From Big Brother to lots of Little Brothers

From Big Brother to lots of Little Brothers March 24, 2015

A review of two books on what today’s technology does to privacy quotes a useful metaphor from one of the authors.  George Orwell warned against “Big Brother,” an all-knowing government that wants to track your every move.  Today the bigger threat is from lots of “Little Brothers,” a multitude of corporations, companies, and online mechanisms that want to track your every move.

From Emily Parker, Two books look at how modern technology ruins privacy – The Washington Post:

‘Even the East Germans couldn’t follow everybody all the time,” Bruce Schneier writes. “Now it’s easy.”

This may sound hyperbolic, but Schneier’s lucid and compelling “Data and Goliath” is free of the hysteria that often accompanies discussions about surveillance. Yes, our current location, purchases, reading history, driving speed and Internet use are being tracked and recorded. But Schneier’s book, which focuses mainly on the United States, is not a rant against the usual bad guys such as the U.S. government or Facebook. Schneier describes how our data is tracked by both corporate and government entities, often working together. And in many cases, the American people allow them to do it.

Ordinary citizens may not like giving their personal information to the government, but they will hand it over to corporations. “If the country’s spies demanded copies of all our conversations and correspondence, people would refuse,” Schneier observes. “Yet we provide copies to our e-mail service providers, our cell phone companies, our social networking platforms, and our Internet service providers.” In other words, the same people who are furious about National Security Agency spying might be perfectly willing to sign commercial terms of service without even reading them.

It was actually the corporate world that built a “massive Internet eavesdropping system,” Schneier notes, and the NSA just tapped into it. This is not to say that he lets the NSA off the hook. He is very critical of the agency for overreach and excessive secrecy. Yet even if pre-Snowden America was not aware of the extent of NSA surveillance, there was still an element of public buy-in. After 9/11, the NSA pretty much had carte blanche to do whatever it took to protect the nation from future terrorist attacks, with some people accepting mass surveillance as necessary for keeping the country safe.

[Keep reading. . .]

 

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