Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]
Apparently the bastards are still at it. Today the Guardian broke new ground in the pervasive Internet and telecom surveillance story by reporting that the British intelligence agency GCHQ has been up to the same activities as the US’s National Security Agency.
In short, they are lifting huge sums of information directly from the core fiber bundles that pass Internet and telephonic information. This implicates more than metadata. When the AP re-broke the same news concerning the NSA over the weekend, I specifically stated that the idea that we enjoy even a modicum of Internet privacy is utterly false, and our prior focus on PRISM was essentially the media falling on its own canard.
However, what wasn’t clear at that time was how many different sets of hands are outstretched to snag your Internet traffic and phone communications, and how many sets of eyes might have access to that information.
The answer is more than troubling, and we only have a partial set of data. From the Guardian this morning concerning GCHQ’s work:
By 2010, two years after the project was first trialled, it was able to boast it had the “biggest internet access” of any member of the Five Eyes electronic eavesdropping alliance, comprising the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Meet the new NATO.
Add into the mix that other nations with large cyber capabilities – China, for one – are also engaged in finding out as much as they can, and you have at least a half dozen countries firmly engaged in widespread surveillance.
It would have been sufficiently egregious for any one country to take on the onus of collecting every individuals’ activity, both Internet and phone. However, it appears that there has been a friendly digital armsrace among Western governments to toss their widebrims into the pervasive surveillance ring.
This is a disgrace.
That said, the current situation is a bit simple: We have no digital privacy, and would like some, please. I am no great technologist, and do not have a solution to offer. I can, however, say that the person who offers me functional protection from constant surveillance will have myself as a first customer.
I’d happily double my Internet bill for privacy. And I think that you would too.
However, in the interim, numerous governments likely have your porn habits stored on their computers. The British government treats email to and from information as metadata that it can mine, and so forth. The only real consolation prize in this is the simple fact that we are almost to a one massively boring, and thus the job of abusing our privacy must be quite the dull activity.
That said, legal bastardization of founding documents alone, we as humans have a fundamental right to privacy of thought and the current surveillance activities cut at that; if you cannot research, discuss, and write privately, you will research, discuss and write differently.
And unlike the Apple slogan this Think Different isn’t good.
At the current moment in technology, truly transformational companies are exceptionally rare. In the age when cohorts of large tech companies are racing to best each other to replace a dying RSS reader, you know that the innovation wheel is well gummed.
The Internet changed the way we think and interact. Now we need to change the Internet to bring it back to its original promise as a tool of emancipation and free exchange, and not a foe of privacy.
Top Image Credit: Matthew
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