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Coveillance
August 26, 2014 10:52 PM   Subscribe

Wired 'Senior Maverick' Kevin Kelly suggests: Why You Should Embrace Surveillance, Not Fight It.
posted by paleyellowwithorange (45 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sousveillance.
posted by I-baLL at 10:59 PM on August 26


Seems more like an argument for a future of consumerism where the next product you buy might just be yourself.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:59 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Sousveillance.

For a chuckle, check out the main image illustrating sousveillance at this Wikipedia link. "Child's drawing illustrating surveillance versus sousveillance". Oh Wikipedia.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 11:02 PM on August 26 [9 favorites]


Just because Kevin Kelly has chosen to sell himself does not mean it is right that I do.
posted by eriko at 11:03 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


Now I want to see "StephanieMannAge6" illustrate everything.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:18 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


Why you should embrace a white-hot poker up your ass, page 11.
posted by basicchannel at 11:25 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


Magazine that depends on advertising from tech industry tells us to love surveillance.
posted by wuwei at 11:26 PM on August 26 [24 favorites]


This seemed more like a meditation on rationalizing away a very disturbing trend than a compelling argument. His suggestions for how things will work in the future often seem naïve, perhaps because he so blithely neglects the central fact that power to impose relations of legibility is not distributed evenly between citizens, governments, and corporations currently, in the nascence of this thing he calls the expansion of the data sphere. How will those power relations change enough to make coveillance more than a mildly interesting idea?
posted by clockzero at 11:27 PM on August 26 [17 favorites]


Why You Should Embrace Surveillance, Not Fight It

i.e. "Resistance Is Futile, You Will Be Assimilated". This is kind of a hand-wavy article all 'round, but to point out just one specific:

... if today’s social media has taught us anything about ourselves as a species it is that the human impulse to share trumps the human impulse for privacy.

I'm willing to bet that that's only until the greater bulk of society starts to really grasp just how public that sharing has become. Right now most people still assume they're only sharing with their friends/family/acquaintances; it's a relatively small percentage of more technically proficient people who know better. But that will change.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:28 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


The problem with this idea is one of equality of resources.

It's great to talk about the idea that "the watchers will be watched", but what tools will the general populace be afforded to look back at the governmental and marketing and proprietary algorithm juggernauts which are currently in place? Is it reasonable to believe that a openly-organized cabal of well-meaning white hats is going to have, in any meaningful way, the ability to not only create the tools and interfaces for truly in-depth monitoring of the data being collected and how it is used, but also to maintain and continually update those tools while the "other side" has collectively billions of dollars to spend trying to keep that information out of the public eye?

Is heavy-handed governmental regulation going to have to be put in place? How would such a thing even get passed in today's political climate?

Or is this article about something else? It can also be read to mean that everyone is going to know everything about everyone else. So it's not who is watching the watchers as far as individual persons vs. large corporations and other organizations go, but rather it's that everyone is a watcher and is also being watched. On some level, this is even more disturbing.

As a person who is involved, with varying levels of public and private accessibility of my involvement, with several forms of lifestyle that moralistic types have sought to denigrate, marginalize, and ostracize for basically most of my lifetime, I think as long as Dominionist theological thought exists and groups such as the NAR are trying to take over public life, I'd be much happier NOT having the details of my life available to my fellow citizens unless I decide to make them public. If they ever do seize power, they're going to be coming for me and all my friends.
posted by hippybear at 11:31 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


David Brin has been going on about this for at least 20 years.
posted by monospace at 11:32 PM on August 26 [8 favorites]


Right now most people still assume they're only sharing with their friends/family/acquaintances; it's a relatively small percentage of more technically proficient people who know better. But that will change.

You don't even have to be technically proficient. I have, more than once even in the last month, seen someone write something on twitter (I interface with twitter via my desktop and the basic twitter.com personal page), clicked "reply", had the conversation expand below their comment, read some back and forth between various people, responded to one of THOSE comments, and then been met with a lot of negativity because "I didn't know you could read that comment".

Um... i didn't even TRY to read that comment! It was just right there on my computer screen!
posted by hippybear at 11:33 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


David Brin has been going on about this for at least 20 years.

He has, and his The Transparent Society is a detailed exploration of the concept. It's a shame Kelly didn't bother to mention Brin's work (this article is from March), especially when he uses the word "transparent" repeatedly in making his point.

Schneier, as usual, nailed it back in 2008: "When your doctor says 'take off your clothes,' it makes no sense for you to say, 'You first, doc.' The two of you are not engaging in an interaction of equals."

The problem is that Brin's theory is asinine, as I wrote in a comment last year. As hippybear says, transparency doesn't work because we're not all starting on equal footings. While sousveillance proponents usually start mumbling something about the wisdom of the crowd at this point, the crowd is of little practical value when it comes to the vast majority of ways surveillance can be used against us.

The crowd might be helpful to uncover, say, that one rogue cop wrote 80% of Seattle's marijuana tickets (though this particular case didn't exactly take surveillance to uncover), but the crowd isn't going to be any help to me when someone decides I'm suspicious and puts me on a terror watch list. The crowd isn't going to help me when my bank analyzes my lifestream and decides I'm suddenly a bad credit risk. Heck, the crowd isn't going to do any good when the policeman who stopped me finds someone else with a similar name with a warrant out for his arrest and I'm lying at gunpoint on the pavement because of a bad database match. And we're not even getting into the times when the crowd (and everyone else) acts like a bunch of morons.

Beyond that, two-way transparency does nothing to help the person who actually has something they want to hide. Someone about to be outed (their sexual orientation or really anything else that someone can be outed for nowadays) may have a lot to lose, and they still have a lot to lose even if they can try to dig up dirt on their adversary. Someone hiding from an abuser or stalker gains little from two-way surveillance, but may suffer a great deal.

In short, I think Brin and Kelly's attitude is horribly defeatist. It pretty much boils down to conceding that we've forever lost any hope to be free from total surveillance and then deciding that we might as well ask for surveillance tools of our own in return. Maybe I'm being too naive, but I'm not ready to give up yet.
posted by zachlipton at 12:54 AM on August 27 [42 favorites]


It pretty much boils down to conceding that we've forever lost any hope to be free from total surveillance

Given the nature of the internet and the connection we have to it in our day-to-day lives, isn't this the case, though? It doesn't thrill me, either, and I don't want to take the stance "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em". But at the same time, while I don't feel like going off the grid will really achieve anything positive in this regard, I feel like continuing to 'participate in the internet' makes me complicit (however passively) in the way things are heading.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 1:03 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Just because Kevin Kelly has chosen to sell himself does not mean it is right that I do give up any choice NOT to.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:16 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


he so blithely neglects the central fact that power to impose relations of legibility is not distributed evenly between citizens, governments, and corporations

This. This exactly. That's the central palmed card in any technolibertarian future.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:32 AM on August 27 [10 favorites]


The other core idea here is of course that technology always trumps -- always should trump -- law and regulation, but Google still had to adhere to the right to be forgotten.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:36 AM on August 27


"Watching the watchers" requires equipment, storage, software, and other resources that the watchers make and control, to begin with.
posted by Mr. Six at 1:38 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


The other core idea here is of course that technology always trumps -- always should trump -- law and regulation, but Google still had to adhere to the right to be forgotten.

What do you mean?
posted by Sebmojo at 1:48 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Yes. Yes you should.
posted by NSA at 1:53 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


"It is no coincidence that the glories of progress in the past 300 years parallel the emergence of the private self and challenges to the authority of society. Civilization is a mechanism to nudge us out of old habits. There would be no modernity without a triumphant self.

So while a world of total surveillance seems inevitable, we don’t know if such a mode will nurture a strong sense of self, which is the engine of innovation and creativity — and thus all future progress."

So there was no progress until 300 years ago when cities nudged us into the habit of the triumphant self? Bollocks. And the argument that there will be no future progress at all, no innovation, no creativity, without an ego-centric society? I think Kevin Kelley may have drunk too much kool-aid during the Cold War...
posted by Dysk at 2:52 AM on August 27


It always kills me how everybody ever connected with the whole Whole Earth zeitgeist are both interesting and creative AND so hopelessly narcissistic and self-aggrandizing, Kevin "The Digitized Self" Kelly being no exception.

Where there's no privacy there's no humility.
posted by Chitownfats at 3:41 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


I wanted to post a long comment about how surveillance affects my life in the Middle East, but I'm afraid it would be read by the wrong person.
posted by mecran01 at 3:45 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I find "privacy is dead, get over it" - attractive in the abstract, but I agree it is unworkable in the now. We live in a society with far to much social baggage and uneven power distributions - if you look at plausible non-dystopian ubiquitous surveillance societies in science fiction / worldbuilding it always involves a much more level power differential and something like a futachy/Athenian democracy/theocratic government

The problem at the moment that we don't seem to have much coherence about privacy, about what is harmful, what is legitimate and how to distinguish between them. Instead it has become an internet moodword rather than a coherent concept - and the NSA reading your emails gets lumped in with bitcoin tumblrs, Google showing you ads for weight loss, videogame developers getting doxxed and websites using cookies all in one big mess. As a result we end up with a huge mess. There is a lot of work to be done on best practises and distinguishing different kinds of privacy and harm I think
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 4:38 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


PGP encryption relies on code that anyone can inspect, and therefore trust and verify. It generates “public privacy”, so to speak
Because that worked SO well with OpenSSL...
posted by SansPoint at 5:06 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Peter Watts talked about this concept, or at least Brin's formulation of it, in a recent talk [pdf].
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:47 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


It pretty much boils down to conceding that we've forever lost any hope to be free from total surveillance

At least in first world cities (and online), this is basically true at this point. There are still technological limitations, but those are continually shrinking.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:50 AM on August 27


>The other core idea here is of course that technology always trumps -- always should trump -- law and regulation, but Google still had to adhere to the right to be forgotten.


What do you mean?

The 'right to be forgotten' is (currently, recently) a concept recognized in the EU, under the 1995 Data Protection Directive. It was recently ruled on by the EU Court of Justice.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:57 AM on August 27


The core concept of this issue needs to be radically re-imagined. If the (very valid) idealists about privacy are decrying the pragmatist observation of the realities of technology they are just missing the point. Certain elements of the world are radically changing. I hate the laws of gravity, but it still hurts when I fall. I'm seen. Going to be seen. Going to be recorded.

What to do?

Laws? Rights? Electronic counter measures? Deep woods? Give up?
posted by sammyo at 6:03 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


We’ve broadened our circle of empathy, from clan to race, race to species, and soon beyond that.

If only that were truly the case. The Internet has slowed echo chambers of similar thought, instead of expanding our awareness. There's just as much inter-clan war and intolerance as there was millenia ago, only we've moved from jawbone of the ass to machine guns.
posted by arcticseal at 6:08 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the argument that an armed society is a polite society.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:46 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I'm willing to bet that that's only until the greater bulk of society starts to really grasp just how public that sharing has become.
Greg_Ace

It's a bet you will lose.

From the bottom up to the top down we have indeed "forever lost any hope to be free from total surveillance". It's here, it's ubiquitous, and it's getting cheaper and easier every day. Omni-present recording devices, both personal and government, and the ability to share their information are simply not going anywhere.

sammyo is right:

If the (very valid) idealists about privacy are decrying the pragmatist observation of the realities of technology they are just missing the point.

Anyone thinking this can be rolled back is either naive or delusional. The genie is out of the bottle. The question now isn't "how can we rid ourselves of surveillance" but rather "how can we manage surveillance in this new environment".

This isn't to say Kelly is right, just that you have to acknowledge the reality and work to achieve what you can within it.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:27 AM on August 27


It always kills me how everybody ever connected with the whole Whole Earth zeitgeist are both interesting and creative AND so hopelessly narcissistic and self-aggrandizing, Kevin "The Digitized Self" Kelly being no exception.

Where there's no privacy there's no humility.


Chitownfats, I completely agree. Way too full of themselves. Disappointing.
posted by Jackson at 7:29 AM on August 27


It would be great if a group of people formed a society where everybody voluntarily, happily, surveilled each other. Not my cup of tea, but people should be able to do what they want.

"Sousveillance" is just a defense mechanism against a government/corporate complex that has decided to spy on us all, with or without our consent or knowledge. That's why these articles always read like the rationalizations of a Stockholm Syndrome sufferer.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 7:59 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


In most historical societies, criminal punishments were far more severe than they are today, because there was an expectation that many people would be able to escape, and so the deterrent effect had to be much stronger. Jean Valjean got 20 years for stealing a loaf of bread, in part, because most of the other "Valjean"'s got away with it.

A just society that is able to "catch" ~99% of all criminals would be one that has a dramatically lower punishment/"crime" ratio than we currently have. I wonder how many lives will get ruined before we get there.
posted by DGStieber at 8:00 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Previously on Metafilter: The Internet With a Human Face by Maciej Ceglowski (and a rant about the internet from an earlier talk).
posted by nubs at 8:29 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


We get used to intrusion (ie, NSA, cookies, etc.) to the point where we come to believe it doesn't matter. Why? Because nothing can be done about it. Our govt, at the advertising level if not at the "security" level does nothing to prevent snooping. And now we are told that people like to share. True. I share my photo but not my toothbrush, ok?

Some of however, do not believe we need to share or, at least, we should have a say whether or not we want to "share."...oh, and yes, there is some sort of consittional amendment abourt our right to privacy.
posted by Postroad at 8:37 AM on August 27


I think Brin's Transparent Society argument (and Kelly's pale, unattributed shadow linked here) has merit.

What's appealing about full data transparency is that it's a different solution to the increasingly messy sieve of privacy leaked data. If you believe, as I do, that traditional privacy is basically impossible in the informatics age then it becomes important to have some alternate solution to what to do with all this data we know about each other. Our current situation is They know a lot more about you than you'd like. (See: the NSA, your telco, Google.) We are simply hoping they keep our private stuff secret, and most of us kind of have nothing to lose so who cares? But the frog is slowly boiling, particularly in advertising.

So the Transparent Society argument is that we make the playing field level, that everyone knows something about everyone. It's hugely problematic in that people aren't equals, but it's not entirely impossible. A specific example is the post-Ferguson push to make police wear cameras, to give up some privacy so that the public can better monitor what they do with their extra authority. I think that could be made to work.
posted by Nelson at 9:14 AM on August 27


I actually wrote a big piece on this for TechCrunch several years back that touches on some of the same points, and managed to avoid mentioning Transparent Society as well, because I'm dumb. The tack I took (and keep) is that we're on a one-way street and it's going to be hard to judge the society of tomorrow by the standards of today. To remove yourself from the system of surveillance you'll have to remove yourself from society more or less entirely. But the two things are going to accommodate each other in ways it's difficult to predict. As you can imagine, it's something of a vague piece, because I don't trust futurism that gets specific. But I thought it was well worth reading.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:15 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Magazine that depends on advertising from tech industry tells us to love surveillance.

I'm guessing it has been a while since you read a physical Wired magazine.

They depend on Watch advertising. Which I find hilarious.
posted by srboisvert at 11:23 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


For a while I've had a science fiction story in the back of my head about a person that becomes ill and disabled when the direct wired connection to the super-internet its broken by a disease or some mcgufin device. Not sure it would be entirely fiction at this point.

No one can stand at the shore of technology and turn back the tide. The dialog needs to be what should be the rights and protections and how to manage the vast potential for abuse. We have done it with the powerful before, for example the protections against trusts.
posted by sammyo at 3:17 PM on August 27


Well, sousveillance by itself isn't enough. One would expect that it would be coupled with a vigorous democratic process (for defending against corrupt government surveillance) and powerful consumer protections (for taking action against malicious corporate surveillance). In other words, it could only exist in a world with strong enough mechanism that empower the citizen watcher.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:48 PM on August 27


No one can stand at the shore of technology and turn back the tide. The dialog needs to be what should be the rights and protections and how to manage the vast potential for abuse. We have done it with the powerful before, for example the protections against trusts.

I often make this comparison, but to the favorable legal environment that railroads and factories enjoyed in industrialization, until the growth leveled off and the social costs became clear.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:23 AM on August 28


Nubs linked to Maciej's Internet With a Human Face. The video of the talk recently got uploaded and I'm watching it right now even though I already read the speech at least twice.
posted by ropeladder at 9:07 PM on August 28




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