[ExI] The NSA's new data center

Stefano Vaj stefano.vaj at gmail.com
Sat Mar 24 14:25:13 UTC 2012

On 24 March 2012 13:36, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:

> I did a little calculation: at what point can governments spy 24/7 on
> their citizens and store all the data?

Anders has a way always to come up with super-interesting data,
extrapolations and lateral-thinking insights... :-)

> We might actually be living in a short window of opportunity right now.
The problem is not the surveillance per se, but the danger from
non-accountable uses of them once they are in place.

This is however a "traditional" approach to the problem.

I am more inclined to take seriously Scott McNealy's (or at least I believe
to remember it is his) say: "Don't worry about your privacy. You have
already lost it", and be primarily concerned by informational asymmetries.

For instance, what the laws implementing the UE directive about personal
data processing actually do (or would like to achieve) is enforcing an
oligopoly on information where mechanisms are in place in order to make
States check what one does with the personal data one collects - thus
leading to increased, not lessened, social control and snooping - and in a
best-case scenario to prevent that State-owned personal data are profited
from for personal interests, no actual limits being in place as to "legal",
"accountable" collection and use of such data in the interest of the State
itself and of its stability.

Now, I am not much of a libertarian, but it seems to me that the
"oppression" risk comes rather from the fact a that society can be "spied"
by the State, while the State might make use of privacy rules in order to
prevent other entities, groups and individuals from doing just the same -
including and especially with respect to its officers' behaviours and
internal working.

So, I am more worried about the ability of existing legal systems to
repress initiatives such as Wikileaks than by any form of legal protection
of individual privacy.

After all, the fact of enjoying privacy and anonimity by default is a very
limited phenomenon in human history (say, urban life in western countries
during the XIX and XX centuries), where the norm is on the contrary that
both the chief *and* his subject know everything there is to know about the
otherm unless practical, extraordinary and at the end of the day often
futile,  measures are taken to hide something.

Think for instance to the developments outlined in Bob Shows' *Other Days,
Other Eyes*, and in its remake *The Light of Other Days* by Arthur C Clarke
and Stephen Baxter. Both novels show the extreme disruption that a
technology making privacy simply impossible would determine. But what
happens then? People and society simply adapt, and life goes on.

Ultimately, I do not care much about what people know about me. I care
about how much I am allowed to know about others, governments and
corporations in the first place.

Stefano Vaj
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