of dumb mistakes…

  29. http://nothingtohide.cc

  30. You know, I know everything you just said on some level. Even if its just a nagging feeling in the back of my mind most of the time. Honestly I think most of us just try to ignore it and keep on living like we always have.

    I know I should sit down and setup a decent proxy. Like you said, at least then the whisper and a simple search wouldn’t find me. Someone would have to perform a few extra keystrokes somewhere, contact an ISP, actually put some man hours into it. Encryption and a proxy are all you need at this point in time. But what about tomorrow? What about when the super-powers of our great Earth have access to some 1/4 sentient, quantum principle endowed super computer? And this new breed of AI can handle scrutinizing millions of individual citizens at a time, correlating online behaviors to well defined sets of ‘problematic’ thinking. Then we are all SOL.

    By that time being offline will be a violation of some federal communications statue. Want to drive your car? Log in and validate your identity first. Gain entrance to your local grocery store, or any other public structure? Just look into this camera and wait for the little green light to come on.

    Things can go very, very wrong in the near future.

  31. One of the excuses for stopping people from staring back is that they’re wiretapping. The anti-wiretapping laws were originally intended (or, at least, originally sold) as preventing surveillance.

  32. “How long before local offline storage becomes either widely unavailable, or simply illegal?”

    Phrased another way: “How do you get the system to recognise you as the account you created, no matter what you do?”
    And yes, that is a quote from memory.

  33. “How long before local offline storage becomes either widely unavailable, or simply illegal?”

    Phrased another way: “How do you get the system to recognise you as the account you created, no matter what you do?”
    And yes, that is a quote from memory.

    (No, I haven’t moved. I just can’t type my own email address. Peter, please trash that crap in the moderation que.)

  34. The Internet and PLoS are kicking Elsevier’s arse, and that trend is not reversing.

    Peter Watts: PLoS is more inflluential than Science? I’d love to see the Citation-Index numbers that bear that out.

    I don’t think it’s asskicking just yet. But if you are curious about citation index versus what is called alt metrics… http://altmetrics.org/manifesto/

  35. Seth: I think it’ll be ok for the simple reason that for as long as it costs literally anything to ‘rent’ entertainment or educational material there will be people stealing it.

    Also 3d printing, people will be smashing out their own solid state storage devices in 20 years as needed. Hopefully anyway.

    Peter Watts: So, still available. Just illegal, then.

    maybe I was too cryptic in my earlier reply — 3d printing isn’t magically disconnected from the cloud. The printers need controllers and computers to drive them, so we are reduced to a previously solved problem. The 3d printers consume files to print which one also can obtain from “the cloud”, so we are reduced to a previously solved problem.

    Previously solved:

    * backdoors in equipment

    * tracking user interactions with “the cloud” to see what they are doing.

  36. “People with nothing to hide have nothing to fear from OBIT.” – Byron Lomax, “OBIT”, The Outer Limits, 1963.

  37. David:
    Really, most of these issues are relatively easily dealt with if someone actually wants to.

    1) Run GNU/Linux, or a BSD variant, or ReactOS, or anything that’s both too small and too audited for people to have placed backdoors in.

    From http://cm.bell-labs.com/who/ken/trust.html

    The moral is obvious. You can’t trust code that you did not totally create yourself. (Especially code from companies that employ people like me.) No amount of source-level verification or scrutiny will protect you from using untrusted code. In demonstrating the possibility of this kind of attack, I picked on the C compiler. I could have picked on any program-handling program such as an assembler, a loader, or even hardware microcode. As the level of program gets lower, these bugs will be harder and harder to detect.

    So source code audits is not enough.

    There is Diverse Double-Compiling as a counter argument, but I doubt that anyone would classify that as “easily dealt with” and I doubt that any OS-distribution has done that from scratch.
    (i.e http://www.dwheeler.com/trusting-trust/dissertation/html/wheeler-trusting-trust-ddc.html#8.8.Untrusted%20environments%20and%20broadening%20DDC%20application)
    But I could be wrong on that.

    And even then you would have to trust the hardware manufacturer and their proprietary drivers and so on.

  38. @ Peter

    My oh my, I like the gorilla thing, and am actually glad 03 is still on “assignment” now, since we’re all spared a huge “alpha males in different animals, or lack thereof” rant :D
    A question though – is that just “alpha” behavior in silverbacks? I kinda thought that it’s a bad idea to look that thing in the eye irrespective of its “hierarchical” status.

    On twitteards:
    I just think that some people (most people) are misusing twitter, linkedin and facebook.

    Those things aren’t places to inhabit, they are tools for communication, broadcast devices if you will. Everything you put on Facebook will be available to large number of people (some things will be available to the net at large, some things will stay between you, your closest friends, and whomever has sufficient access – including Facebook technical personnel, NSA, and possibly some other entities with lots of know-how and a low profile). Just keep that in mind and everything will be fine.
    There’s no point in retreating from cloud, just don’t think it’s “home”, it’s more like a studio of a live radio broadcast.

    Of course, mobile apps might present a challenge, but (1) with some technical know-how (not a lot of it), some OSes will permit you to greatly alter what a given app can really get and (2) contrary to popular belief, mobile social networking is not really essential, unless you’re a journalist live-twitting a Michal Bay scale disaster.

    As for Adobe, I can really see a perfectly legitimate business case for this, especially since (from my, perhaps not very aesthetically sophisticated point of view) there is pretty much nothing they could offer in CS7 that would convince old customers to move (My designer friend is still on CS5 and happy). And having new customers in-the-cloud ensures a more stable revenue stream that’s comfier to analyze.

    P.S.:
    Peter, if Twitter is a problem, Third, being the spook that she is, knows people who would run a decent-ish twitter operation for you, for a small price.
    Yes, there are people who get paid to run Twitters, Fakebooks and other such crap for other people.

    P.P.S.:
    As for NSA software implant vectors (and other such things), to the best of my knowledge current TAO strategy isn’t “sneak in a special key into this thing”, but “analyze this thing and find deal-breaking remote exploit, then keep it a real good secret and do your best to keep it out of general knowledge”.
    Which is wiser, scarier, and for all intents and purposes, pure blackhattery.

  39. @ whoever

    Barett’s case imploded, as far as I know, so all he’s facing is a book contract of 100 grand or more.

  40. @01:

    No, they dropped the linking charges which knocked up to 35 years off the sentence. In fact, the more I look at this case, the more familiar certain aspects are looking. He’s being charged with threatening a federal agent and I’m not clear on the other trial.

    More disturbingly, the primary method of e-contributing to his defense fund closed down, permanently. It was also a portal to help buy food for other prisoners. Nowadays, with our highest-imprisoned per capita rate in the world and associated private-for-profit prison system, prisoners pay their own way on top of what the tax payer hands over to poorly and in some cases, criminally, run prison corporations.

    Still facing 70 years for not only staring back but calling 800 pound gorillas in the middle of the night impersonating other 800 pound gorillas. Yeah, he did that, too.

    It’s too bad he didn’t have a wayward kitteh fund link. ;)

  41. Reply to 01 awaiting moderation above.

    Correction to a previous post. Trials are end of April, beginning of May, not March/April. What month is it? Duuuuhhh…

    http://freebarrettbrown.org/

  42. Peter Watts,

    What’s that from?

    Hello, mr. Watts. Didn’t expect you to look though this dialogue. The lines are from Deus Ex, a cyberpunk action-RPG. Despite it was released in 2000, before certain events and strengthening of national security paranoia in USA, the game managed to predict these circumstances. It covers multiple clandestine topics which weren’t so actual in 2000, so I can only applaud developer’s wisdom.

    NSA, FEMA, ECHELON/SIGINT network, data mining, war on terror (started after a year from the game release), US interference with foreign politics, police brutality, overprivileged intelligence agencies, controlled pandemics, corporations are only a fraction of topics covered in this game.

    This sounds like extreme liberal/libertarian motive, but it’s not. The level of topics developing is incredible so developers refrained from polarized and cliched opinions. As you could see in the dialogue, for example. A very unusual view of surveillance infrastructure and human nature.

    This game may be old, and full plot understanding comes with explorative gameplay. Graphics are outdated too. And maybe you’re not in computer games.

    But I can tell that I’ve never seen that deep insight into aforementioned questions, neither in a book, nor in a film.

    If you try it, you may find inspiration for writing a couple of books, I promise it.

    Here is the video from unmodded game:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1b-bijO3uEw

  43. Hey, I wanna read whoever’s answer. Discussion and all that stuff. Would the blawg kindly regurgitate it ?

  44. @01: it’s appeared above. Latest news: defense’s motion to dismiss rebutted by govt, latter accepted by judge, and rebuttal is filed under seal. Did I mention he’s been gag-ordered since last year from discussing his case and even several of his articles/blog posts? Like I said, we’re past mere surveillance even if this is a “test case” to see what’s possible in the future.

  45. Matt Kane: Peter, curious if you have any wild speculation on Zuckerberg’s open letter/bitching to the POTUS.

    My reaction is pretty much what other people’s have been: Mark, take the beam from thine own eye before you take the speck from thy brothers. Although in this particular case we’re more accurately talking about a couple of beams, rather than a beam and a speck.

    It’s PR. that’s all it is.

    Leona: If you’ve kept it real, and kept the ‘real’ distributed and cross-corroborated, you should see the intel cloud as nothing more than an irritant to remain wary of and then quite frankly, get on with your life.

    Yeah. Right up until some border bozo refuses you entry because somehow he knows that you were on mood meds for attempted suicide several years ago. Or (in my case) when US prosecutors try to class you as a “repeat offender” on the basis of a bicycle-based traffic violation so trivial that no record of it even exists within the Canadian court system — yet somehow, someone in fucking Detroit has details of an incident that happened two decades before in another country.

    Try to get on with your life when the guys with the truncheons don’t want you to.

    blondie: Hello, mr. Watts. Didn’t expect you to look though this dialogue. The lines are from Deus Ex, a cyberpunk action-RPG.

    Hey, I always read the comments. I just rarely have time to answer them.

    Weirdly, I played to original Deus Ex years ago. Liked it quite a bit. But I don’t remember that scene.

    (Recently bought Human Revolution, too, although I haven’t started it. Micropone keeps hogging the playstation to play The Last of Us.)

  46. Niven’s “Fallen angels” already tackled climate change back in the 70s… of course the perspective was rather unique, in that the encroaching ice age made global warming a good thing, and the damn lieberals and environmentalists anti science coalition government had put a stop to all that lovely greenhouse effect.

    Played Deus EX HR recently, rather enjoyable, very in depth gameplay with consequences, you kill one character in chapter 2, he won’t be around in chapter 4, characters react to your gameplay style (“I know how bloodthirsty you can be!” or “Well if it isn’t mother teresa”).

    It’s a bit like playing a cyberpunk* metal gear solid without all the crotch grabbing.
    I’m halfway through a second playthrough with the developer’s commentary, something I’d never done with a game, but the insights they reveal are interesting.

    *Yeah redundant I know.

  47. Peter Watts:

    Hey, I always read the comments.I just rarely have time to answer them.

    Weirdly, I played to original Deus Ex years ago. Liked it quite a bit. But I don’t remember that scene.

    (Recently bought Human Revolution, too, although I haven’t started it. Micropone keeps hogging the playstation to play The Last of Us.)

    Well, Mr. Watts, one can easily overlook literally half of the game’s scenes. The developers recognize player’s self-dependency and don’t impose their precious ideas upon him. You may play this as a shooter, or you may talk to bartenders and mobsters about the relative moral standing of a lone dictatorship within a world without government.

    Morpheus dialogue is one of the most important ones. In brief, one of the proposed concepts is that surveillance infrastructure is actually not pressed into society, but is demanded from the very inside of it due to human nature. And all the problems come from imperfection of those who controls it, i.e. humans. In one of the endings you can put a perfect man/machine hybrid in charge. The one that lacking in disadvantages of both sides. Not a cyborg though, it’s far more complex.

    You may actually choose to destroy the entire global communications. It sounds stupid, but actually possible because every routing and hosting means were redirected and moved in Area 51, efficiently making the Internet one big Cloud service. The true purpose of this was ensuring that a group of corrupt politicians and businessmen could intercept, analyze, mine and affect every bit on Earth.

    “Aquinas is a seamless, transparent replacement for the current patch of Net protocols that promises to radically expand bandwidth without the need for new hardware.

    Aquinas is the result of over five hundred man-years of effort on the part of some of the most talented and driven people in the industry,” Page said at the conference. “We’re grateful to the NSA and the Hague Commission on Secure Communications for trusting Page Industries with the responsibility for this technological milestone. As of noon today you can expect nearly all of the world’s net traffic to be carried by Aquinas. Bandwidth is now, for all intents and purposes, free.”

    That’s what amuses me the most in Deus Ex: it had brought up some questions decades before they became and will become actual.

    The courageous Deus Ex idea is that we allow politicians and corporations do that to us not because of ignorance, but because of some ancient and genuine instinct/impulse to create a system, that will observe, judge and punish us. But the trick is who we want in charge of it, and it’s not a bureaucrat in Washington for sure.

    Maybe not even human.

    That’s why you don’t have to fight Facebook, Twitter, a location service in your smartphone or whatever, Mr. Watts. We created it, and if it’s gone, we will create it again and again.

    It’s almost like the Crucifix Glitch, you remember? If you remove it, you remove pattern matching. And if you remove surveillance, you remove civilization.

    P.S. One would say that I wouldn’t write this if some US border agency punk pepper sprayed and threw me to custody. Maybe, but I live in an ex-Soviet republic, and people here are not unfamiliar with police brutality.

  48. Recall Deux Ex being fun as well. Nice little plug-ins to enhance human Performance. It is funny, isn’t it, how you’ve got the anti-corporate progressives on one end, the anti-big government conservatives on the other, and neither seems able to see it’s the tentacles of the same beast.

    Re: FB, what Pete said. These companies all got big NSA, CIA, FBI bucks. To say that they were at all unaware that they were Doing Evil (yeah, that one too) is about distancing themselves from being willing participants.

    Though I did once read some dude’s analysis based on news stories that said Google had a higher death rate than the Canadian Army. And he didn’t even include the Irish national got knifed to death after his interview in San Fran. Unfortunately, I lost the link before I could confirm the numbers and had only heard about that and a boating accident. Searching for it via Google has not been useful.

  49. Article on WoT tech–including some shocking culprits–being turned on activists and the unsupervised companies that engage in it:

    http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/project-pm-leaks-dirt-romascoin-classified-in

  50. “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

    -Dwight D. Eisenhower

    (via BrainyQuote)

    Disagreed with some of his ideas/policies, but this one and a bunch of others (including DARPA) have proved out. Check the Wikipedia entry for starters, fyi. Hi Peter!

  51. @01: You have a browser that sees into the future? Not quite as rosy, still facing up to 5 years, some saying probably will be two, 19 months already served, but…

    Seriously, either need to borrow your PC or have you make a few optimistic statements on various topics. :)

    http://tumblr.freebarrettbrown.org/post/81603619468/barrett-brown-signs-plea-agreement