Monday, July 8, 2013

Digital Surveillance

Talk about the hottest international news in this year so far, the Snowden case is second to none. I’m very surprise there is not been a reported interest in making his case into a major Hollywood movie yet. Anyway, I’m not too interest in dissecting his motive or strategy of disclosure. Instead, I just wanna talk about the issue of surveillance.  

With or without reference to the ‘Big Brother’ in George Orwell’s 1948 masterpiece 1984, information surveillance by government should not be news. Perhaps this Snowden case is just a more up-to-date reminder to the people living in current time when there are already so much information can be gathered openly on the internet, as an alert that most people just don’t think about all the implications behind.

The art of ‘spying’ exists in our human history for thousands of years. It is a matter of need or I should say a matter of survival or victory among conflicting interests, regardless they are countries, warlords, etc. Knowledge is power, knowledge before being put into testing, is a result of analysis of information, which is built on data collection. In the pre-digital age, espionage was a difficult art! It involves polished skills that only few people masters and they may also need to build connections, trusts, etc that took time and put the spy in harmful situations. That’s why it was not that widespread, and targets have to be very specific. However, in this day and age, most information are created, transferred and stored in digital form. It shouldn’t be surprise that they will be collected by interesting parties for whatever reason they have as long as they can get a hand on it. All the laws, regulations, morality or else that supposed to protect information from being gathered without owners’ consent are just bullshit! For people who are determined to collect information, they will only be limited by monetary and technological means. If they got paid, they can build as big as data centers they can, buy the biggest storages they can, they will just do it as long as it is technologically feasible. If it is done not by NSA, GCHQ, someone else will do it, that doesn’t really matter! Cuz all governments or groups, it is just too tempting to do it. Thus, there is no free lunch digitally, once you live online, your digital life is exposed and up for grabbed. 

So, what Snowden did is not gonna make any real difference eventually. Authority will lie as long as they could, they may claim to change but they won’t indeed for sure, and that’s the price we gotta pay for the convenience that we enjoy using the internet. So silly comments that I read online about defensing what the government did and somehow discredited Snowden’s claims, saying that it would be impossible for the government to handle that many information, such as voice call, as if they thought NSA is hiring a bunch of folks listening to scooped phone conversation around the clock 24/7. They are just naïve! They forgot that there are programs to convert those audio files into text. So, they can skirmish the text file by search if needed!

Honestly, it is also very silly to believe that authority is simply using their data collection for fighting terrorism. It is a just an excuse, protecting national interest? That’s closer, but controlling the human population is the ultimate goal. If I can make a guess, the ‘big brother’ is building a database of 7 billion. They collect all data they want regardless what they are, as long as it is technically feasible, they will just suck up all data available. What matter is to file them properly with the right ‘labels’, then store them in the storage base in Utah, Maryland, Colorado, etc. Then, they just analyze the data to put them into the proper ‘pigeon holes’ of 7 billion. Then, do search and found based on their needs at the time. So, we all are in this pool, nobody is gonna pick our file up and analyze us specifically unless something comes up. For example, 2 months ago, Snowden’s father or girlfriend would just be no different from us. Now by 24/7, I’m sure anyone that is 2 or 3 degrees of separation from the Snowden friends and family would be closely monitored just in case Mr. Snowden would attempt to communicate with them or whatever. So, they are ‘red’ and we are just ‘green’ on their radar. Certainly, the cost and effort for such massive data surveillance and subsequent operations are massive, their larger goal would be to do ‘things’ PROACTIVELY rather than simply reactive to what’s happening. So, that’s almost what the movie ‘Minority Report’ has shown, we will be treated base on what we ‘may’ do before we do it if ever.  That’s gonna be sh*tty!

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