Dienstag, 10. Juli 2012

Total Surveillance for the Win!

Total surveillance! But for whom?

CC-BY-2.0 by Steve Jurvetson

People connect!

People connect! : This was always the case, but in the last decade or two the nature of the connections changed. In the pre-internet times, people could connect with their neighbors, with their fellow workers and when they traveled. All these connections were prone to break down when the distance grew larger again (i.e. when the traveler went home again). Some few pen-pals wrote large letters to give the "friend" on the other side of the world a status update, but let's face it: Only a handful of people did such things. 

Now, in the era of the internet, email, friendster, yahoo, smart phones, google, myspace, facebook, etc. people connect differently. They connect more. Not each of the connection is served with multi-page-letters every two weeks, but many people regularly get small information pieces about the others (if they mean to share them). Even if there is someone who does not write any status updates s/he will still be connected at least somehow.

Before the internet, people were like single bees. With the internet, people became to know their hive. New pattern of group (hive) behavior emerged from this. New power was given by the people to the people. You can see this in action when a poor soul accidentally invites the whole FB world for a birthday-party and---not the whole world, but still---30,000 FB-"friends" join the party, leaving the area devastated. That's for the bad, but there is also this big game changing power. Just by being connected, peoples forced their governments/regimes to leave office. Sometimes more violently, sometimes less. A huge power, isn't it?

Huge power!

And huge power asks for huge control. Not necessarily true though, but there are some big stakes "at risk". Namely those of the few persons who are in charge. While in times of pens and paper (i.e. pre-internet and pre-email and pre-FB) a politician could make secret deals with his friends and be fairly sure to keep it in-transparent enough to not get sued, it became less easy nowadays. The incriminating pile of paper could easily be stowed away in some closet or even be destroyed. The traces in the web though are not as easily being stored in a safe locker. Especially for politicians who did not grow up with all the new technology and don't grasp all the ways the information flows.
Only about maybe a decade and a half ago it was a lot of work to gather many people together. You had to phone them, write them or physically talk to them. Now you can write an email or a facebook message to hundreds or even thousands of people in literally five seconds. You can organize crowds within minutes.

This is scary to all those who---some years ago---were the only ones who had the power to make big gatherings happen. Today creating big events got more democratized. This does not mean, that those from the old school are now unable to create a big event with many people attending. No, It just means, they got serious competition. And if you are trying to preserve your power the democratized gatherings might be what you don't need---just look at the recent events in Arabia.

The temptation to impose all kinds of controls on all of these channels of information flow is big: on facebook messages, on SMS, on emails, on your internet connections, on the web sites you visit. Few politicians would have dared to put security personnel in place who search everyone entering a bus or an underground just because s/he could maybe carry around some illicit stuff. For the internet exactly this---searching everyone---seems to be a viable and justified approach for some politicians. It is NOT!

The big damage

The big damage is not done by the people. I argue, that the big damage is done by corruption in the political cast. Politicians' decisions may move millions or even billions of Euros from the tax payer to someone. One politician at the right position can make more damage to the country than 100 taxpayers will earn in their lifetime. And you bet that the decisions of politicians are not always to the benefit of the people, but often to the benefit of their family, their friends or people within the sphere of the party. Politicians are those who write laws and pass laws. Wealthy companies and individuals have the means to pay a lobbyist to get a certain law pushed, or even pay politicians directly to obtain certain voting behavior in the parliament. This produces laws which don't serve the people, but rather harm them.

Total surveillance

Here comes the total surveillance into play. Whilst politicians would like to watch each of the citizens closely for any wrongdoing or even for completely legal things which might be against the politicians personal interests, there is  a use case where surveillance would come in handy. It is the surveillance of the politicians themselves.

I'd like, that every politician (representative in the parliament and above) is obliged to:
  • use only email addresses which are controlled and saved for potential prosecution.
  • use only tapped phones where all calls are recorded and saved for potential prosecution.
  • always suse a GPS locator to get a complete trace of his movements
  • record all events and whom they are talking to.
  • possibly record everything they say
Of course, these data should be kept secret by default. But in case of suspicion of corruption the files could be opened up and checked for evidence.

This targeted surveillance would reduce drastically corruption by politicians and provide citizens with laws which fit better to their needs.

The phrase which politicians usually use to justify ever stronger surveillance measures is: "If you don't have anything to hide, there should not be any problem with the imposed measures".
This sentence can be used now to justify the complete control over politicians. I think we can safely assume, that they don't have anything to hide (/irony), hence they shouldn't be worried about such drastic measures. It would be put in place just to find the few black sheep.

You are very welcome to leave your comments! Let me know what you think. 

Creative Commons License
Total surveillance for the win! by Peter Speckmayer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.