The Web is full of Spiders.
In the nineteennineties, while Internet still was a young thing, most people regarded it as a fantastic and borderless arena for exchange of messages and meanings, for the development of ideas, for getting in touch with people all over the world, and for giving everybody the possibility of publishing things. And in many ways, it still is. But much has happened since then, and the picture of the borderless arena now has to share the space with other and partly quite opposite perspectives.
In the nineteenthirties and -fourties three novels were published that described different dystopic scenarios for future totally controlled societies. The first one was Aldous Huxleys "Brave New World" in 1932, then Karin Boyes "Kallocain" in 1940 and at last the one that perhaps became the most known, George Orwells "Nineteen-eighty-four" in 1949. All three of them describes societies where the State is exercising total control over all people by means of technologies that were not yet developed by the time the books were written. But neither of the three authors had been able to imagine the creation of Internet, and the enormous possibilities for monitoring and manipulating people this would give to holders of power 70-80 years later.
For that is what has happened. The free Internet of the nineties has been occupied by commercial powers and governmental intelligence agencies and transformed to a tool for borderless marketing, manipulating and monitoring of us all.
Most of us know that Edward Snowden in 2013 unveiled that CIA and NSA were conducting wide-ranging monitoring of the email-traffic and net-surfing of all american citizens. But how wide-ranging and sophisticated this surveillance has been and is, is something at leastI had not understood before I read Snowdens autobiograpy "Permanent Record".
The terror attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon that took place on september 11th 2001 was a shock to most of us. But the shock was greater for CIA and NSA than it was for you and me, as it was one of the primal issues for these organisations to secure that such attacks could not take place. The attacks of september 11th therefore led to a vast reorganisation and extension of the activities of these agencies. Up to then computer technology had not been something they had invested much interest in, funny enough. Now the importance of this was recognized, and an army of young people who had spent their teenager years in front of computers were recruited. One of these was Edward Snowden, who already when he was just 22 was given security clearance to be employed by NSA. Less than a year later he was a system analyst within CIA with broad access to some of the most sensitive networks in the world. He continued to work for NSA and CIA for seven years, being based in Washington, Geneve and Japan, until he ended up at Hawaii. Until he came to this last position, he had not understood the ultimate purpose of the spesialized, separated tasks he had been conducting. But at Hawaii he found himself in a position where he got an overview of the totality of the activites, and he was shocked. He discovered that he was sitting in front of a terminal where he had "unlimited access to the communication of nearly all men, women and children in the world that ever had used a mobile phone or touched a computer".
Up to then Edward Snowden had regarded the work he had done for NSA and CIA as a legal activity that contributed to defend americans against possible terror attacks. When he discovered that his employers were conducting a total monitoring of absolutely everybody, he found himself in a very difficult loyalty conflict. After considering the situation rather thoroughly, he concluded that his loyalty towards all the innocent people that had got their integrity offended was more important than the one towards his employers, and he decided to unveil to the world what CIA and NSA were up to. This was of course a very dramatic decision to make, not at least with regards to the consequenses it would imply for him personally. He therefore made very severe preparations. It was a hazardous process for him to take copies of the rather big quantities of data he needed and smuggle them through all the security gates that he had to pass going home from work. To pick out what journalist he should entrust the material to was also a big challenge. So it was to decide which parts of the material that should be published, and in what way this best could be done. And all of this had to be done in the deepest secret, not even his girlfriend and cohabit could get the slightest hint about what he was preparing to do.
June 5th 2013 the Guardian published the first reporting about the unveilings that were to come, written by Glenn Greenwald. Four days later, june 9th a video was published at the newspapers web site where Edward Snowden stood forward as the man behind the unveilings, and in the same moment he became the most wanted man in USA. At that time he was sitting in a hotel room in Hong Kong, and had a plan about taking himself to El Salvador via Moscow. But while he was on the plane from Hong Kong to Moscow his american passport was declared invalid, and since then he has been living in exile in Moscow.
The extension of the monitoring that is being conducted and planned for can be illustrated by the fact that NSA has built a huge data center somewhere in the desert of Utah. This center consist of four server halls each on 2300 square meters. The storage capacity of this center is beyond human comprehension. Snowden estimates that it is dimensioned to be able to store "absolutely everything, for ever". Another aspect of this worth considering is the technology of is the technology of facial recognition. Until recently I believed this was something only chinese had taken into use. That was naive of me. CIA and NSA are of course also using this technology, and are even supplying data from this to for instance flight operators. The idea of ticketless travelling is no longer science fiction, but do we really want our facial identity being used in such a way ?
Somebody might argue that OK, may be they are carrying this a bit far, but they do this to be able to unveil people involved in planning of terror attacks, so that they can be stopped before they can realize their plans. And all of us that have nothing to hide, we do not need to be afraid of having our phone calls listened to or our mails read and everything stored in that server hall in Utah, do we ? If you think in such terms, you set aside that even if you "have nothing to hide", lots of other people in the world might have quite legal reasons to keep certain informations for themselves, you do not have to be a criminal to have such needs. And you set aside that even if you today are so lucky that you live in a democratic and transparent society, it is in no way sure that ut will continue to be that nice. Accepting the violation of other peoples integrity because you yourself "have nothing to hide" is like saying that freedom of speach is unimportant because you have nothing you want to say anyway.
In my blogg Social Media I deal more detailed with Facebook and the other socalled "Social Media" and how they exploit and manipulate us.
If you still are not paranoid, it is not because you have "nothing to hide", it is because you have not understood what is going on.