Monday, April 09, 2012

Kick Me, Beat Me, Wiretap Me

Far worse than FourSquare, which I deride as the rob-me-now app, work is well underway, starting in the UK, to give spook agencies total access to "private" communication. There's a great piece by author and activist Evgeny Morozov in the April 4th Financial Times on it.

(FT note: You may need a sub or free registration to read it online.)

Of course, our intelligence and police here are right behind the English counterparts. In fact, Justice, CIA, FBI, DHS and groups we don't even know about may be ahead of the Brits here. We've learned about their abuses for decades; we don't have to be paranoid to fear them.

Giving cops and spooks clandestine access to cell and Skype calls as well as email seems perfectly justifiable to UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Morozov quotes him as saying, "All we are doing is updating the rules which currently apply to mobile telephone calls to allow the police and security services to go after terrorists and serious criminals and updating that to apply to technology like Skype."

What the Brits want permission for is first requiring all those services we consider private communication to provide cops and spooks with back doors. Then when they say it's necessary, they'd have real-time access to phone calls and emails.

For the moment, the UK government claims such totalitarian surveillance would only occur with a warrant, after a judge's approval. Alas, there is a damning record in England, the U.S. and beyond of government and even private abuse of such back doors.

Think a real-life version of the bandits in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, where Gold Hat says with disdain, "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges."

Morozov laments the pending convergence of state and internet-related companies' data gathering. Already companies like Google make money by serving us advertising based on sites visited, searches requested and more. Where we are, what we write, websites we view, whom we know are available. Are you willing to let the state and national government, plus the intelligence community, know all about you and perhaps manufacture allegations and charges?

As he concludes, "It is only by anticipating the consequences of this coming unholy alliance between internet companies and intelligence agencies that our freedoms can be defended."

Already, the United States has fallen into crazy passivity. Particularly following the 9/11 attacks, Americans as a people largely bought into the lunacy of better-safe-than-sorry. It's meant a huge, intrusive, expensive government, an expanded infrastructure that abuses our freedoms from our Bill of Rights and centuries of case law. This is no time and no place to yield even more to a power mad surveillance community.

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