Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
parliament house.gif
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
South Australian Links
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

surveillance in a digital world « Previous | |Next »
June 11, 2013

We now live in a world where electronic networking has penetrated into part of people's lives to the extent that we now talk in terms of the physical and virtual worlds. We are just as concerned about our personal identity and privacy in a networked world as we are about the corporate power of the global internet giants.

chainedlaptop.jpg LJS photography/Alamy

John Naughton in his column, To the internet giants, you're not a customer. You're just another user in The Guardian, spells out the adage that if the service is free, then its users are its product. He says that when the history of our time comes to be written, people will marvel at the way that billions of people were seduced into the kind of one-sided agreements they have struck with outfits such as Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple.

In the case of Facebook, the historical analogy that comes immediately to mind is sharecropping – the agricultural system in which a landowner allowed tenants to use his land in return for a share of the crops produced on it and which was once a staple of the southern states of the US. Its virtual equivalent is the Facebook system: a billion people till Master Zuckerberg's land, creating all the content that is then harvested by him and his advertiser buddies. The only difference is that on Facebook the sharecroppers don't get any share of the proceeds. They're just croppers.

He adds that the really weird bit is that the croppers are absurdly pleased with their lot.

They get to post photographs of themselves drunk, sober, recumbent and upside-down. They get to "Like" their friends' jokes and status updates and to organise parties and social events without having to use obsolete media such as email. And in the process they "pay" for this entertainment with their privacy and their personal data, apparently without batting an eyelid. We users have signed agreements that require us to accept all kinds of conditions imposed by us, whilst explicitly exempting the internet giants from any obligations whatsoever.

The internet giants are not alone in the surveillance of citizens. In our networked world the rapid technological change now permits clandestine surveillance (electronic snooping ) on a massive and Orwellian scale, whilst the legal safeguards and political oversight is lagging behind. The security state is now saying that a government can legitimately spy on its own people on the grounds that it is trying to protect them from threats of terrorism. As Clay Shirky points out with respect to the Obama Administration the result is that:

the distinction between gathering information on particular targets of investigation and members of the general public has collapsed, while the loophole for gathering "incidental" information has expanded so broadly as to allow for wholesale acquisition and storage of electronic communications of any person anywhere, forever.

The security apparatus run by the US government in the world has broken almost completely free of the checks and balances needed in a democracy.

It is not, however, just limited to the US. The National Security Agency (NSA) has collected pieces of intelligence from computer networks worldwide. It has obtained direct access to the digital systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants. The Internet surveillance program called Prism collects data from online providers including e-mail, chat services, videos, photos, stored data, file transfers, video conferencing and log-ins.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:36 PM | | Comments (7)


Will the Gillard Government or the Coalition demand "swift and concrete answers" to their requests for assurances from the US that its mass data surveillance programmes do not breach the fundamental privacy rights of Australian citizens.

Some how I doubt it.

The American data snooping programmes of the National Security Agency would be "accessing and processing, on a large scale, the data of Australian citizens using major US online service providers.

Have the Gillard Govt or the LIberal opposition raised with the Americans the scope of legislation such as the Patriot Act which can lead to Australian companies being required to transfer data to the US in breach of Australian national law?

Australian intelligence agencies would have been receiving information gathered through the PRISM program about Australian citizens.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr has said that he “wouldn’t think” Australians had anything to be concerned about in relation to the NSA Internet spy scandal.

He's been briefed by the NSA has he? Who is kidding whom?

The justification for the warrantless data snooping by the police in Australia is to protect Australians from organised crime, terrorism and drug smuggling.

There are limited protections from this metadata surveillance by the national security state.

Australian Governments--Liberal or Labor--- would welcome information provided through PRISM and would probably be active participants in the scheme.

They will probably say, along with Obama, that the public can have security or privacy, but not both.

Australia is deeply involved in the mass surveillance and intelligence collection operations such as the US National Security Agency's PRISM program. Defence intelligence officials receive 'huge volumes'' of ''immensely valuable'' information derived from PRISM and other US signals intelligence collection programs.

I think people get carried away with their own self importance at times, if it's supposed to be a secret don't put it online!