How to make a bomb.
/* The sixth of June two thousand and thirteen, PRISM.
Our information has been stolen, the virtual existential versions of ourselves have been infiltrated, collated and filtered. Non the wiser we have been ignorantly sharing the collective of our souls to the weak cowardice of the incumbent internet overlords. I write this in full knowledge that it will at some instance, smaller than any observable period of life, be transformed into a bastardized blur, used only for it’s keywords and attachment to my name.*/
This long methodically sorted list of letters, which some may even call a short essay, will look at an individuals online privacy and the relationship they have with the state. I will attempt to prove that an operation such as PRISM is not an invasion of privacy. However, it may be unjust and the means upon which governments gather the information, immoral.
Privacy is subjective. Therefore to design an evaluation of what privacy may be, in any great detail, is to falter. Even though I will only concern myself with the privacy of ones ‘web presence’, it should in theory share the same categories and ideals as any other definition of privacy. Moreover I will not concern myself with law, for law is simply the implementation of man’s morals at any given time and does not reflect the hockey stick growth of humanity and the internet.
Your communications, your online life, the entirety of the public domain that you have sold to the interwebs to be able to use their services for £0.0. It all can be looked at. It’s a collection of information that can be accessed.
At the time of writing it’s incredibly likely all of your information has been dumped and processed by a secure server somewhere in the Western hemisphere, imported into Million$ algorithms written by some nerdy MIT grad, if you’re lucky enough to have a name like mine, you might even make it into a Billion$ piece of software such as Palantir. What’s to note is, it’s already there. It’s important to note as it makes the entire question of privacy in this case different from most others as it isn’t an act in question, it isn’t something happening presently, someone isn’t specifically trying to look at your information.
Let’s take a man called Scott. He’s ignorant to the concept of a paper shredder, naive enough to trust his neighborhood and the morals of society and doesn’t care for the environment. Every week he simply dumps his letters into the bin along with all the other food. One day a shifty burglar, B, steals his bin bags and puts them in his basement, unopened. Scott has no idea that his information is in B’s basement. B never looks inside the bin bags, but if he did, he would find Scott’s love letters, pictures and his resume. Easily he could profile Scott’s life at this current moment. But he doesn’t, B just collects bin bags.
If we take an invasion of privacy to be, formed into an argument:
1, When a person, X, is observed by Y
2, Or when a person, X, is disturbed by Y
3, and when Y is a person
then it’s given that when 1 || 2 = True && 3 = True , X’s privacy has been invaded.
And then we apply it to Scott. Scott’s information is not being observed. Scott’s information and Scott himself are not being disturbed. Therefore Privacy being invaded = False.
One may argue that this is actually theft, an immoral act in itself. But Scott left his bin bags out, in the open. He then chose to put his information in the bin bags. He then chose not to protect or destroy said information. He could have burned it, protected it by keeping it in a safe, shredded it or even ate it. Although he unknowingly gave it away, he left it there for the taking nonetheless.
Now suppose B is actually an ultra green activist. He despises people who do not recycle and takes it upon himself to correct the world one bin bag at a time. However with a mountain of bin bags, it would take him more than his lifetime in man power to sort through. He employs a Robot.
Robot sorts through the bins in record time, passing each type of rubbish into selected assortments ready for them to be shipped to different plants. It distinguishes between certain variables such as type of recyclable and just sheer trash. Robot becomes so good, B employs Robot to then go out and collect the bins.
There are now a multitude of weird bin-man-robots combing through the city, all owned by B. He does it for completely free but gets paid £10 million a year by Nike to put little ticks on all of his Robots. B, the activist turned ultra capitalist grows so large that he starts to get noticed by the overarching processing plants. They see his service as superior to any that they could offer and inevitably ask to stream his service into theirs.
Now, unbeknownst to Scott, every week his bin bags full of his information are being taken by these Robots. Some people know, some people don’t. No one really objects as they’re the sole provider and do everything for free. But then all of the bin bags are split up and sent to these processing plants. No one knows about this. There are 5 major plants and each one is run by just 50 people, as the public purse can’t really afford more than that. Most are employed to keep the plants running, maintenance, and improvement, however 10 are dedicated to when the plant breaks down. The Plant will break down when specific things pass through it, but only when they do. One such ‘thing’ is an item that could be potentially used as a weapon. When it passes through, the machine flags, an engineer comes and pulls it out then takes it for analysis.
The 5 plants are to serve 600 million people. With this amount of people, the plants can’t process all of the flags that keep coming up, a child’s plastic knife, drawing pins, a rounders bat. They then program the plants to start learning what to look for, discounting the non-harmful weapons. They become better and better with each day as is starts learning by itself. The Plant is able to match and locate any rubbish from any district to an individual.
So let’s re-think what this means for an individuals privacy.
The Robots come and pick the bin bags up, by this time everyone who has their rubbish collected is in full knowledge that they’re being taken.
- We can see that the individual is not being disturbed as they are actually consenting to their information being taken away.
- We can see that the individual is not being observed. We can see that no one is actually observing the individual or their information.
- The potential to be observed or disturbed by a person is reduced to 0% at this point. It’s all automatic. You are never being ‘watched’, ‘monitored’, so have you, at this point.
The robots then define and sort certain types of rubbish, ready to be taken off to the plant, where it’s then processed, with any unusual items being flagged. At no point does a person come into contact with the assorted rubbish unless it’s flagged.
- We can see the individual is not being disturbed, for their rubbish is far beyond their reach, to very likely never be touched or even looked at by a person.
- We can see the individual is not being observed at all, as everything is still automated, unless their rubbish throws up a flag.
- IF there is rubbish that flags, then there is a person involved.
- ELSE at no point is there a person involved.
Therefore one may, following the logic of the premises, argue that at no point is your information being observed or disturbed, further there are actually no people involved unless your rubbish is flagged, at which point your information is both disturbed and observed.
That was an incredibly long analogy to set-up. But you can all see where I’m taking this.
A fun ( not for me ) true story, to break it up. I started writing this post on a beautiful sunny day, the second Monday of March and the first heat we’d had this year. I couldn’t bear going straight home from uni so decided to go to one of these posh coffee shops and get a nice flat white. After 3 or so hours of writing, I’d ran out of money for cake and started to venture home. Not but 3 minutes of walking down the main parade, a black Vauxhall Vectra rapidly pulls in onto the curb. A man in black jumps out, running at me while imitating to take my headphones out and grabs me my the arm. “Get into the back of the car”, he said. I, of course shitting it and not really realising what was going on, had to ask what was going on. “Don’t make a scene, just get into the car”. Holy fuck, at this point I thought I was being kidnapped. I look in more detail, look down, a bright yellow taser is strapped to his waist, a piece of material adorns his shoulder. Ah, police, but wait, that still makes no sense. I ask for his ID and with his partner now out, I’m slightly satisfied, jumping into the car. “Have you just come from the coffee shop X and is that your laptop?”, one asks. Well, “Yes and yes”. “We’ve had a report from someone and it matches your description, we want to question you”. “ Am I being arrested?”. “No, we simply want to talk however may leverage the terrorist act”. I start rapidly thinking to myself what could I have possibly done, I must be completely shitted. “Please could we have your name?”, that’s it, I’m fucked, going to jail, goodbye world. “ Shadi, that’s S-H-A-D-I, Al’lababidi, urm A-L-apostrophe-L-A-B-A-B-I-D-I” . They look at each other like they’ve just made the catch of the century, the smaller one already planning his holiday with the bonus he’s going to get. “ Our report said you were looking at suspicious materials on your laptop”, suddenly I clock on, *Now’s a good time to revisit the title of this post*, and start just laughing. The officers not amused at me laughing uncontrollably in their faces, ask me if I’d be willing to show them my laptop. Of course, I do, I explain the mishap, they laugh, do a few cross checks and we all talk about how cool tasers are. They tell me to have a nice day, kick me out their car then drive off*
Let’s now put this into context. I can almost guarantee that every single person reading this has their information in a government body’s hands. But what does that actually mean? Instinctively, I see it as an infringement on my rights and on my sovereignty. I feel that my privacy has been invaded. I don’t really know what right a government has to take my information without my consent or without my knowledge. In fact, many EU courts are now ruling that this kind of behavior is against our Intrinsic Human rights. And I agree. A government should not be able to simply take it’s citizens information without their knowledge. It’s wrong. But now that we know, should our governments stop?
The most basic fundamental goal a government must achieve is to keep order even if that means using coercive force. We see this across the world and at home, in Ferguson, in Egypt, in Tottenham. Is the mass collection of content and metadata, a form of coercive force? If so, what order is it keeping. Out of a population rapidly approaching 70 Million, in the UK, just how many are bonafide terrorists? Perhaps 1000, maybe 10000, I don’t know. That’s a damn small percentage of the population.
I mean, this is really damn scary. Within the next 15 years, the IOT will be incredibly prevalent in most homes, perhaps even bodies. What are the possibilities when metadata and content can allow anyone to form links between your bioimplanted pulse monitor, how frequently you ride your bike (apple watch etc) and what you buy on your travels. What does this allow an evil agent to do, what are the limits of the governments reach. As our lives are brought more and more online, with the advent of tech such as Mircosoft’s holo, what are we opening ourselves up for?
Perhaps the scariest thing to think of is the mass population’s attitude to the schemes. My generation is of the belief that ‘If I have nothing to hide, who cares?’. That line of thought is unfortunately what is going to fuck us all. Having full knowledge of everything your population is doing was incredibly powerful, for say, Hitler, or Stalin. The communist block countries were plagued by mass surveillance, leading to torture, oppression, holocaust, xenophobia, police states and constant fear.
That was without the fucking internet.
So what now, how do I conclude this muddle of words? Well, it’s incredibly depressing. You see, I could write another 4–6000 words on arguing how intervention of this nature, may not actually be an invasion of privacy. But just like the main stream media, politicians and large internet firms, I would be leading you on and scapegoating a very unnecesary object. For it is not privacy we are foregoing. No. That word and ‘right’ is long dead. As I write this it would be very possible for an agent or bin-robot to watch me through my webcam, if it were not for the paranoid piece of tape I leave over it. Privacy is a romantic ideal of the past. Want privacy? Cut off society and the internet and go live in a forest, better yet, underground.
What we must face is a much larger, much more malicious, much more intrinsically evil Being. The runaway Being that is our autonomous government. No longer a government, a state. People play naive for they can’t really see the immediate or long term effects this will have on them. In fact, they don’t consider them at all. This is the problem.
As I write this conclusion, I feel annoyed that so much of my opinion has gone into it. I can’t seem to hurdle the fact that there is no possible way to argue this from an unbiased, factual view point, for the horrendous effects that I foresee to be inevitable obviously haven’t happened yet. It’s frustrating that so many of my peers just shrug their shoulders as to say ‘what do you expect from our government’.
It’s frustrating knowing that this is something I really cannot change. It’s frustrating knowing it’s happening right now. It’s frustrating how we as a society want to do nothing about it. We’ve been sold, we are fools.