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For everyone out there listening
December 24, 2013 9:59 PM   Subscribe

Edward Snowden has delivered the UK Channel 4's Alternative Christmas Message (alternative links, transcript):
Together, we can find a better balance. End mass surveillance. And remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.
This address follows Monday's interview with the Washington Post in which he explains his motives for releasing information he collected while working for the NSA.
posted by Joe in Australia (93 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Background for people outside the British Commonwealth: the BBC broadcasts the Queen's Royal Christmas Message each year. Channel 4, inspired by the obvious joke, broadcast an Alternative Christmas Message by Quentin Crisp in 1996, and the tradition has continued.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:11 PM on December 24, 2013


Yeah, I just changed the dodgy Wikipedia entry for the C4 Alternative Christmas Message so that it no longer says that every Alternative Christmas Message "lampoons" the Queen. Clearly many don't and are very serious in their message indeed.
posted by Bwithh at 10:14 PM on December 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


From the WaPo: Snowden offered vignettes from his intelligence career and from his recent life as “an indoor cat” in Russia.
posted by migurski at 11:02 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves -- an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought.

Unless there is a suggestion of NSA mind-reading or journal-snooping, a child born today will grow up with no conception of online privacy and will hopefully still have many unrecorded, unanalyzed thoughts.

Don't get me wrong, the NSA has gone way too far in online surveillance and Snowden is a national hero for revealing it. This particular message just would have been better without that strawman.
posted by the jam at 11:22 PM on December 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Someone could chop up that Apple commercial and set it to this audio with very entertaining results.
posted by trackofalljades at 11:26 PM on December 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


I assume the journalists who have access to the documents are easing us into understanding the full scope of the NSA capabilities, and will wait a bit more before revealing the documents that explain the NSA's power to data mine the thoughts of people.

I also assume that the NSA will helpfully explain that they don't use such technology on Americans.
posted by el io at 12:19 AM on December 25, 2013


Don't get me wrong, the NSA has gone way too far in online surveillance and Snowden is a national hero for revealing it. This particular message just would have been better without that straw man.

Simply calling an argument a straw man doesn't make it so. You may simply disagree with Snowden's hypothesis on what the future looks like, and then support that disagreement with some kind of counterargument.

I'm watching War of the Worlds the other day, I'm thinking to myself, the way aliens are portrayed in sci-fi movies in general is extremely specific, and it symbolizes one of the things we fear most - technology-driven, imperialistic intervention. Aliens always have superior technology and they are never passive. This, it turns out, is most likely a reflection of our own nature that we fear. Nothing else.

I still can't believe the digital products we buy have more rights than the users. Where is the DRM movement for the people? The lack of even the discussion of such a movement on Capitol Hill is a massive slap across the face, a truly revealing indication of how bought-out government is, and how much fear rules. The current paradigm relies almost entirely (if not entirely) on the Kafka-esque exception to the rule of law known as national security. It cannot and will not let itself be addressed. Possibly ever. And furthermore it is only gaining ground. The political narrative seems to be that human nature, qua privacy, represents a threat to order that needs to be steadily phased out as technology improves. After all, it only takes one person to trigger a dirty bomb. One email. One Tweet can overthrow an installed government and "destabilize" a region. So the solution to this possibility naturally must involve unprecedented forms of control.

Therefore, the idea that technology will eventually incorporate itself into the human body and then include an unprecedented form of monitoring is not that far off. How we went from Apple's 1984 commercial to PRISM without even a modicum of public debate on the subject is beyond me. Well it's not entirely beyond me; a lot of it has to do with consumerism. Our "government" has been corporatized. Our "governors" are not impartial, duly-elected representatives; rather, they are special interest groups, i.e. the rich. Children will grow up and not know that a better world exists, because our generation's leaders will have failed them.
posted by phaedon at 12:22 AM on December 25, 2013 [62 favorites]


Why did your heart rate increase when you met this person, citizen?

Why were you researching this subject, citizen?

Why did you buy this gift to ship to that person, citizen?

Why were you awake at 4 am on Christmas, citizen?

You can learn a lot about people's "private thoughts" from the kinds of data already being collected. It's no straw man.
posted by spitbull at 1:10 AM on December 25, 2013 [47 favorites]


The jam, you fail to account for ubiquitous surveillance cameras, plus all the consumer devices. Oh, and the vehicle black boxes that are going to be mandated.

Your devices will be providing continuous location tracking; your car will do the same. You'll be recorded as you shop and stroll. Your movements will be correlated against those of others. The authorities will remotely enable audio recording on your device at their whim.

You every trip, every friend and associate, every visit, every purchase, every search, every angry outburst, every activity, will be captured and analyzed for its threat level.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:18 AM on December 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


phaedon: Aliens always have superior technology and they are never passive. This, it turns out, is most likely a reflection of our own nature that we fear. Nothing else.
Um, that's quite a stretch. I'd assume that any race that can build a spaceship and travel to Earth from another planet has superior technology. And if they were passive, what would drive the movie plot? "Thrill as tentacled green Martians say hello and ask politely for directions!"
posted by IAmBroom at 2:14 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Within twenty years it will be illegal to turn off the gps on your mobile phone, which will be glasses that everyone wears. You will constantly be located within 1 meter. Your facial expressions well be matched with online models and while your non-online statements won't be continually recorded, they will be monitored for dangerous statements like "kill", explosion", or "union".

Did I say twenty years? I'm so naive, we'll be lucky if it's ten years.
Did I say
posted by happyroach at 2:19 AM on December 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


I also assume that the NSA will helpfully explain that they don't use such technology on Americans.

Based on recent experience, I'd bet that the journalists are waiting for the NSA denials before releasing the documents that show the denials are lies.

Snowden deserves the Nobel Prize, and then some.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:49 AM on December 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


Not the Pope.
posted by markkraft at 3:21 AM on December 25, 2013


Random headlines from today's slashdot frontpage and cherry-picked at that:
Is the World Ready For Facial Recognition On Google Glass?
Researchers Connect 91% of Numbers With Names In Metadata Probe

It's Gibson's world.
posted by Mezentian at 3:24 AM on December 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm stoked to be headed to 30c3 right after Christmas this year, especially now that Glenn Greenwald is the keynote speaker.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:19 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom: Um, that's quite a stretch. I'd assume that any race that can build a spaceship and travel to Earth from another planet has superior technology.

It's actually not a stretch at all. You're assuming that should intelligent life evolve on some other planet and become capable of interstellar travel that it would be anything like us at all, which there's no reason to assume that and many reasons to assume the opposite. Have you read Michael Pollan's survey of certain biologists's examinations into plant intelligence? It is easily conceivable that a life for could evolve from a plant that exhibits intelligent behavior but isn't "conscious" with a will like we are, and perceives us as not even being sentient (or alive at all; "alive" is it's own kind of problematic category). Imagine: giant seed pods that can survive interstellar space are shot out in all directions from a parent plant that has evolved the ability to eject them at, say, half the speed of light and one lands on earth, and takes over the biosphere, killing us all. No imperialism required. Just good old-fashioned Darwinism.

Hmm. Sounds like an episode of Doctor Who I saw once. Or a bad Michael Crichton novel.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:40 AM on December 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Unless there is a suggestion of NSA mind-reading or journal-snooping, a child born today will grow up with no conception of online privacy and will hopefully still have many unrecorded, unanalyzed thoughts.

* surveillance cameras
* phone records collection
* every device in your home being connected to the internet.
* relationships between the government and companies that provide you valuable services that citizens are legally not allowed to know about.
* attempts, largely successful, to crack encrypted communications.
* have you been paying any attention at all over the last six months?
posted by to sir with millipedes at 5:42 AM on December 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


It is an episode of Doctor Who I am not crazy.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:44 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


eustacescrubb: If you want a good novel about spacefaring aliens lacking sentience but containing intelligent threat, you should read Pete Watt's Blindsight.
posted by foxfirefey at 5:49 AM on December 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


Unless there is a suggestion of NSA mind-reading or journal-snooping, a child born today will grow up with no conception of online privacy and will hopefully still have many unrecorded, unanalyzed thoughts.


A child born today will physically mature perhaps. I am not all confident about the grow up part.
posted by srboisvert at 5:57 AM on December 25, 2013


Within twenty years it will be illegal to turn off the gps on your mobile phone

I don't think so. Why make it illegal when it will be uncommon enough to be regarded as "suspicious"? To me this is the most likely dystopia, where everyone is free to do whatever they please, and choose not to.

Conformity means not having to explain yourself.
posted by swr at 7:24 AM on December 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


Do we need mind reading if Target detects your pregnancy from your searches or shopping habits and tells your parents?

Is there any doubt the NSA and FBI would happily attempt to predict your involvement with activism, efficacy, etc.? The NSA and GCHQ already spy on aid agencies for related purposes. Corporations and government routinely spy on activists, protesters, etc.

We'll implement mind-reading interfaces eventually as well, the jam. Advertisers might happily give away phones with browsers that report emotional responses, such as anger, which the NSA, FBI, etc. could then peruse too.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:43 AM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do we need mind reading if Target detects your pregnancy from your searches or shopping habits and tells your parents?

I was telling my workmates about this earlier, and mentioning it was old tech. I didn't convince them to give up their loyalty cards, but I damn well gave them the serious creeps.
posted by Mezentian at 7:45 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


And chilling effects extend well beyond what they actually monitor :
- Twent-two firsthand accounts of NSA surveillance chilling the right to association
- NSA Surveillance Drives U.S. Writers to Self-Censor (previously)
posted by jeffburdges at 7:51 AM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


People are being slaughtered in the streets of Bangui; children are starving to death across the Sahel; homeless people are freezing in the richest country in the world. I am sympathetic to privacy concerns, but my god, this - NSA surveillance - is literally the most important thing for some people? Have some fucking compassion.
posted by quadrilaterals at 7:58 AM on December 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


this - NSA surveillance - is literally the most important thing for some people?

Perspective is important.
Is what is happening in South Sudan or Syria awful? Totally. (I'm actually kicking around a South Sudan FPP but I am a bit hampered by the fact I have no idea WTF are the causes, and since all my "contacts" in that part of the world are in the North I don't want to go all in, because it's not a damn Dr Who FPP).

What happens with the NSA now, in Europe and the US is bad.

What happens with the NSA now, in Europe and the US, is the tech behind the ethnic cleansing of tomorrow.

And you and I, we probably can't do much about Syria, but we can do stuff about the growing Panopticon in the West, and hope we can spear it before it spreads.
posted by Mezentian at 8:09 AM on December 25, 2013 [21 favorites]


We are spending over $50 billion a year on this surveillance. We are cutting food stamps to pay for bigger datacenters so the NSA can keep more records on you. We're more interested in paying to store every kids snapchat than in paying for schools. So yes this issue us the most important issue of the moment.
posted by humanfont at 8:14 AM on December 25, 2013 [27 favorites]


I don't think so. Why make it illegal when it will be uncommon enough to be regarded as "suspicious"? To me this is the most likely dystopia, where everyone is free to do whatever they please, and choose not to.

That dystopia is already here. Many employers look askance at anyone without a Facebook or LinkedIn profile.

(Chrome suggested "topiary" for dystopia)
posted by dirigibleman at 8:17 AM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just finished trimming your dystopia into a pleasing rabbit shape.
Remember to check the boiler.
posted by Mezentian at 8:19 AM on December 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Have some fucking compassion.
posted by quadrilaterals


Really? What are you doing for the children in South Sudan, when here you are posting to Metafilter on a Christmas morning?

I find comments like this really egregious. Yes, NSA warrantless surveillance is a really, really important issue for me. But you know nothing about what else I care about, where my charity or effort is directed, or what kind of moral compass I have based on the fact that I comment a few times on a particular Metafilter thread. The self-righteousness of such comments, which are themselves comments on a Metafilter thread on the supposed less important subject, are hypocritical in the extreme. You get on a plane to Sudan, then we'll talk.

How dare you accuse others of a lack of "compassion?"
posted by spitbull at 8:31 AM on December 25, 2013 [29 favorites]


You get on a plane to Sudan, then we'll talk.

Wrong country, man.
Sudan's the one without the (discovered) oil.

(Sad, but true fact).
posted by Mezentian at 8:35 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, the nit has been picked!

Actually, I don't think you can fly (via general aviation) into Juba directly at the moment. So your options are to fly into Entebbe or Khartoum and go overland.
posted by spitbull at 8:41 AM on December 25, 2013


I am sympathetic to privacy concerns, but my god, this - NSA surveillance - is literally the most important thing for some people? Have some fucking compassion.

It's a thread about Edward fucking Snowden, why would we be talking about world hunger instead of the NSA?
posted by absalom at 8:50 AM on December 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


Last I heard commercial flights were still operating. but you can bet the NSA knows who wants to get out.
posted by Mezentian at 9:00 AM on December 25, 2013


People are being slaughtered in the streets of Bangui; children are starving to death across the Sahel; homeless people are freezing in the richest country in the world. I am sympathetic to privacy concerns, but my god, this - NSA surveillance - is literally the most important thing for some people?

Some people, like the US government? Yes. Exactly.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:01 AM on December 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


America spends over half its discretionary budget on defense. And law enforcement is the only discretionary spending category that's increasing relative to GDP. And industry spends progressively more on control jobs like advertising or finance as well

We could open a hundred free medical schools and a thousand universities to train doctors and teachers who we then pay to cure the sick and educate the young in the world's poorer nations. Cuba has sent 30k medical personnel abroad (19k doctors), just over 0.27% of their population. America and the E.U. could together potentially field around two million doctors, nurses, etc.!

In fact, 60s era technology had already liberated enough time to made Cuba's program viable, so western information technology should allow ever more teacher and doctor training by freeing up even more labor.

Why don't we do that? All the little changes that progress towards such goals reduce the accrued power or wealth of someone or other. And conversely we react to the time liberated by technology by creating moral panics that further concentrate wealth and power.

Amongst all this corruption and waste, the NSA represents a uniquely advanced bad guy, which makes them both an important target and politically vulnerable.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:03 AM on December 25, 2013 [21 favorites]


People are being slaughtered in the streets of Bangui; children are starving to death across the Sahel; homeless people are freezing in the richest country in the world. I am sympathetic to privacy concerns, but my god, this - NSA surveillance - is literally the most important thing for some people? Have some fucking compassion.

This isn't even a terribly inventive troll; the "GET SOME PRIORITIES, PEOPLE!!!" form has been around for more than a decade.
posted by indubitable at 9:05 AM on December 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's worth quoting GCHQ and NSA targeted charities too :
• Leigh Daynes, UK executive director of Médecins du Monde, said he was "bewildered by these extraordinary allegations of secret surveillance. Our doctors, nurses and midwives are not a threat to national security. There is absolutely no reason for our operations to be secretly monitored."

• Another target, Nicolas Imboden, the head of an NGO that provides help to African countries, said the spying on him was "clearly economic espionage and politically motivated".
Why do you imagine they'd target medical and economic aid groups specifically? American oil interests perhaps? That's industrial espionage!

Doesn't aiding American oil interests suggest the NSA is actively trying to prevent these economies from exploiting their most potent source of revenue for their own development?
posted by jeffburdges at 9:13 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was hoping this was going to be Snowden singing Christmas carols.

They see you when you're sleeping
They know when you're awake
They know if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake
The NSA is watching your town
posted by homunculus at 9:18 AM on December 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Unless there is a suggestion of NSA mind-reading or journal-snooping, a child born today will grow up with no conception of online privacy and will hopefully still have many unrecorded, unanalyzed thoughts.

You didn't grow up with my mother, I see.

And that's only a half-joke. Consider the Soviet Union's surveillance culture. It was snooping all the way down - the bug in your house to the neighbors eavesdropping on each other to people settling petty grudges by reporting each other for real or imagined violations of the surveillance state.

The only "unrecorded" thoughts a child born today will have will be literally unrecorded and never communicated to another person, but they'll still run the risk of being framed for thoughtcrime - and having all their recorded data conveniently edited to provide evidence.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:36 AM on December 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Starting in preschool, computers analyze student grades and behavior including family situational info, medications, interventions, socio-economic status, IQ, for nearly a decade already. More subjective data is also collected, teacher impressions...Privacy has been over since the launch of Powerschool and Gradebook. School information systems were created by corporations who were first data miners, then secondly education software manufacturers.

The money has already been spent to end Snowden, when convenient, he will be traded for high value personnel, he is already a martyr. He is useful to Russia, only as long as he is. He won't make it through customs to be arrested. It doesn't matter what an awesome American he is, or incredible world citizen.

If this administration does not wise up fast then his demise will be a huge black eye. "They" already know this too. His end will be covert. "They won't hesitate to take down an airliner and blame it on the enemies "they" are protecting us from. This is a snake with several heads and tails all in a knot of interests, deceptions, and in the end malefactors.

I wish the United States of America would get a clue, but cluelessness has been carefully crafted, cultivated in the highest reaches of American Government, to facilitate the deception of horrific actors, whose interests are ultimately narcissistic and parasitic, we, the American people are the host body.

The "No Talk Rule" as described by John Bradshaw is one of the hallmarks of the dysfunctional, alcoholic family. Secrecy as demanded in the intelligence community is a two way mirror, and America is on the outside of it. Since WW2 our military and intelligence communities have been used as weapons in a huge holdup, that is ongoing. We are just cradle to grave marks. anymore. This desperate need for secrecy is just a part of the robbery.

Every day I read of at least 2-3 new major ways the data is collected about Americans, buying habits, speech patterns, what we choose to read, what articles we look at, where we are, where did we take this picture?

My conclusion is we have to act to ensure our privacy, our safety by decreasing everything we fund outside of the United States. Stay home, make our nation work, make our own energy, and if corporations want to work outside of the US, let them without our muscle. If corporations want to work inside the US make them pay taxes. Play nice. stop the bullying, and shut down the voyeurs.

Oh yeah, and thank you very much Mr. Snowden for the incredible job you have done, protecting the citizens of this nation from our government's inability to do this. I wish you peace and joy and ultimately freedom to sit at Christmas with your family, eat the lousy fruitcake, and laugh with the rest of us.

Americans should never forget, when we pay for war, when we allow war, 80% of the victims of war are women and children.
posted by Oyéah at 9:36 AM on December 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Maybe it's me, but this is a terrible Christmas message. He gives privacy the most weak and anodyne type of support: Do it for the children, because privacy gives them confidence to be who they want to be.

What the hell!? How about privacy is important NOW, because it's essential for democracy, press freedoms, and civil rights?

How about instead of sitting there like a talking head, you use your opportunity to exhort people to riot, or protest, or even just to open a window and scream, "I'm as mad as hell". Yeah, you might look like a fool, but you'll then at least you have more of a chance to get picked up by the media and get your message out.

The more I know about this guy, the more I suspect that he's just an agent for the Russians or a CIA plant.
posted by FJT at 9:40 AM on December 25, 2013


CIA plant?

The CIA can make plants like this? We ARE toast.
posted by Oyéah at 9:46 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


And law enforcement is the only discretionary spending category that's increasing relative to GDP.

We could open a hundred free medical schools and a thousand universities...

Why don't we do that?


Obama Increased Foreign Aid 80%; Spent 76% More on Foreign Aid Than Border Security
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:05 AM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am sympathetic to privacy concerns, but my god, this - NSA surveillance - is literally the most important thing for some people? Have some fucking compassion.

Must be a tough life, only being able to care about one thing at a time. Fortunately most of us can hold several thoughts in our heads at once.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 10:10 AM on December 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


Very soon, probably already, but certainly as the eight-year-olds get to college, they will be completely mapped. The big computing engines will instantly delete employment applications for those deemed troublesome, or those not capable of meeting potential loyalty requirements predicted by mapped behavior patterns. Vogueing won't cut it any more, no creativity in presentation, no first interviews, for the un-chosen. Displays a willingness to...typically hard to motivate...problems at home...all of these subjective evaluations are a matter of record. Then comes the hard data from phones: location, association, expenditure, what is actually in your Google Wallet? This data will form a number of likelihood for a certain level of employee function. This is not to mention the typical credit report, police report, party affiliation, union affiliation, divorce record. How many times subject A. called this hot line, or this HOT line, or this service, how many times subject A. availed themselves of this type of service. Bar bills, travel expenses, late pays, media accessed in hotel rooms, this stuff is already available. But with giant computing available, each of us can be reduced to a dozen numbers that rate us, rate our potential.

Foreign aid is money we give to weapons manufacturers, then to aid organizations to fix what we break...band aids for the way we do business all over the world, as a species.
posted by Oyéah at 10:34 AM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Like a photographer puts Vaseline on a mirror to soften the looks of older clients, foreign aid is a salve we apply to our collective mirror to soften what see in our national reflection.
posted by Oyéah at 10:37 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


* surveillance cameras
* phone records collection
* every device in your home being connected to the internet.
* relationships between the government and companies that provide you valuable services that citizens are legally not allowed to know about.
* attempts, largely successful, to crack encrypted communications.
* have you been paying any attention at all over the last six months?


I have been. Which one of those reads your private thoughts?

I'm as upset as anyone about all this, I'm just saying that it's a stronger argument to say what the NSA has actually done is egregious without resorting to hyperbole. It's already bad enough. They're collecting all private communication and private data. (But nobody is reading anyone's thoughts, AFAIK.)
posted by the jam at 10:47 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


And of course this is the 'private' data that has all along been archived and used by google, apple, verizon, bank of america, etc., without any significant objection or uproar from the public...
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:55 AM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


And of course this is the 'private' data that has all along been archived and used by google, apple, verizon, bank of america, etc., without any significant objection or uproar from the public...

There have been plenty of objections. They've just been ignored.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:07 AM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have been. Which one of those reads your private thoughts?

Statistical modeling of your thoughts IS different from reading them directly. Hope your simulated self knows how to behave!
posted by Benjy at 11:25 AM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Dream a little dream of me."

The Mamas and Papas
posted by Oyéah at 11:31 AM on December 25, 2013


We could defeat the NSA without winning the rigged political battle. Imagine if the most interesting several percent of internet traffic were both end-to-end encrypted and protected from traffic analysis, metadata collection, etc. via tools like seedboxes, Tor, and Pond, or at least end-to-end encrypted via tools like OtR and ZRTP. Just removing the most interesting few percent could make all their surveillance worthless, eventually threatening the NSA's budget.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:48 AM on December 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wasn't Riseup working on a tool a few months back that would make encrypted communication much easier? The current problem with GPG and even OTR is that the user experience (UX) really stinks.
posted by anemone of the state at 12:48 PM on December 25, 2013


I linked these from the active NSA protest art thread, but maybe they make more sense here :
NSA Intercepted Children’s Letters To Santa
The NSA Is Coming To Town
posted by jeffburdges at 1:13 PM on December 25, 2013


having all their recorded data conveniently edited to provide evidence.

You know... somehow this never hit me until Lyn Never said it. I mean, I've been on the whole "they're grabbing all electronic communications" tip since the days when Echelon was the elephant in the room... but...

No, they can't grab your thoughts. BUT- if you figure we're already living in a 'reality show', in terms of the levels of data collected, why not figure it would be edited the same way? As we all know, it doesn't matter who you are, or what your actions 'really' mean, if the producers need a bad guy, it could be you. You will be edited in the worst possible light, in incredibly misleading ways, until you are the villain. Because nuance doesn't drive narratives or sell commercials.

So what's to prevent this happening to basically anybody now, in real life? You have a temper at all, ever? You have any vices? Any secrets? Hell, you just spend a lot of time online, all alone like someone who has something to hide? You don't even need overt actions, all you need is behavior ambiguous enough to look suspicious if you cut it together right. It isn't admissable? Not enough for an indictment or even a real warrant?

So what, you can easily ruin somebody's life short of any of those standards. Ask basically anybody in Guantanamo or a black site, right?

Honestly, I don't even have real enemies, I'm not politically active or more-than-normally-criminal,I don't have any 'real' reason to be this paranoid. But I'm starting to think I don't have any reason not to be.

Merry Christmas! Please don't extraordinarily render me for wrongthink! I'll shut up now!
posted by hap_hazard at 1:44 PM on December 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


People are being slaughtered in the streets of Bangui; children are starving to death across the Sahel; homeless people are freezing in the richest country in the world. I am sympathetic to privacy concerns, but my god, this - NSA surveillance - is literally the most important thing for some people? Have some fucking compassion.

And there's Starving Children in Africa, so eat your dinner.

This always strikes me as flawed logic, and a shutdown/silencing tactic. Some people being concerned and working on one problem doesn't somehow stop the people who are working to deal with the other problem. This isn't some this-or-that game show where only one person can win.

Which is why, keeping that in mind, and repeating it to yourself until it sticks... this just sounds like a really crappy silencing tactic. You're essentially saying people shouldn't be talking about this "too much", and should instead be talking about that stuff.

I mean you yourself said it, for some people. There are very smart people upset by this, and i'm sure they know there's large charities and large groups of people working day and night to raise attention to those wrongs and develop solutions to them.

There is no "keep the NSA from listening in on my entire life" charity. It's pretty much just these people on the internet trying to organize and do something about it.

So yea, what's so wrong about that?
posted by emptythought at 2:02 PM on December 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


BUT- if you figure we're already living in a 'reality show', in terms of the levels of data collected, why not figure it would be edited the same way? As we all know, it doesn't matter who you are, or what your actions 'really' mean, if the producers need a bad guy, it could be you.

Of all the Schwartzeneggerian 80s action films the future could have turned into, looks like we got The Running Man. But when they edit your life so that you're suddenly the "Butcher of Bakersfield", is there going to be a helpful resistance there to disable your bomb collar?
posted by radwolf76 at 2:05 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Turn off, tune out, drop in.

(Better I like Quentin Crisp's 1993 message.)

Oh, and irony alert!

"Like most websites Channel 4 uses cookies. In order to deliver a personalised, responsive service and to improve the site, we remember and store information about how you use it. This is done using simple text files called cookies which sit on your computer. These cookies are completely safe and secure and will never contain any sensitive information. They are used only by Channel 4 or the trusted partners we work with."
posted by IndigoJones at 3:38 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and irony alert!

You may not know this, but that notice is a legal requirement in the UK (and possibly the EU).
posted by Mezentian at 4:50 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is no "keep the NSA from listening in on my entire life" charity.

Ummm, the EFF perhaps?
posted by benzenedream at 5:45 PM on December 25, 2013 [6 favorites]




>> There is no "keep the NSA from listening in on my entire life" charity.

> Ummm, the EFF perhaps?


Indeed. And the ACLU.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:25 PM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fuck Alan Dershowitz.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:38 PM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


> Ummm, the EFF perhaps?

I thought they were more interested in counting up the many ways a toy commercial can make us of someone elses music without paying for the use, than worrying about our privacy these days.
posted by dabitch at 9:21 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's a commentary on their blog. As far as I can see they haven't even filed a brief on that case.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:58 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Say what you will about Dershowitz (please!), but this part "He’s never met a terrorist he didn’t like" may be true.

I assume that Greenwald has never met a terrorist (which would make that statement a true one).
posted by el io at 12:21 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Guardian has Snowden's clip on their website today too, in case someone else here couldn't get Channel4 to work (like me).
posted by dabitch at 8:08 AM on December 26, 2013


The laws of the UK mandates websites there notify users about cookies. The laws were driven by EU privacy regulations regarding tracking online users. It is a very clear reminder that they've at least taken some steps to give users a measure of information about their online privacy.
posted by humanfont at 8:50 AM on December 26, 2013


Former CIA Boss, Task Force Member Says Even Though Metadata Collection Hasn't Been Useful, It Should Be Expanded

It's really amusing how the NSA is unable to produce any evidence that they've done anything useful with their data collection programs. It seems like these guys are just collecting paychecks and waiting for their pensions. More than anything Snowden has revealed the gross incompetence of the US government and intelligence agencies and gullibility and complacency of the American people, who watch their tax dollars go to waste with no complaint.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:41 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]




Next, face recognition & urinalysis for every urinal & toilet!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:55 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why bother with urinalysis when your communications graph predicts drug use with enough confidence to get a warrant if you're interesting enough to warrant locking up?
posted by jeffburdges at 8:12 PM on December 28, 2013


Now story about them having tools to exploit / compromises in firmwares for American routers and hard drives and so on. They are trying very hard to destroy the American tech economy as a worldwide competitor.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:50 AM on December 29, 2013


Why bother with urinalysis when your communications graph predicts drug use with enough confidence to get a warrant if you're interesting enough to warrant locking up?

Seriously my entries in NSA databases have potsmoker in them so many times over, potentially going back to before I ever smoked pot. It's almost as if the government isn't really concerned about someone non-threatening with a decent income, White, and (at least relatively speaking) few negative social externalities burning joints, certainly at least not concerned enough to tip its hand. Non-ironic THANKS OBAMA.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:04 AM on December 29, 2013
















Ingenious. By implication, an iPhone app doesn't need access to your GPS to track your movements; given time, it could identify your location using an accelerometer alone.

How To Track Vehicles Using Speed Data Alone
Computer scientists have developed an algorithm that works out a vehicle’s destination using only its starting location and speed throughout its journey.

posted by Joe in Australia at 11:54 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]




These days, though, whistleblower=terrorist, at least in how the government, police, and judicial system respond. The guilty never get punished, the whistleblower goes to jail for a long, long time.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:44 PM on January 17




Joe in Australia: Computer scientists have developed an algorithm that works out a vehicle’s destination using only its starting location and speed throughout its journey.
"Have developed an algorithm" is a bit of an odd phrase to use for "integrated velocity, and correlated short decelerations with turns".

It's literally 9th-grade math.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:33 PM on January 18


The actual paper explains why it's difficult, so difficult that people assumed it couldn't be done. Decelerations may represent turns or an obstruction in the road. Turns may be to the left or to the right. After a stop, a car may turn or go straight ahead. This means that the number of possible routes increases exponentially and you need to go through a process of "pinning" segments to keep the number of alternatives reasonable. I agree that it doesn't look conceptually hard, but lots of things are conceptually easy once they've been demonstrated.

Also, would you have presumed that your sports band or iPhone or whatever could track you, even without access to a GPS? I wouldn't. Lots of things have accelerometers nowadays; I bet every smart device will have one some day. Our current security model focuses on the sources of data: applications are individually given (or denied) access to GPS or the microphone or whatever. These results show that we need a better solution, because data can be exploited in ways that we wouldn't necessarily consider. Our fundamental privacy problem isn't applications' access to data: it's that we don't know what information they're reporting. That's what needs to be addressed, and it's going to be a much harder problem.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:52 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


I am Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. Edward Snowden is my hero. AMA

28,821 upvotes, 26,383 downvotes. Wow, Reddit.
posted by anemone of the state at 1:55 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


Joe in Australia: "Our fundamental privacy problem isn't applications' access to data: it's that we don't know what information they're reporting. That's what needs to be addressed, and it's going to be a much harder problem."

An excellent rebuttal of my comment, and an even better conclusion at the end.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:44 PM on January 20


The New Republic: Would You Feel Differently About Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange If You Knew What They Really Thought?
Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange hardly subscribe to identical beliefs, and differ in their levels of sophistication. They have held, at one time or another, a crazy-quilt assortment of views, some of them blatantly contradictory. But from an incoherent swirl of ideas, a common outlook emerges. The outlook is neither a clear-cut doctrine nor a philosophy, but something closer to a political impulse that might be described, to borrow from the historian Richard Hofstadter, as paranoid libertarianism. Where liberals, let alone right-wingers, have portrayed the leakers as truth-telling comrades intent on protecting the state and the Constitution from authoritarian malefactors, that’s hardly their goal. In fact, the leakers despise the modern liberal state, and they want to wound it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:11 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Manning, Assange, and Snowden have exposed what everyone already knows, but has pretended not to; That the modern liberal state's claimed belief in openness, freedom, and democracy is all a sham, and that behind the scenes it's a Realpolitik play for national security, the interests of business, and power for its own sake.

That is why Chelsea Manning will spend a large portion of her life behind bars, that is why Julian Assange is in asylum in an Ecuadorian embassy, and that is why Edward Snowden is stuck in Russia, a despotic country but one of few able to offer him asylum without repercussions. By exposing this hypocrisy, they have exposed themselves to the full wrath of the liberal state and its watchdogs.
posted by anemone of the state at 1:09 PM on January 21




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