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Big data is watching you

Bruce Schneier:

The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period.

Increasingly, what we do on the Internet is being combined with other data about us. Unmasking [Paula] Broadwell's identity involved correlating her Internet activity with her hotel stays. Everything we do now involves computers, and computers produce data as a natural by-product. Everything is now being saved and correlated, and many big-data companies make money by building up intimate profiles of our lives from a variety of sources.

Facebook, for example, correlates your online behavior with your purchasing habits offline. And there's more. There's location data from your cell phone, there's a record of your movements from closed-circuit TVs.

This is ubiquitous surveillance: All of us being watched, all the time, and that data being stored forever. This is what a surveillance state looks like, and it's efficient beyond the wildest dreams of George Orwell.

Sure, we can take measures to prevent this. We can limit what we search on Google from our iPhones, and instead use computer web browsers that allow us to delete cookies. We can use an alias on Facebook. We can turn our cell phones off and spend cash. But increasingly, none of it matters.

There are simply too many ways to be tracked. The Internet, e-mail, cell phones, web browsers, social networking sites, search engines: these have become necessities, and it's fanciful to expect people to simply refuse to use them just because they don't like the spying, especially since the full extent of such spying is deliberately hidden from us and there are few alternatives being marketed by companies that don't spy.

This isn't something the free market can fix. We consumers have no choice in the matter. All the major companies that provide us with Internet services are interested in tracking us. Visit a website and it will almost certainly know who you are; there are lots of ways to be tracked without cookies. Cellphone companies routinely undo the web's privacy protection. One experiment at Carnegie Mellon took real-time videos of students on campus and was able to identify one-third of them by comparing their photos with publicly available tagged Facebook photos.

Maintaining privacy on the Internet is nearly impossible. If you forget even once to enable your protections, or click on the wrong link, or type the wrong thing, and you've permanently attached your name to whatever anonymous service you're using. Monsegur* slipped up once, and the FBI got him. If the director of the CIA can't maintain his privacy on the Internet, we've got no hope.

Not sure of the implications of this. Of course, I doubt very much that the 1% are affected by this at all. They have staff to work the Internet.

NOTE * Monsegur:

Two: Hector Monsegur, one of the leaders of the LulzSac hacker movement, was identified and arrested last year by the FBI. Although he practiced good computer security and used an anonymous relay service to protect his identity, he slipped up.

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LD's picture
Submitted by LD on

Things that make you go, hmmm:

"NOTE * Monsegur:

Two: Hector Monsegur, one of the leaders of the LulzSac hacker movement, was identified and arrested last year by the FBI. Although he practiced good computer security and used an anonymous relay service to protect his identity, he slipped up."

And yet, they (the entire "Big Data" apparatus) somehow can give us articles all about the goings on of the following, but yet, just can't crack these obviously repeatedly "slipped up" nuts:

Maybe, it's like what Elizabeth Warren says about the Banksters and their drug money laundering, versus the common user of those money laundered drugs? AB is simply another "protected class."

LD's picture
Submitted by LD on

Greenwald also calls Brown "an internet journalist," which could essentially entail going outside the realm of the MSM pre-approved memes. Brown's case, kind of like Aaron Schwartz's, reminds me of the scenario described by MSM journalist Robert Parry about the MSM journalist, Gary Webb (before journalists took to the internets:)

"A similar example of journalistic cowardice surrounded the issue of Contra-cocaine trafficking and the protection of those crimes by the CIA and the Reagan administration during the 1980s.

In December 1985, my AP colleague Brian Barger and I battled a strongly reported story on this touchy topic through the resistance of AP executives and out to the public, but our story met hostility not just from Reagan’s team but also from major news outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Indeed, even when Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, conducted a courageous investigation confirming the AP story and taking the evidence of Contra-cocaine trafficking much further, his report faced ridicule or disinterest from the leading U.S. news organizations in the late 1980s.

So, when San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb revived the Contra-cocaine story in the mid-to-late 1990s – long after the Reagan team had quit the field – the vicious attacks on Webb came substantially from the mainstream news media, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. After all, why admit earlier mistakes?

Like other brave journalists before him, Webb saw his articles dissected mercilessly looking for any possible flaw, as his editors behind him crumbled in career panic. His follow-up investigation was cut short and he was driven from journalism to the applause of not only right-wing media attack groups but mainstream media “watchdogs” like Howard Kurtz. (In 2004, denied work in his profession and with bills mounting, Webb took his own life.)"