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The digital conspiracy

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  • The digital conspiracy

    Is it just me that's a little bit irritated at being constantly spied on?

    It's not just the security cameras - at least a lot of them are out in the open where you can see them. And I don't have a mobile phone, but I do wonder how many people would carry them if they were only available free from governments and pushed like "We want you to carry this tracking device at all times. It will let us and any corporation or criminals know where you are at all times, report who your contacts are, where you spend your money, etc. Oh, and you can also use it to talk to people and browse the Internet, but you'll have to pay extra for that. You'll get some free text messages though...". There is a GPS device in my tablet but I believe I have it disabled and, anyway, I don't carry the tablet around with me so all it can really say is "In bed, probably reading" or "In the kitchen, making parathas".

    I don't even mind Google's software reading my email and targetting ads at me. I don't read most of them anyway and the ones advertising Earl Grey tea at me after I'd mentioned how much I hate Earl Grey tea just amused me. (At least, until I started wondering whether this was a deliberate ploy to allay my fears. Paranoid? Me?) Or even Facebook's targetted ads - after a spell of less-than-enticing offers for financial services in the Philippines (*) most of them now seem to be in German. I have no idea why they are in German. (Could zis be ein sign of zee future of der EU?)

    (* Could it be anything to do with the fact that my bank suspended my ATM card after I used it in Metro Manila. ie after informing the bank that I was going to Manila and would be using my card there, they suspended it when I did and sent me a letter that I wouldn't see for weeks telling me to call them to explain some "unusual transactions" - two of which were balance checks on an ATM 200 yards from my house, the third being said withdrawal in Makati. "Could you confirm that you made these transactions?" - "Absolutely ...ing not - but could you tell me in what possible way they are unusual, given the circumstances?". Surprisingly, they apologised. Which didn't help. But was Facebook somehow aware of all this and just decided to take the p*ss?)

    So I downloaded something for my browser that blocks attempts by Facebook to track your movements online - and, for good measure, also blocks Digg, Yahoo, Google and Twitter's tracking. I don't use Twitter. I can't (as is fairly obvious) say anything in 140 characters (in fact, I find it hard to say anything with less than 140 brackets (including nested ones) - if it was called Waffle I might join...). But I noticed that didn't stop Twitter from trying to track me...

    What's more worrying is that we also have governments trying to make it legal for them to have unrestricted access to all our Internet traffic and emails. And we know that they're always going to be doing more than they make legal - making it legal is just an admission that we all know they're doing it already, and diverts attention from the things we haven't realised yet that they're also doing. (Paranoid? Me?) Would we be more worried if they announced they were going to bug all our houses and read our mail (to keep us safe from paedophile terrorists)?

    I can't help feeling that there's something important happening here, something we should all be aware of and doing something about - I thought about joining the Pirate Party. So I checked out their website, and the forum where they invited discussion on the formulation of party policy. And when they can work out exactly which shade of beige their website should be, they could become a real force...

    As I say, is it just me?

  • #2
    Nah, it ain't just you, Robin.
    Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.

    ~Henry David Thoreau

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Robin View Post
      I thought about joining the Pirate Party. So I checked out their website, and the forum where they invited discussion on the formulation of party policy. And when they can work out exactly which shade of beige their website should be, they could become a real force...
      I love the irony of the Pirate Party expressing its members disatisfaction and party's manifesto online, in the perfect place for the authorities to spy upon them with digital ease. And when you enter their site you get a warning message that it uses cookies.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by porcus_volans View Post
        I love the irony of the Pirate Party expressing its members disatisfaction and party's manifesto online, in the perfect place for the authorities to spy upon them with digital ease.
        I would hope that they'd realise that if you get involved in politics you will be spied on, absolutely guaranteed. It was more obvious when we started getting involved here - you could still hear the phone taps operating in the '70s.

        At least, my dad and a few others got suspicious about the noises on the phone and arranged to make some phone calls to check it out. The calls were all about a riot that was going to take place the following Saturday (in Ayr, of all places, which should have been enough to let them know that someone was taking the piss even if they hadn't realised that just was not any part of the way Scottish Nationalists ever operated). Anyway, no riot but lots of not-at-all-suspicious looking (aye, right) guys of the type you quickly learn to recognise as Special Branch hanging around trying to be invisible.

        My wife always made a point of waving to them when she saw them, she liked the idea that all the photos of her they'd have on file would be particularly friendly and non-threatening. It was the opened mail that wound her up - particularly the Christmas presents that our son and daughter were always the second to open.

        But, when you know you're being spied on, it's not really a big problem.

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        • #5
          I'm sitting in the loft listening to my old Jimi Hendrix records (the record player is in the loft until Zilch Minor the Second learns not to destroy needles) and found myself wishing that the internet, or to be precise, this connectivity 24/7 had never been invented.

          Obviously it is ironic I should post this on the connectweb.

          Maybe we could start by turning off the entire internet for 2 hours in every 23.
          http://final-frame-final.blogspot.com/

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          • #6
            Actually, overall I like the Internet - it helps to bring things out in the open.

            In the past, most people didn't believe governments spied on them - "Oh no, that sort of thing simply doesn't happen here". Nowadays they pretty much admit to a lot of it - "National Security - hate to have to do it and all that, but it's for your own good!".

            And, for some weird reason, people used to trust newspapers and tv - but the Internet's well on the way to replacing them as our main source of information. And everybody knows you can't trust the Internet, even if Wikipedia still seems to get most of the stick for it - ok, we're still naive but it looks like it's slowly improving...

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Robin View Post
              "National Security - hate to have to do it and all that, but it's for your own good!".
              And if that doesn't work, well... THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

              "He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers."
              - Vic Toews, Canadian Minister of Public Safety, responding to opposition criticism of online surveillance.

              -------------------

              I am your plumber
              No I never went away
              I still bug your bedrooms
              And pick up everything you say
              It can be a boring job
              To moniter all day your excess talk
              ...
              In ten years we'll leak the truth
              By then it's only so much paper
              Last edited by Heresiologist; 08-09-2012, 01:05 PM.

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              • #8
                Save us from the Jihadi paedophiles!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Obviously the interweb has its good side, but the following kind of explains why I wish it didn't exist

                  Gyan's World

                  http://final-frame-final.blogspot.com/

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    A few relevant links (all based in the U.S., but likely applicable to other countries as well):

                    4 high-tech ways the federal government is spying on private citizens

                    Facebook and Your Privacy

                    If You See This Google Warning, Act Fast: Big Brother is Watching

                    And one from my local paper:

                    Police cameras quietly capture license plates, collect data
                    “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” - Albert Einstein

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                    • #11
                      I find the idea of Google warning me I'm being monitored to be very ironic. There has been no reason to trust Google since they bought Doubleclick.

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                      • #12
                        Given that I'm not even hiding behind a fictitious (or even half-fictitious) username here I'm kind of 'meh' about the whole surveillance thing. I also think you can be too paranoid about being monitored online.

                        Alan Moore - who has no Internet/high tech presence incidentally - made a good point once about the amount of CCTV footage being gathered in the UK being so voluminous that the Govt doesn't employ enough people to actually look at all hours of recorded film, so effectively while you might be recorded going to the shops you're essentially invisible. (It's also notable that CCTV ain't all that useful as the sad case of missing schoolgirl Tia Sharp is proving.)

                        Multiply that by all the emails, texts, URLs, forums I send/visit unless I'm being specifically investigated how likely is it anyone's going to find something?

                        Instinctively I'd prefer it if we weren't monitored by the authorities but I'd rather the Govt when the whole hog and said everything you say or do is going to be recorded and looked at for evidence of wrong-doing - oh, and btw we're putting a tracking device in your cars and spycams in your homes - so we all know where we stand rather than the current shitty 'we're spying but we're not really spying' proposals that the last Labour and present Coalition governments keep trying to get passed into law.

                        (Btw, this isn't a 'if you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear' position; I think most people have stuff they'd rather nobody else knew about and I think there should be a presumption of privacy in daily life that the government has no right to stick its beak into. We have this crazy situation where the Govt doesn't want to allow wire-tap evidence into court cases (in case it compromises how the evidence was gathered) and at the same time wants to log every email, text, phone call that we all make. It's mad! )
                        _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                        _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                        _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                        _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by David Mosley View Post
                          Alan Moore - who has no Internet/high tech presence incidentally - made a good point once about the amount of CCTV footage being gathered in the UK being so voluminous that the Govt doesn't employ enough people to actually look at all hours of recorded film...

                          ...Multiply that by all the emails, texts, URLs, forums I send/visit unless I'm being specifically investigated how likely is it anyone's going to find something?)
                          That's a very good point, and it's one I've often made myself (the Stasi maintained files on something like a third of the population of East Germany - but it probably took more than half a million people to maintain that volume of information).

                          On the other hand, with all the computing power that's now available it's a much easier task to filter out all the noise and home in, using keywords, on the kind of material that stands a good chance of being "interesting".

                          Even this thread, for example, MUST have tripped something - it's got a lot of keywords : CCTV, spied, government, etc. (even "jihadi" and "paedophiles"). From there it should a breeze to pick up our email addresses and whatever kind of identification we might have on our profiles - apply a little recursion and see what turns up.

                          And without any human intervention it should all be able to spit out a list of names, addresses, etc. of potential subversives. And their mobile phone numbers, of course - no need to plant tracking devices in our cars, we already choose to carry the things (actually, I don't but that's not because of any paranoia - I just don't like phones, never did).

                          And when you add to the tracking the ability to tie that into CCTV footage - we're just starting to get facial recognition software that actually works - you don't need too many people to do a whole lot of well-targeted spying.

                          (I'm always fascinated by the amount of publicity that failures of CCTV always generate, it reminds me of how often I hear people proudly saying, particularly on tv, that advertising doesn't influence them at all. But nobody's going to spend huge amounts of money on something that doesn't benefit them...)

                          We're not there yet but we're getting close. In fact, to quote from one of Brian's links (the one that talked about the NSA's massive new facility in Utah) -

                          "The good news (if there is any) is that the sheer volume of internet traffic and emails sent in a single day is far too much to be read by human eyes. Instead, the government will likely need to rely on complicated algorithms to assess each transmission and decide if they represent a security threat. So you're probably out of the government's earshot here... as long as you watch what you say."

                          The key phrases, of course, are "decide if they represent a security threat" and "as long as you watch what you say".

                          Originally posted by David Mosley View Post
                          I'd rather the Govt when the whole hog and said everything you say or do is going to be recorded and looked at for evidence of wrong-doing
                          I agree, as I said earlier, the thing I like about the Internet is that it makes these issues increasingly hard to miss. I already assume that anything I say or do online, any phone calls I might make, credit card usage - everything basically - is available to the government, security services, big companies and smart criminals (if they're different things...).

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Interesting thoughts mentioned by all.
                            Robin you are in no way alone with this line of thinking.

                            One thing that I think helps the governments increase their study of our lives is that those who protest this intrusion into our private lives are often portrayed by the media, which we all know is always truthful and unbiased regardless of medium, as mentally unstable people wearing tinfoil hats and ultra seclusive personalities. This portrayal of course draws attention away from the situations that are in need of examining.

                            Assuming that the information Wikileaks leaked about the TrapWire situation before the DDoS is true then the government is already doing most of what it wants passed into law. Don't mind us we're just practicing till the laws are passed sort of thing.

                            When one thinks about all the little things that when put together add up to something colosal it is a rather scary situation right out of an evil overlord trying to control the world scenario. But most people don't bother to spend the effort to think about it because they are too busy or just don't care. why care if they track what I listen too on my phone as long as I can have all the latest bells and whistles.


                            Just some rambling thoughts.

                            Have a good one.

                            Sincerely,
                            Conrad

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by zilch View Post
                              Obviously the interweb has its good side, but the following kind of explains why I wish it didn't exist
                              Gyan's World
                              Nice one.

                              But for me, that's actually an advantage of the Internet. I always need to have some kind of project on the go - these days it's often new pieces of music, at the moment I'm assembling material for a website on cooking. In the past it was often some idea I had for software. And whatever I'm doing tends to completely obsess me, I'm one of those people who can forget to eat and sleep when I'm really chasing something.

                              But, as soon as I get it to the state where it's almost complete - when I've done all the groundwork and have the thing 99% done, suddenly there are no problems to solve and I start to lose interest and start dabbling in something else instead. As soon as I know I've cracked it and nothing can stop me finishing it the way I want the challenge evaporates and obsession turns into a very mild interest - I might finish it sometime if I get bored enough. (Although, paradoxically, when I'm working with other people I tend to be the one who gets things finished - God knows how that works, unless it's because, in those circumstances, finishing the damned thing off is the only way to escape from it...)

                              So these days I sometimes have a look at what I've left almost finished in the last year or two and dump it on the Internet. It's highly unlikely that anyone's going to fix a bassline, add a missing guitar solo or do something about that hi-hat that sounds a bit too harsh.

                              But if I ever came up with a really good idea I'm sure someone less lazy would make use of it...

                              Originally posted by Conrad View Post
                              When one thinks about all the little things that when put together add up to something colosal it is a rather scary situation right out of an evil overlord trying to control the world scenario. But most people don't bother to spend the effort to think about it because they are too busy or just don't care. why care if they track what I listen too on my phone as long as I can have all the latest bells and whistles.
                              My suspicion is that most people don't want to think about anything potentially disturbing because they know they would feel compelled to do something about it if they did.

                              I was fascinated by something I saw that made the case that we don't make decisions rationally - we make the decisions, then rationalise them afterwards. I'm sure that has something to do with it...

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