Category Archives: en1

Panopticon sounds very much like the post-Snoden world for all of us

The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a single watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behaviour constantly

What’s the use of ultra-privacy techs when mics are everywhere?

Since Snowden all hopes to retain a meaningful, albeit limited, personal privacy sphere have relied on the possibility of making devices resistant to advanced surveillance available to citizens, supplementary to ordinary commercial ones, and make so that they won’t be made illegal.

Eve if we succeeded, such devices may not serve their purpose or achieve wide adoption, if the average citizen will be constantly and increasingly surrounded by Net connected devices with a mic (mobile, Tv, Pc, Internet of Things), which may allow extremely low cost and scalable continuous surveillance. Schneier just made a fantastic analysis of the issue.

In fact, it would be inconvenient enough to have to place your ordinary phone in a purse, or under a thick pillow, before making a call with your (ultra-) private device, but it would be unbearable to most to have go in the garden because their TV or my fridge may be listening.

It is crucial, therefore, to press for national laws forbidding the sales of any Internet-connectible devices without a certified physical switch-off for mic, camera and power.

If one doesn’t come soon, we may be lead to a point where we might be better quitting on privacy altogether, and turn our efforts assessing the technical and political feasibility of making total surveillance as symmetrical as possible versus the powerful, somewhat in the vision of the Transparent Society paradigm of David Brin.

It is a major change in the existential nature of human life, but a large and increasing number of people (such as me) are already  living in such world, with constant awareness that any word I say near my mobile (i. e. always) or I type in an electronic device may very well be collected and archived, at extreme low cost, and accessible to who knows how many.

It’s bearable.

What I can’t bear is that a small group of powerful or rich people, state and non-state related, can increasingly enjoy ultra-privacy and/or huge access to the information of others. This creates a huge shift of unaccountable power towards them, with very dire consequences for human race prospects of survival, and avoidance of durable forms of inhumane global governance.