The NSA & other USIAN “Surveillance” entities are actually
in the business of Control, not the business of Watching.
The two go hand in hand. See, for example, this essay by Cory Doctorow
For courage, take a moment to read the transcript of the late, great Pete Seeger’s testimony before the House Unamerican Activities Committee. “Who I associate with is none of your business.” Really, read it, it’s inspiring and eye-opening.
I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.
The NSA “metadata” sweeps are all about collecting exactly the kind of information Seeger mentions, and it leads, inevitably to the kind of state harassment and terrorizing that Cory Doctorow wrote about.
Call your representatives today.
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Well said, Pete. (I also recommend this recreation of Zero Mostel’s testimony before that most Un-American Committee. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0PJzVPl92g) And thank you, John, for connecting Pete’s statement with surveillance.
I feel driven to add two separate comments:
1) Through fear of a real or imagined danger, we Americans repeatedly suspend our institutional safeguards. With these safeguards in place, our people achieve great things. Without them, we fall victim to both malicious and accidental evil.
This happens ALL the time, and it has happened to me. My wife created a terrific early education program in a part of Wisconsin that sorely needed it. We took children regardless of their economic background, and were supported by a program that paid a portion of a child’s tuition when the single-parent was working rather than on welfare. The governor cited this in his personal recognition of our school, and we were the “go to” center for schools and social workers that needed to place children in a high-quality environment. Beginning several years ago, about half the state was gripped in the “They’re taking advantage of you”-baiting of Sensenbrenner, Walker, Ryan, and Priebus. The legislature decided that the state could suspend educational and day care payments to any center without any trial, process, or appeal. This happened to us, and our complaints were met with intimidation ending in criminal charges against our director. It took years and a lot of money before a judge finally dismissed the case, as there was absolutely no evidence, nor even any action for which there could be evidence. In the mean time, we lost the center and the region’s children were deprived of a crucial resource. It happens.
2) Confirmation bias affects algorithms, too.
When we suspend safeguards, the machinery of the state can do real damage even without malicious intent. While algorithms don’t have a psychological reason to believe they are right, they also have no common sense with which to check their conclusions when they are wrong. Look, for example, at the stock market crash that was caused by automated trading system following a false indicator. As we put more and more faith and authority in machine inference, we are risking more disastrous conclusions.