March 17, 2012
Last December, Secretary of State Clinton delivered a rousing speech to a Conference on Internet Freedom held at the Hague in which she hammered what has become a steady theme for her over the last couple of years:
The United States wants the internet to remain a space where economic, political, and social exchanges flourish. To do that, we need to protect people who exercise their rights online, and we also need to protect the internet itself from plans that would undermine its fundamental characteristics.
Sec. Clinton has used this high-ground sentiment to bash repressive regimes, from China to Iran– all good… as far as it goes.
But beyond noting that the focus on repression is painfully selective (e.g., no criticism of Saudi Arabia), the U.S. government is behaving in just the way that Mrs. Clinton condemns: even as her rhetoric rings “freedom blue”– State and the rest of the government has pushed repressive treaties like ACTA and domestic legislation like SOPA and PIPA, any/all of which threaten free speech (and promise to retard innovation).
…Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.
But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”…
Read the full article– and you should read the full article– here.
December 8, 2010
A guest post from (Roughly) Daily:
Meantime, one can perfectly easily use a Mastercard (or Paypal or Visa) to buy counterfeit products, download porn, purchase guns… but not to donate to Wikileaks…
“Jonathan Swift! Calling Dr. Jonathan Swift!…”
Filed in Driving Forces, Information Industry, Media and Entertainment, Political, Scenario Planning, Social, Technological
Tags: free press, free speech, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, irony, Jonathan Swift, Mastercard, PayPal, press freedom, satire, U.S. government, Visa, World Press Freedom
December 2, 2010
One imagines that Henry Blodget must be following the developing story of WikiLeaks, and the government’s angry attempts to prosecute, with wry interest. After all, he was drummed out of the securities business for precisely the sort of hypocrisy– touting something in public, while trashing it in internal (and supposedly confidential) communiques– that characterizes the cables in latest batch of disclosures. In Blodget’s case, the government swept in to punish the dissembler; in the case of WikiLeaks, the Feds are searching for ways to protect the deceivers and punish the messenger… There are, to be sure, some important differences between the two cases; still, one imagines that the irony is not lost on Blodget.
Nor should it be lost on us. Ironies of this vexing sort are often the harbingers of fundamental change in our societies and their institutions; and as Felix Stalder argues in Eurozine, this could be another of those moments:
WikiLeaks is one of the defining stories of the Internet, which means by now, one of the defining stories of the present, period. At least four large-scale trends which permeate our societies as a whole are fused here into an explosive mixture whose fall-out is far from clear. First is a change in the materiality of communication. Communication becomes more extensive, more recorded, and the records become more mobile. Second is a crisis of institutions, particularly in western democracies, where moralistic rhetoric and the ugliness of daily practice are diverging ever more at the very moment when institutional personnel are being encouraged to think more for themselves. Third is the rise of new actors, “super-empowered” individuals, capable of intervening into historical developments at a systemic level. Finally, fourth is a structural transformation of the public sphere (through media consolidation at one pole, and the explosion of non-institutional publishers at the other), to an extent that rivals… the rise of mass media at the turn of the twentieth century.
Read the entirety of “Contain This!” for Stalder’s elaboration on each of these four themes and what they may mean. Agree or disagree, it’s terrifically-helpfully-structured reminder that– like it or not– Wikileaks (and the reactions to it) are only the beginning… a reminder that, as William Gibson famously observed, “the future’s already here, it’s just not yet evenly distributed.”
UPDATE: Clay Shirkey on zunguzungu’s “Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy ‘to destroy this invisible government’“: “the best thing about WL ever written.” In any event, eminently worth a read, very resonant with Stalder…
UPDATE TWO: Robert P. Baird in 3 Quarks Daily on zunguzungu’s (Aaron Bady’s) essay… fascinating– if not altogether heartening– analysis… but then, he does invoke the Language poets…