PUBLICLY (private)

an emac 6361 blog on privacy and technology

Corporate Democracy

Hi, let me introduce myself. I am a Corporation.

You may think you know me but trust me, you don’t. You see, if you want to deal in the “digital age” then you have to deal with me. I control what you see and have access to, in the networked society. I can act as an autonomous single entity or as a larger and more global idea. I can make agreements with other Corporations, Governments, or Individuals. I can act autonomously in my agreements free from many of the restrictions that the average person can. I can arrange my self in ways that prevent me from having issues over nation and city-states. In fact, I can govern the digital world, as the provider of code in ways that have never been seen before. But make no mistake, I control the code that allows you to have what you want at the speed and convenience you both request and require. My code is law and whom I choose to align or share that with is mine to decide. Welcome to the new, corporatized, government aligned, digital network where I and many more like me decide your access to information and digital assets. You don’t get a voice or choice 

This may sound like a completely ridiculous concept. Movies have been made about this absurd issue. Books have been dedicated to this subject for a long time. Unfortunately for the populism this is not a work of fiction. Code has become law and there may be no turning back.
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Marketing Concern

Ask anyone that works in the higher levels of Marketing or Advertising and they will freely admin that their job is to manufacture consensus. If they could not do that, they would be out of a job. From selling soap to cars, that is the sole purpose of the industry. But when those concepts become part of a democratic landscape, we all suffer from it. More important is when the digital age and its afforded networks are exploited in this way to foster the political gain of any agenda; the whole of the democratic system suffers.

From Rand Paul blaming the decline of social security on abortion, to John Kyl trying to take down Planned Parenthood with false facts, this exploit continues. Gun control, global climate issues, health care, and evolution have all been subject to this problem. But the problem is not with the issues. It resides in the fast moving world of networked culture where the facts are obscured by the speed at which false information gets reproduced.
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Swarm Mentality

In the world of networks, new and different power relations are formed as large global distributed interest groups replace older hierarchical systems. Robust and flexible systems that connect people have replaced older top down methods of management and activity. It is from this very difference that online hacktivism was born. By exploiting the ability to act as a simple unit with out a distinct head, hactivists have leveraged the power of networks to challenge both corporations and governments alike.

Hackers can and frequently do act as a swarm, moving as a single unit toward a goal, while appreciating the anonymity that a leaderless pack provides them. Much like a swarm of bees, hacker swarms are capable of leveraging mass participation to take down prey much larger than they could do if they were acting as a single unit. This is a distinct social phenomena created by the Internet and the technological global network as a whole.

At the core of this discussion, is the ability to use networks as a weapon.  Since 2008, one group in particular, Anonymous, has come to the fore front, using a weapon zed network and swarm tactics to effectively attack various companies and systems that are contrary to their agenda. With out identities, command structures, or control centers, their targets frequently have little the can do to protect hem selves from these attacks.
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No More Secrets

Think of all of the movies you have seen about underground operations. Images of shadowy figures lurking around under the cloak of darkness, having secret meetings to subvert government and systems. Hiding out in safe houses and the like. People afraid of being discovered for fear that their actions would be noticed and their plans foiled. Dissidents trying hard to pass messages organize and plan.

Oh, wait. Let me tweet where that secret meeting will be held.

The Internet is not a safe space for activism.  In fact it may be one of the worst mistakes activists use to communicate their messages. It is not unknown that government and corporations alike are combining to use the Internet to track and monitor these very things. Yet, we still cling to the idea that the Internet and its valued resources are a haven of free, unbridled speech, with out repercussions.
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No ICANN’t

Since the beginnings of what is now referred to as the Internet a host of organizations have been formed in an effort to “govern” a new and expanding landscape. But with so many trans-national issues related to Internet traffic, questions of ownership and regulation have frequently arose. From 1979 to 1998, various different organizations and working groups were formed to manage the standards and development of the network of international systems that make up the Internet’s framework.

But things changed in 1998 with the creation of ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). There has been much controversy over both the creation of this organization and its activities since its inception. It was originally founded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, as a non-for-profit corporation assigned to manage the DNS addressing system. Not long after, ICANN moved to absorb the powers of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, adding more power their organization.  This was a substantial shift in power. Further issues with ICANN developed when they abolished the appointment of directors from an “at large” community. So this begs the question; who is ICANN accountable to, and who controls those decisions? If they are a “governing body” then under what standards do they govern?
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Social Anxiety

During the run up to the 2008 Presidential race, there existed a social movement that felt dissatisfied with the way government was operating. Slowly, through personal connections, and some moves on the part of political players, a concept of loss and common anxiety was fostered.  Fueled by Op-Ed Spin-Doctors, this low-level of anxiety was channeled into a structure that connected uncommon allies into a position that could be used for action. The addition of social digital media allowed for a wide range of people to connect over a singular idea, and the Tea Party was formed. Politics aside, what this movement has done is a study in social networks and the digital age.

It appears that no one can pinpoint when this movement started. There are varying dates and conflicting stories. That alone suggests the nature of social networks and their power to grow through local social influence. However, in this case, the term local should be redefined. In a time where most people have connections outside of their “local”, where digital networks assist, local should be defined by a personal set of connections, both weak and strong.
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What is truth.

The concept of premediation, especially in an age of hyper-media suggests that we are not acting on free will, but being programmed to accept what will be inevitable – sold on ideas and marketed to in an effort to promote intentions and agendas.

In the run up to the Iraq war we were presented with a series of stories and “facts” that mediated our decisions about supporting military action.  In the tragic events following the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, marketing teams were some of the first on the ground, in an attempt to mitigate the damage and to convince the public that the event was successfully contained. And, in the wake left by the greed of the Wall Street collapse, we acquiesced and allowed for a bailout that saved the very people that benefited from the failure.  In each of the examples we were marketed to, and packaged, a series of issues that we accepted despite the collective understanding that said these things were” wrong”.

But realizing how this all took place requires a discussion about the concept of objective journalism. Is objective journalism dead, only to be replaced by corporate and government-supplied messages? And, if so, why has this been accepted? The question is this; do we trust the media?
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Free Press(ure)

In the face of broad-sweeping proposals in National Security Policy as it relates to digital media and networks, it’s becoming increasingly hard to ignore the current  “Elephant in the room”; WikiLeaks. The outcome of this case and the eventual creation of new legislations and policies to adress it will eventually affect us all. Consequently, it is vital that no new regulations or amendments be enacted with out the Public having a voice and at the least, some form of social discourse as to the lasting effects of these new proposals.

As a reaction to current events, a proposed new Amendment to the Espionage Act, know as the SHIELD Act has been introduced by Senators Joseph Lieberman, John Ensign, and Scott Brown in a move to make it illegal for anyone to publish the identity of a US Intelligence or Military source.

“As amended by the bill, the statute would read in relevant part:
Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government or transnational threat to the detriment of the United States any classified information . . . concerning the human intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government [or] concerning the identity of a classified source or informant of an element of the intelligence community of the United States . . . [s]hall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.” (Wittes, www.lawfareblog.com)

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Tracked

 

 

From the Tracked In America website:

“American government surveillance didn’t begin after 9/11. It started centuries earlier.

Check out the new online documentary “Tracked in America: Stories from the History of U.S. Government Surveillance” at www.trackedinamerica.org [http://www.trackedinamerica.org/].

“Tracked in America” has 25 firsthand accounts of what it’s like to be spied on by your government. The stories come from all kinds of people who were the subjects of secret surveillance for just being activists–opposing Japanese internment during World War II, speaking out against the Vietnam War, standing up for freedom during the McCarthy era. Six historians give a real sense of context for the history of surveillance.

Tracked in America really puts today’s government surveillance news[http://aclunc.org/issues/government_surveillance/index.shtml] in perspective.”

 

Contradictions

Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, made public the intention of the State Department to provide 25 million dollars in funding to support new and existing technologies that would serve to subvert authoritarian regimes in their efforts to control the Internet and communications, as an article on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website outlines.

But this raises an interesting question. Is there some irony that the U.S. is willing to support these technologies while simultaneously seeking to curb the same with in its own domain?

As the EFF article points out, there seems to be a conflict between supporting this type of technology, and the U.S. government’s effort to control similar issues at home.

“For every strong statement about preserving liberty, freedom of expression, and privacy on the global Internet, there exists a countervailing example of the United States attempting to undermine those same values: government domain name seizures, rubber-stamping of PATRIOT Act provisions in the face of widespread government abuse of national security letters, government attempts to obtain Twitter account records about three individuals in connection with its WikiLeaks investigation, and more.”

It seems ironic that the State Department would fund this direct involvement in subverting foreign governments but not allow for that same supervision when it is directed against itself. There appears to be a logical incompatibility between these two ideas. It seems like a national game of “do as I say and not as I do”.

Read the commentary here:

http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/02/secretary-clinton-unveils-new-funding-activism

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks can be found here:

https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/clinton_internet_rights_wrongs_20110215.pdf