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Birds of a Feather: The So-Called Internet “Privacy Activists,” the Intelligence Services and Big Tech

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[5]COMMENT: Yasha Levine’s recent book Sur­veil­lance Val­ley [6] is a MUST READ! Rel­a­tive­ly short and very much to the point, this volume–subtitled “The Secret Mil­i­tary His­to­ry of the Internet”–chronicles the fact that the Inter­net is a weapon, devel­oped as part of the same group of over­lap­ping DARPA/Pentagon [7] projects as Agent Orange. 

In posts and pro­grams to come, we will more ful­ly devel­op the basic themes set forth in the excerpt below:

  1. The Inter­net is a weapon, devel­oped for counter-insur­gency pur­pos­es.
  2. Big Tech firms net­work with the very intel­li­gence ser­vices they pub­licly decry.
  3. Big Tech firms that data mine their cus­tomers on a near­ly unimag­in­able scale do so as a direct, oper­a­tional exten­sion of the very sur­veil­lance func­tion upon which  the Inter­net is pred­i­cat­ed.
  4. The tech­nolo­gies tout­ed by the so-called “Pri­va­cy Activists” such as Edward Snow­den and Jacob Apple­baum were devel­oped by the very intel­li­gence ser­vices they are sup­posed to deflect.
  5. The tech­nolo­gies tout­ed by the so-called “Pri­va­cy Activists” such as Edward Snow­den and Jacob Applebaum–such as the Tor Inter­net func­tion and the Sig­nal mobile phone app– are read­i­ly acces­si­ble to the very intel­li­gence ser­vices they are sup­posed to deflect.
  6. The orga­ni­za­tions that pro­mote the alleged virtues of Snow­den, Apple­baum, Tor, Sig­nal et al are linked to the very intel­li­gence ser­vices they would have us believe they oppose.
  7. Big Tech firms embrace “Inter­net Free­dom” as a dis­trac­tion from their own will­ful and all-embrac­ing data min­ing and their ongo­ing con­scious col­lab­o­ra­tion with the very intel­li­gence ser­vices they pub­licly decry.

We will devel­op this more com­plete­ly and in much greater detail in the future. NB: Mr. Levine does not go into the fascis­tic char­ac­ter of Snow­den, Assange, Green­wald et al. Some of those shows: Green­wald–FTR #888 [8], Snow­den–FTR #‘s 756 [9], 831 [10], Assange and Wik­iLeaks–FTR #‘s 732 [11], 745 [12], 755 [13], 917 [14].

Sur­veil­lance Val­ley by Yasha Levine; Pub­lic Affairs Books [HC]; Copy­right 2018 by Yasha Levine; ISBN 978–1‑61039–802‑2; pp. 267–269. [6]

. . . . Con­vo­lut­ed as the sto­ry may be, US gov­ern­ment sup­port for Inter­net Free­dom and its under­writ­ing of cryp­to cul­ture makes per­fect sense. The Inter­net came out of a 1960s mil­i­tary project to devel­op an infor­ma­tion weapon. It was born out of a need to quick­ly com­mu­ni­cate, process data, and con­trol a chaot­ic world. Today, the net­work is more than a weapon; it is also a field of bat­tle, a place where vital mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence oper­a­tions take place. Geopo­lit­i­cal strug­gle has moved online, and Inter­net Free­dom is a weapon in that fight.

If you take a big-pic­ture view, Sil­i­con Valley’s sup­port for Inter­net Free­dom makes sense as well. Com­pa­nies like Google and Face­book first sup­port­ed it as a part of a geopo­lit­i­cal busi­ness strat­e­gy, a way of sub­tly pres­sur­ing coun­tries that closed their net­works and mar­kets to West­ern tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies. But after Edward Snowden’s rev­e­la­tions exposed the industry’s ram­pant pri­vate sur­veil­lance prac­tices to the pub­lic, Inter­net Free­dom offered anoth­er pow­er­ful ben­e­fit.

For years, pub­lic opin­ion has been stacked firm­ly against Sil­i­con Valley’s under­ly­ing busi­ness mod­el. In poll, after poll, a major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans have voiced their oppo­si­tion to cor­po­rate sur­veil­lance and have sig­naled sup­port for increased reg­u­la­tion of the indus­try. This has always been a deal break­er for Sil­i­con Val­ley. For many Inter­net com­pa­nies, includ­ing Google and Face­book, sur­veil­lance is the busi­ness mod­el. It is the base on which their cor­po­rate and eco­nom­ic pow­er rests. Dis­en­tan­gle sur­veil­lance and prof­it, and these com­pa­nies would col­lapse. Lim­it data col­lec­tion, an the com­pa­nies would see investors flee and their stock prices plum­met. [Ital­ics are mine–D.E.]

Sil­i­con Val­ley fears a polit­i­cal solu­tion to pri­va­cy. Inter­net Free­dom and cryp­to offer an accept­able alter­na­tive. Tools like Sig­nal and Tor pro­vide a false solu­tion to the pri­va­cy prob­lem, focussing people’s atten­tion on gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance and dis­tract­ing them from the pri­vate spy­ing car­ried out by the Inter­net com­pa­nies they use every day. All the while, cryp­to tools give peo­ple a [false] sense that they’re doing some­thing to pro­tect them­selves, a feel­ing of per­son­al empow­er­ment and con­trol. And all those cryp­to rad­i­cals? Well, they just enhance the illu­sion, height­en­ing the impres­sion of risk and dan­ger. With Sig­nal or Tor installed, using an iPhone or Android sud­den­ly becomes edgy and rad­i­cal. So instead of push­ing for polit­i­cal and demo­c­ra­t­ic solu­tions to sur­veil­lance, we out­source our pri­va­cy pol­i­tics to cryp­to apps–software made by the very same pow­er­ful enti­ties that these apps are sup­posed to pro­tect us from.

In that sense, Edward Snow­den is like the brand­ed face of an Inter­net con­sumerism-as-rebel­lion lifestyle cam­paign, like the old Apple ad about shat­ter­ing Big Broth­er or the Nike spot set to the Bea­t­les’ “Rev­o­lu­tion.” While Inter­net bil­lion­aires like Lar­ry Page, Sergey Brin, and Mark Zucker­berg slam gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance, talk up free­dom, and embrace Snow­den and cryp­to pri­va­cy cul­ture, their com­pa­nies still cut deals with the Pen­ta­gon, work with the NSA and CIA, [and com­pa­nies like Cam­bridge Analytica–D.E.] and con­tin­ue to track and pro­file peo­ple for prof­it. It is the same old split-screen mar­ket­ing trick: the pub­lic brand­ing and the behind-the-scenes real­i­ty.

Inter­net Free­dom is a win-win for every­one involved–everyone except reg­u­lar users, who trust their pri­va­cy to dou­ble-deal­ing mil­i­tary con­trac­tors, while pow­er­ful Sur­veil­lance Val­ley cor­po­ra­tions con­tin­ue to build out the old mil­i­tary cyber­net­ic dream of a world where every­one is watched, pre­dict­ed, and con­trolled. . . .