august on Sat, 26 Oct 2013 15:23:15 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> John Naughton: Edward Snowden: public indifference is the real

> Original to:
>     John Naughton
>     The Observer, Sunday 20 October 2013
> Edward Snowden: public indifference is the real enemy in the NSA affair
> Most people don't seem to worry that government agencies are collecting
> their personal data. Is it ignorance or apathy?


Interesting article.  Thanks for posting.

Is there a real reason to be more worried that the government
agencies are collecting personal data when equally or more powerful
institutions such as Google, Apple, and Facebook (who are lacking
almost completely in any publicly democratic structure or input) are
the main arbiters of this kind of actuarial surveillance?

Not really, I think.

Is there a real technical reason to have the kind of private
centralized electronic communication spaces on the WWW that have been
carved out of the decentralized and public internet by 'industry'.

No, not really, I think. But, do we see the 'professional peers' or
academics (who previously built the internet up and until the web)
stepping up? Not really.

What's more is, the people who really need to keep their data or
conversations a secret from the US government - I don't know say
Angela Merkel, drug dealers, paedophiles, journalists, activists, etc
- should learn to use the existing tools to do so. The smart ones do

But, do we see normal users turning to the existing alternative
communication spaces and tools (that are often less-convenient or
require more of users)? No, not really.

Even so, I don't think it is really important that individuals are
targeted or perhaps even marketed. That would be a policy issue. The
collection of the data _by private parties_ is itself is the danger -
turning data into private property into information into power.

I really see a long road ahead. Unless users decide, as some have
suggested, that they can cope ( they don't care, or decide that
knowing what's going on is good enough to set them free?), the only
way forward that I see is to build a public infrastructure (like
public schools, public highways, public parks etc). That is, if I am
not mistaken, the exact challenge that the internet engineering task
force met when they circumvented the closed gardens of the old telcos.

The current challenge, however, is first cultural, economic and
political, then technical. Unless we can set aside some institutional
support to build public electronic infrastructures that cater to users
without the data surveillance and without major pressure from industry
(again, like the internet), then we won't even get a chance to meet
the technical challenge. Under current cultural momentum, this is
unlikely to happen at the government or the University level (like it
did with the Internet). Nor is it likely in the so-called free-market.

This is not to say that the technical challenge is not great. It is.
The WWW, where the vast majority of online communication happens and
where these centralized vortexes have been established, is _worlds_
more complex than the internet that provides its transport. I'm not
talking about the protocols and standards - which now that 2 of the
3 major browser vendors are free software - is mostly irrelevant.
I'm talking about the entire space of the WWW: the software, data
stores, API's, etc. Getting user data out of these private centralized
networks is not just an engineering problem.


#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact: