"We need to get this SNAFU under control rapidly".
September 10, 2012 10:59 PM   Subscribe

My fellow Oceanians, you know we've always been at war with Eurasia
(Or is it Eastasia?) Either way it's war and we need division to wage it
But now the proles are connecting online bypassing these illusory divisions
Of race, religion and nationality (Sounds grand to me?!) It's a catastrophe!

Rap News (previously) analyzes the ongoing struggle of civil liberties in the Internet Age.
Will it remain the one open frequency where humanity can bypass filters and barriers, or become the greatest spying machine ever imagined?

posted by dunkadunc (30 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yo, I thought this country was based upon freedom of speech
Freedom of press, freedom of your own religion To make your own decision,
now that's baloney 'Cause if I gotta play by your rules, I'm being phony

posted by j03 at 11:18 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


In before "why can't it be both?"

Srsly, spying implies privileged information.
posted by poe at 11:48 PM on September 10, 2012


These young men have long and illustrious careers ahead of them. George Torwell rapping? Brilliant.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:58 PM on September 10, 2012


As poe said, if you want free posting of info on the internet, you can't complain whose reading it. That's not to say that there isn't overboard copyright legislation, but if you put a page up, how can you complain?

Communications are another story--FISA needs to be followed every time.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:02 AM on September 11, 2012


great, smart piece.

nobody's complaining about the nsa reading their blog - the issue is surveilling your comings and goings, your social connections, your interests, your personality. there's no longer a meaningful distinction between "information" and "identity" - your cell phone is your blog, your facebook, your gps, and contains information, or can be parsed to yield information, about everything you and your friends do all day long. they probably shouldn't use the word "spying", because that sounds like government-on-government action. what're threatened are privacy, anonymity, and self-control/autonomy.
posted by facetious at 12:17 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've been thinking about this for a while now. When the Internet first started up, governments didn't get the implications it had. People did: it became a hugely powerful tool.

It's only now, twenty years down the line, that governments have gotten wise. They're doing their damndest to stuff the genie back in the bottle, or at least twist the network so it serves their goals. They do NOT want truly free communication, they do not want empowered people. They want oligarchy.

If you aren't using TOR, you might as well be jumping up and down waving flags.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:20 AM on September 11, 2012


If you are using TOR, you are in fact jumping up and down waving flags.
posted by effugas at 12:52 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


The slavers can't win it on the technology fight. The only approach will be to legally decimate the population until they give up.

So TOR and non-TOR users get in line. Nobody cares.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 1:06 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thing that always bugged me about Orwell's 1984 was Room 101, where Winston and Julia are threatened by having rats eat their faces. To me, this was cruel and inhuman treatment of rats, who had no real stake in the political situation. Slave rats, they were, made to eat faces for someone else's bidding.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:17 AM on September 11, 2012


If you aren't using TOR, you might as well be jumping up and down waving flags.

And, just like actual jumping up and down waving flags, no one really gives a shit about this harmless activity*.

Don't get me wrong, I think the current privacy laws that have been proposed here in Aus are total shite - and "if you're not doing anything wrong you don't have anything to worry about" is a poor defense.

However, it may be shitty as a defense, but it is largely the reality for most Australians, and most of the world - so they don't seem to care overmuch.

I do find it interesting - pro-surveillance/anti-anonymity people always talk about the pedos and terrorists on the internet like there's no one else on it. Anti-surveillance/pro anonymity people always talk about gusty freedom fighters and upstanding citizens on the internet like that's all there is.

It was only a week ago that there was a post on the blue highlight the horrible abuse, harrassment and stalking enabled by celebrities on Twitter and their largely anonymous followers. In addition to freedom-fighters, I see a lot (let's be honest here, probably more) bullies and criminals using anonymity on the internet to hurt people. In comparison to real-life, this obfuscation is undeniably an enabler of some truly horrific behaviour, with terrible consequences.

I think a measured response to issues of internet freedom would acknowledge the real cost of these freedoms and propose some kind of legislative & organisational framework for dealing with it.

Likewise, it's a shame that governments seem to exclusively fall back to the "pedos and terrorists" defense; I would have much more sympathy for their argument if they demonstrated concern for the far more ubiqutous, quotidian abuses that their citizens receive via internet freedoms. But I suppose those represent a consolidation of hegemonies and reinforcement of societies, rather than a threat to them.


*Unlike real life, you can also do it naked and people won't care, and may even pay you..
posted by smoke at 1:19 AM on September 11, 2012


Anti-surveillance/pro anonymity people always talk about gusty freedom fighters and upstanding citizens on the internet like that's all there is.

Why should you have to be a gutsy freedom fighter for the privilege of not having everything you do online, and all records held by any online service to which you're a member, archived in some NSA data warehouse?
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 1:25 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am reminded of the author Verner Vinge (in "A Deepness in the Sky", "Rainbows End", and other books) who writes about a really troubling proposition: the emergency of truly Ubiquitous Surveillance, most likely based on a Secure Hardware Environment of some description. With the powers of surveillance and detection offered by future (current?) technology, it is at least possible to conceive of a society in which 'crime' becomes effectively impossible. Sounds great, right - perfect, harmonious society? (Certainly my own country, Japan's, deepest ideal...) But that all depends on what is defined as criminal behavior. The scary part is that there are enormous economic and power incentives for some sectors to develop just such technology and realize just such a world. Beginning October 1st here in Japan, a new will go into effect - a law which criminalizes the downloading by individuals of copyrighted material, with punishments of fines and up to 2 years in prison (the previous law only criminalized "distribution" or selling of protected material). Many people I know are very worried about this, and I myself will be keeping a close eye on the courts from October, to see if the government carries through with the implications of this law, or makes an example of a few scapegoats. I have to always remind myself that this technology, and the changes it has brought to the world, is still extremely new (15 years ago, most Japanese didn't have cell phones...unbelievable really) and that 10 or 20 years from now we could be looking back on this period as a 'golden age' of free information exchange, perhaps (in my most dystopian vision) the way that Dark Age scholars looked back on the classical age of enlightenment.
posted by jet_manifesto at 1:26 AM on September 11, 2012


Why should you have to be a gutsy freedom fighter for the privilege of not having everything you do online, and all records held by any online service to which you're a member, archived in some NSA data warehouse?

Well, that's pretty much what the rest of my comment deals with.
posted by smoke at 1:26 AM on September 11, 2012


Well, that's pretty much what the rest of my comment deals with.

What, the part about celebrities on Twitter using their followers to bully people? Unfathomable warrantless NSA panopticon hardly seems like a commensurate response to that problem IMHO, but I guess we can agree to disagree
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 1:31 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


and that 10 or 20 years from now we could be looking back on this period as a 'golden age' of free information exchange, perhaps (in my most dystopian vision) the way that Dark Age scholars looked back on the classical age of enlightenment.

I personally think that will be completely the case. I remember even in the nineties people talking about the internet as a "wild west", and I think that analogy is broadly correct in many ways. Governments in general have been shockingly ignorant of the potential and usages of the internet in general, and even slower to legislate. This is being addressed right now.

Many of the things we take for granted on the internet today seem jaw droppingly permissive compared to similar freedoms or anonymity in real life. I can envisage a day where true anonymity online is extremely hard to come by, and reserved primarily for the dark web - which will balloon as a consequence.

What happens in China vis the Great Firewall may seem terrible but it wouldn't surprise me if similar restrictions (not the same topics, obviously, but at that level of intervention) becomes common globally. Indeed, sometimes I feel like the most surprising thing about the Great Firewall is how easy to get around it. As more countries implement a form of this, I suspect it will get harder to break out. This will be compounded by "walled garden" environments provided by Apple, Google etc. Even if you can leave the "garden", if most things are within, it will effectively become the internet for huge proportions of the population.
posted by smoke at 1:33 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


What, the part about celebrities on Twitter using their followers to bully people? Unfathomable warrantless NSA panopticon hardly seems like a commensurate response to that problem IMHO, but I guess we can agree to disagree

I don't feel like you're reading or responding to what I wrote. I am not defending wiretaps, far from it. I am arguing that easy, total anonymity is definitely not an unalloyed good and that some kind of restriction or response, if not necessary, could certainly be agrued for in good faith - and lamenting that both "sides" of this debate polarise their arguments to extremes whilst (imho) ignoring the way these freedoms or lack thereof actually affect the majority of citizens.
posted by smoke at 1:38 AM on September 11, 2012


I don't feel like you're reading or responding to what I wrote.

Well, I'm trying to understand what you're getting at. In your first post, you wrote:
pro-surveillance/anti-anonymity people always talk about the pedos and terrorists on the internet like there's no one else on it. Anti-surveillance/pro anonymity people always talk about gusty freedom fighters and upstanding citizens on the internet like that's all there is.
Those two positions occupy very different poles, but I don't see how they're equivalent. If the argument for dragnet surveillance is that the Internet is only terrorists and pedos, then that argument is significantly weakened if it turns out that it's not. If the argument against dragnet surveillance is that the Internet is only gutsy freedom fighters and upstanding citizens, but if that's wrong and it turns out that there is also a small portion of people who use anonymity to harass others, I don't find that to convincingly undermine the argument in light of the strong arguments in favor of limits on government surveillance, protection of individuals' privacy, etc.

I'm not trying to make this all about America and I don't know what kinds of limits they have on state evidence collection in Australia, but I imagine they're similar since your courts are probably based on the common law, right? Here in the US, we've had half a dozen or more whistleblowers come forward and say that essentially all Internet traffic and as many records as the NSA can get their hands on from online service providers about everyone, including American citizens, are just being archived and analyzed. Without bothering to try to get warrants to cover it, even though that's required by the highest source of law in our country. But because it's the Internet, and because these days people shit their pants over the tiniest threat of terrorism, for some reason it's different. Police can't just open your mail, but they can read your email/chats/texts, they can get your phone's location tracks, etc. And the NSA has pretty much everything and may determine later that you've done something wrong after enough number crunching. In that sense, the pro-surveillance side from your example won already, we just don't know all the details. That's another reason I replied - I try to speak up about this kind of then whenever it comes up because the status quo is anti-privacy until enough people care enough to make a big enough stink to do something to change it.

So that's why I asked why one should have to be unimpeachable - I'm not under the illusion that everyone online is squeaky clean or that people never abuse online anonymity to do bad things, I just don't think that vanishingly small fraction of all of the uses of the entire Internet justifies throwing out centuries of jurisprudence limiting governmental surveillance powers that I believe is really important. You said that's what the rest of your comment dealt with, and the rest of your comment was about the Twitter thing. I'm trying to read and respond to what you wrote, and I'm sorry if I'm misunderstanding you
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 2:11 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


We agree more than we disagree I think, but to be clear: I am against warrantless and indefinite surveillance.

I guess I feel that a lot of activists in this arena are essentially arguing for the status quo (well, the ostensible status quo, anyway). I feel that the current status quo is unsatisfactory and merits a response - additionally, thinking that govts wouldn't or won't respond is kinda naive.

Certainly, the posited govt responses are generally pretty bad, but I think ruling out the idea ofany response - i.e. preserving the internet in amber - is unrealistic and ultimately somewhat self-defeating; the majority of the populace doesn't know and doesn't care, so govts will go ahead an legislate anyway.

I'd like to see some kind of policy ideas that address legitimate concerns about how the internet currently works vis anonymity and freedoms for the majority of people, and I kinda feel like those voices have been lost to both sides, one from a basically authoritarian position, and the other from a libertarian position. Discussions of online harrassment, stalking, and bullying is an example of an issue that I feel has been sidelined in this discussion.

Maybe these responses are out there; I don't know and haven't really seen them and I'm pretty plugged into the internet - Jane or John Doe definitely won't have. I think it's a shame. The population won't get het up about Assange - they might get het up about something that protects or exposes them, their parents, their sons and daughters to harm.
posted by smoke at 2:52 AM on September 11, 2012


I'm cool with the zero privacy world envisioned by the google guys, afaik most other thoughtful tech entrepreneurs too. I'm merely concerned that this transparency utopia might never curtail the abuses of power they intend because it might never apply to the powerful.

In other word, I'm fine with government and corporations reading all my emails if I can read all their emails. We know damn well they engage in vastly more criminal activity than most individuals.

We're now moving towards slightly greater transparency but not nearly as fast as we're eroding individual privacy. We should therefore slow down the erosion of personal privacy and empower the transparency movement.

There are two approaches to correcting this imbalance :

(1) Support the German Pirate Party. We're lucky the most powerful nation in Europe has an electoral system that permits small focussed parties like the Greens and Pirates.

(2) Develop and use encryption software like Tor and OtR. Also, avoid privacy destroying products like Apple's iCloud, Microsoft's SkyDrive, and DropBox.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:12 AM on September 11, 2012


any network that can be successfully used to transmit information that is threatening to the powerful will be used to transmit illegal content

any mechanism that can suppress this illegal content will be used to suppress information that threatens the powerful

there is literally no possible solution to the above. while there is a lower class, a free network is of it, and while there is a criminal element, a free network is in it.

As the operation to tighten down on the internet proceeds apace and the shapers of opinion and consent work their magic, watch for more incidents that arouse righteous fury and disgust within you, especially with regard to the abuse of anonymity, pseudonymity, and content-posting freedom. These emotions are leading you somewhere. Watch for more forms of information to become criminal, and for Rad People of Quality to call this a good thing.

I'd rant about the people who want us to think the First Amendment is a bourgeois affectation and purposeful subversion of political terms and shit but I'm tired so I guess that spares whoever reads this
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:52 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is also a good idea to run your own server if you can. If all the information Big Gov't wants is on Facebook and Google, it's easy for them to find who to send the subpoena to; but if your information is on your other computer, not so much--even if said computer is accessible from the public web.

Defeating Big Brother with the magic of red tape.

I run an OwnCloud instance on my piece of shit netbook with the nonfunctional battery. Works fine.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:49 AM on September 11, 2012


It appears OwnCloud doesn't encrypt all your data by default, right LogicDash? It's still infinitely better than iCloud of course.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:53 AM on September 11, 2012


"10 or 20 years from now we could be looking back on this period as a 'golden age' of free information exchange, perhaps (in my most dystopian vision) the way that Dark Age scholars looked back on the classical age of enlightenment."

They could've made a real difference, if they weren't too busy sharing photos of their pets.
posted by markkraft at 5:20 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Still waiting for the flashmob that stormed into AT&T's switching room on Folsom Street, and ripped out all the wiring sending their data to the NSA.)
posted by markkraft at 5:23 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's not just a question of surveillance, but also one of information asymmetry. The wealthy and powerful have access to libel laws and lawyers to enforce them, media and government connections, and enough of a buffer to survive setbacks. Lose your job because of an indiscretion? Wait until the media have lost interest and get a new one through your friends. And governments will happily ignore or delay FOIA/similar requests, while corporations will insist that they are accountable only to their shareholders.

In the panopticon, the prisoners can't see their jailors.
posted by Zarkonnen at 5:51 AM on September 11, 2012


dunkadunc: When the Internet first started up, governments didn't get the implications it had. People did: it became a hugely powerful tool.
A rare instance in history of the masses weaponizing something before governments and revolutionary forces (in the strict sense).

I'm OK with that!
posted by IAmBroom at 7:10 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


To me, this was cruel and inhuman treatment of rats, who had no real stake in the political situation. Slave rats, they were, made to eat faces for someone else's bidding.

I think you miss the whole point of 1984: rats like eating faces.

(Still waiting for the flashmob that stormed into AT&T's switching room on Folsom Street, and ripped out all the wiring sending their data to the NSA.)

I think about that room often. I pass it almost every day.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:11 AM on September 11, 2012


(Still waiting for the flashmob that stormed into AT&T's switching room on Folsom Street, and ripped out all the wiring sending their data to the NSA.)

And that wouldn't be a flashmob, that would be a real mob, and that real mob would end up pepper sprayed in jail faster than you can say Sally Walker.

I am curious if anyone tried to attack the building. I'm sure someone must have.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:12 AM on September 11, 2012


It would be kind of redundant for ownCloud to encrypt everything, when filesystem level encryption is so easy to do. I guess it would be nice to have it as an option in some kind of installer?
posted by LogicalDash at 5:41 PM on September 11, 2012


There isn't much value in file system level encryption when an attacker hacks your servers. Any cloud framework should do client-to-client encryption for all data, meaning the server merely stores encrypted data, but never posses any keys.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:58 PM on September 11, 2012


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