Censorship, Surveillance & Apathy

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
I read something the other day about how people in America tend to get very upset and angry about government infringements on their privacy, whereas apart from a minority who take these things seriously, most people in Britain just sort of shrug and accept it. Unfortunately (ha! what did you say about apathy?) I can't remember where I read it. Will post it here if I come across it or anything else pertinent.

Oddly enough my girlfriend's sister's boyfriend works at GCHQ. He's a decent enough chap. Not sure what he really feels about the way information is gathered and used in this country.

Good thread.
 

Leo

Well-known member
I read something the other day about how people in America tend to get very upset and angry about government infringements on their privacy...

i think this is true of the hardcore left (who fear big brother) and hardcore right (who hate government in general), but the average american is probably pretty similar to the brits you mention. some of them might make a token stink about it but most don't pay attention, or consider it the cost of living in a "free" society.
 

glasshand

dj panic attack
i was verging on posting something similar to this thread after i saw all the quiet ISP blocks that have been happening to websites like filestube, vodly, etc etc

http://torrentfreak.com/uk-piracy-blocklist-expands-with-yify-primewire-vodly-and-others-131122/


was shocked by how i hadn't heard about it from anywhere until i tried to visit one of the websites. not on news sites, not even on angry facebook statuses on my feed.

also current government stepping up internet policing in line with action against porn

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-internet-and-pornography-prime-minister-calls-for-action

bit worried that'll be the precursor to more censorship
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I'd love to think it was fear but really it's apathy. People don't think something is bad unless it directly affects them immediately. And on a daily basis it doesn't actually make any difference to someone if their inane chatter is being recorded.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
The focus in this thread so far has been on surveillance by the state, but governments and their various organs are hardly the only spy-happy entities that should be worrying us...Revelations That Ikea Spied on Its Employees Stir Outrage in France

Edit:

at some point they'll probably decide that everyone has to have filters for "the good of the children".

This fucking does my nut in. Illiberal legislation brought in on a wave of popular support from lazy, weak-willed parents who can't be arsed/don't know how to parent properly. Don't want your kids exposed to unsuitable online material? Then don't let them have unsupervised internet access, it's not fucking rocket science. The way some people carry on you'd think kids had Bluetooth receivers installed in their visual cortices.
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
From what I understand they used focus groups and whatnot then disregarded the results when they didn't go the way they wanted. I think 60% or more of parents asked didn't approve of the filtering idea.

yeahbutyeahbutyeahbut do you WANT your precious innocent darlings watching triple-penetration goatse twerking scenes when they should be doing their Bible Studies homework? Well do you? DO YOU??????
 

craner

Beast of Burden
Censorship is very different to surveillance, and I wouldn't conflate the two.

It's a useful step to understand that people who work for GCHQ or any security services are not, in general, evil eavesdroppers or sinister conspirators.

Surveillance techniques and surveillance in general have spread in this way because of the unstoppable flood of things we use -- social media and the internet, mobile phones etc. This gives much more scope and better tools for crime and terrorism -- for example, the subterranean internet used by child abusers and organised criminals that most of us can't access, but which clearly needs some form of surveillance.

Two large parts of the problem are:

1) These technologies have massively encroached on and eroded personal privacy anyway, and there is a large element of choice in this. People wilfully abandon their private lives in one way (Facebook, say) but cannot accept the implications and consequences of this in another.

2) Most security agencies, like the NSA, are not that refined (yet) and so, as someone said, their surveillance techniques seem to involve hoovering up a lot of worthless information. An aspect of this is that there is so much worthless information around now (my own email traffic, for example) -- it has exploded as an effect of the technology that conveys it. This comes back to two responses -- a) privacy is sacrosanct whatever you say, but maybe you have forfeited that by entering into an inherently unsecure contract, or b) why worry, unless you have something to hide?

Personally, I miss the privacy and quiet spaces and the moments when nobody could get hold of you or you didn't have to worry that they couldn't get hold of you, dimly recalled from the small amount of time I got to experience this lost world, in the 1980s and early 1990s. On the other hand, all of this tecnology exists and it has made the world more dangerous than before, and citizens and societies are naturally going to make some compromise between security and surveillance (or will have to). Maybe the "apathy" is to do with the fact that people, to a large extent, understand some of these things, rightly or wrongly.
 

craner

Beast of Burden
Maybe the only thing that has changed since the days of James Jesus Angleton steaming open people's letters is the scale of everything.
 

droid

Beast of Burden
a) privacy is sacrosanct whatever you say, but maybe you have forfeited that by entering into an inherently unsecure contract, or b) why worry, unless you have something to hide?

These are both logically and morally unsound arguments, and I suspect you know it.

Youre also missing the fact that this is not just about surveillance. This information is being acted on, and militarisation and politicisation of law enforcement means that the actions taken are generally unlawful and immoral. From the preemptive jailing of peaceful protesters to drone attacks and imprisonment and torture of innocent people.

The US and UK lead the world in this. I am very unlikely to be threatened or arrested by the Gardai if I plan on taking part in a political protest. However, as any activist based in the UK will tell you, there are serious and genuine threats to the very notion of legitimate protest there. Greenham common could not happen today. The women's peace camp would have been infiltrated, surveilled, threatened, arrested and picked apart piece by piece.

Britain and the US have all the mechanisms of a police state in place, it remains to be seen how far down the road they can go before it's impossible to turn back.
 

craner

Beast of Burden
I do know it, and I accept your points. In fact, I agree with all of them.

The tools in posession of the UK and US police and security services are potentially, in specific and different circumstances, dangerous and erode personal liberty altogether. The sudden viral spread of CCTV in the early '90s in the UK was, I think, an important marker and was, notably, pre-mass internet and mobile telecomms. The cameras provoked wide-spread revulsion which quickly dissipated as they faded into the fabric of life. They also combined the banal with the sinster, in the way the NSA and GCHQ "snooping" does.

What I have to ask, though, is whether you object to the surveillance by security services in any capacity to any extent, or just to the way domestic intelligence is being used and acted upon in the UK and US at the present time? I suspect you think that they cannot be seperated and one is an effect of the other (both ways). In that case, how do you monitor and enforce basic state secrurity in a globalised world of webs and networks?

I'm not making any big points, by the way. I am conflicted about the pay-off between security and liberty.
 

droid

Beast of Burden
There clearly needs to be some serious regulation put in place to curtail and control domestic surveillance used for political ends.

As you're aware, I take a dim view of US/UK military adventures, but in general terms I would object to the idea of ANY state having the almost omniscient power to surveil, control and attack its enemies and its own populations currently enjoyed by the security services and military.

CCTV is a perfect example. Terrorist threat followed by a mass surveillance response which soon becomes the norm leading to Londoners being the most filmed people on Earth about 10 years later. Exactly the same thing is happening now but on a much more invasive level.

These are serious threats to the most fundamental principles of democracy, free speech and human rights. Anyone interested in conserving these freedoms should be deeply concerned. And even the most liberal, well meaning of politicians will be unable to resist the temptation to use these tools if they are available and there are more than enough examples in recent history of where this process will lead.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
"If you're innocent you have nothing to fear" has been used as justification by basically every authoritarian/totalitarian/fascist regime ever, hasn't it?
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
And I agree with bandshell that surveillance and censorship are related. On a very basic level they are both attempts by the state to control information. They're both very commonly used by authoritarian and totalitarian states (in fact, tight control of the flow of information is a sine qua non of totalitarianism, isn't it?) and on a practical level, you can't censor information (I mean e.g. information exchanged online in a members-only forum, not posters in the street) without the necessary surveillance apparatus to know it's there in the first place.
 
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craner

Beast of Burden
It seems to me that, to some extent, the emergence of mass data has not simply been an opportunity for better and wider surveillance, but also a threat to effective surveillance. It's a flood, a galaxy, it's unmanageable, and they think they need it all. So they collect it, store it, and the more they collect and store, the harder it becomes to filter, locate and analyse the stuff they need for their purposes, even if you assume the worst about those purposes.

There was some controversy about the existence (and need) for the Security Service from its very beginnings and it had to justify itself by selling its successes, in the way that the CIA has to sell its intelligence in the US. It's a choice to accept and use these services and it was only 20 years ago that they were desperately trying to peddle their continued post-Cold War existence. Maybe this is how they have done that.

You could make a cogent argument for abandoning intelligence agencies altogether, and subsuming their tasks to a department of the military with a very limited remit. On the other hand, who got the heat for 9/11? Why, the CIA.

It's not just sinister quasi-govermental agencies who store this data and attempt to use it, supermarkets do too. It's the fact of surveillance and data storage, linked to its potential exploitation for political ends, which is the rub. So it seems to me that this has spilled over the limited role of security and intelligence to an unacceptable degree, but this does not necessarily mean there is no acceptable role for security and intelligence. Unless it does. Does it?
 
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craner

Beast of Burden
Data analysis is not the same as surveillance. Don't M15 and the FBI have to get warrants for surveillance based on data analysis? In that sense, "we" are not even under surveillance. But large agencies and corporations have huge amounts of data about us for who knows what reason.
 

craner

Beast of Burden
From what I understand (albeit very little) the GCHQ surveillance was more intrusive than the NSA's, because they kept contents of emails and telephone calls, whereas the NSA only used wiretaps recording origin and time of phone calls. Is that correct?
 
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