Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ubiquitous surveillance results in conformity

Security consultant Bruce Schneier pointed out that the documents released to the public by Edward Snowden exposed not one NSA surveillance program, but three:

  1. Targeted surveillance – The only program that is legal and within the scope of the NSA's mission is that of NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group, and is used to surreptitiously plant software on specifically targeted computers to spy on the activities of specifically targeted individuals; those suspected of wrong doing.
  2. Bulk surveillance – The untargeted collection of vast databases of people's call records, location data, travel plans, contact lists, emails, text messages, webchats, financial transactions and more – most of whom are under no suspicion of illegal activity.
  3. The deliberate sabotaging of security – This is the worst NSA program of all.  It has been revealed that the NSA (and the UK's GCHQ) have plans to infect millions of computers around the world with "malware", in an attempt to subvert the security on these computers, allowing the spy agencies to control them.  This is bad for several reasons, first, it destroys public trust in the Internet, it weakens the security that everyone relies on to make the Internet work, and it plants trojan devices on computers that others can find and exploit, in other words, it opens our computers to attackers worldwide, and there's not a helluva lot most of us can do about.

But there's another purpose for NSA spying that Bruce Schneier hasn't addressed.  The spying program is targeted at Americans and that is for one reason, I believe.  It reduces their ability to act as free individuals, according to their own purposes and principles; it makes them servants of the State, forced to trust the State with their security; it enforces compliance.

And Glenn Greewald described that to us early this year:

A human being who lives in a world where he thinks he is always being watched is a human being who makes choices not as a free individual but as someone who is trying to conform to what is expected and demanded of them. And you lose a huge part of your individual freedom when you lose your private realm. Politically that is why tyranny loves surveillance, because it breeds conformity. It means people will only do that which they want other people to know they're doing – in other words, nothing that is deviant or dissenting or disruptive. It breeds orthodoxy.
Glenn Greenwald, interview with Salon.com, released 03 January, 2013

There's a new group of Americans who simply can't be bothered to care about their privacy, their liberty or their dignity.  And the secret spying will only continue, and grow every more invasive, not because of the government – do NOT blame the government – but because most Americans simply don't care, and will never care.  They want to be vassal slaves; taken care of and protected.  That is their choice; the problem I have with it is that it is not mine.  If they could give away their freedom, without also giving away mine, I'd have nothing to say about it.

I believe the real purpose of ubiquitous surveillance is not to find evil-doers in our midst; but to control the behaviour of the population at large.  It is directed, not at criminals, but at all of us.  And that's why I find it offensive; exactly because I have nothing to hide; I resent being targeted without reason.  It is a violation of my rights, as an American citizen, if you wish to limit those rights to American citizens. I think the founding documents of the United States of American are clear, though, that those rights are the inalienable rights of all free men and women.