Encryption as insurgency
It is almost paradoxical to see the current spat between the FBI and Apple rage on about the latter’s use of strong encryption to protect their customers’ privacy. Though this conflict has become a political one with other overtones, and the FBI has recently claimed that they have successfully broken the encryption of a San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, thus no longer necessitating Apple provide them with a solution, this new conflict is far from over.
Note: The concepts for this piece are based upon Bernard E. Harcourt’s new thesis on surveillance, “Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age”.
Historically, it has always been a rather small or seemingly irrelevant event that changes the current trends in a society or even the world; an event that comes on the heels of many previous trends that have reached a climatic point. Or sometimes change has come from events that people have completely distorted as the reason for such change, which then foments societal memes that have little to do with reality. The following examples of misconstrued beliefs about historical events provide some context for the history that follows…
In the 1950s we had Senator McCarthy riling about Communist infiltrators into American society while leading the charge to find any so-called Communist agents among a variety of professional fields in the United States. In fact, he wasn’t completely wrong (ie: Julius Rosenberg), he just went about it the wrong way. Yet, when he targeted a young army officer who had a spotless record for his patriotism, McCarthy’s pursuit of Communist bogeyman around every corner was stopped in its tracks by the US Army. The bubble of self-induced fear that McCarthy fomented and many Americans latched onto exploded into nothingness leaving him and his ravings to fade away; though the legacy of the irrational fear of Communism in the United States has remained even to this day.
Many have been taught for decades that it was the assassination of the archduke Ferdinand by a Serbian national that initiated WWI. It is touted as if it were a standard historical axiom. However, this event was not the actual cause of the conflict. European royals had been assassinated fairly regularly prior to this tragedy for 20 years without a world conflict erupting. It was instead the rather innocuous mobilization of the Russian Armed Forces for Serbia’s defense, though they played little to no part in such an endeavor, which up through WWII, was an indication to all that a country was going to war that actually initiated these hostilities, which changed the world forever. And the reason it couldn’t be stopped is for the lack of telephone technology that European diplomats adhered to as a result of tradition that diplomacy was done face to face or via formal dispatch… though many tried to in fact stop the coming trauma. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany desperately tried to stop what he knew to be coming but failed to reach the Russian Czar, a cousin of his, in time.
And though many luminaries like to tout the idea that social movements can change the world as they did during the 1930s when Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was initiated in response to social demands, nothing could have been further from the truth. The “New Deal” was developed to stop the US citizenry from taking up arms against the government as a result of the Great Depression while the government desperately wanted to save capitalism. The “New Deal” was actually the barest of plans that would assuage an angry populace headed to the extremes of violent revolution.
The US is not a police state but something else just as bad
Since 9/11 the US government has increasingly implemented what is being erroneously called a “police state” through policy initiatives that the fallout from 9/11 helped drive. People have touted the coming of fascism for years as a result not realizing that the US started down that road in and around 1913 when the US government sanctioned the creation of the Federal Reserve, a non-government organization, by the country’s top bankers to handle monetary policy for the government itself. Today, the US is in fact a fascist state in all but name.
However, with the FBI/Apple conflict still fresh in everyone’s minds this all may begin to unravel over all such things as encryption technology, not anything momentous such as a large-scale reaction by society. Encryption, something not thought much about until recently, appears to be the new thing to be involved with if you are a professional in the Information Technology field. The compensation for specializing in this area can be quite substantial. However, as the growing awareness of government and corporate snooping goes mainstream, people interested in such a career pursuit will have at some level have to pick a side; serve the interests of the government and corporate elites, or that of Humanity in general.
It should be noted though, that neither the FBI nor Apple entered their confrontation for idealistic reasons such as for the welfare of the nation. Instead, each one had their own agendas; the FBI, for a greater piece of the surveillance pie and Apple to save itself from the loss of billions in revenue.
Since the Edward Snowden Revelations regarding US snooping into everything digital transferred, US technology firms have lost billions in revenue to overseas competitors as many around the world refused to any longer trust firms that were so easily under the foot of US surveillance practices.
Yet, how we got to this point is a much longer history than people could possibly believe considering that “smart devices” first emerged as late as 2007 with Apple’s first iPhone. “Smart Devices” nonetheless, brought government intrusion into people’s lives into the forefront of daily life, though such practices were quite common prior to modern technologies; they just required more leg-work and low-tech forms of snooping such as with the FBI COINTEL program, which infiltrated countless antiwar and peace organizations during the Vietnam Conflict.
Nonetheless, this recent dustup and the subsequent debate over it is a result of a convergence of two sets of somewhat unrelated agendas coming into conflict with each other, neither of which has anything to do with privacy rights for any individual or corporation or the security for the public interest.
The result of this collision of agendas is that the United States, Great Britain, and increasingly France have morphed into not “police states” but instead, “surveillance states” with many totalitarian overtones. And there is quite a difference.
“Police states” repress people through force. And though, there is no doubt that you can find this in spots throughout the United States such as with the killing of unarmed African Americans and a newly discovered Chicago Police “Black Site” that is being used for brutal interrogation of suspects, police state practices in the US are rather inconsistent to be considered such an anomaly at a national level… at least currently…
Yet, there is no doubt that every inch of US society is currently or will eventually fall under the snooping digital eyes of the NSA and if the FBI has anything to say about it, that organization as well. And to add insult to injury, numerous police organizations around the country are following suit such as with the New York City Police Intelligence Division, which was built under the leadership of the previous NYC Police Commissioner.
Jacques-Francois Guillaute and the first blueprint for surveillance
The FBI\Apple conundrum however, has its roots all the way back in 1749 when a French inventor by the name of Jacques-Francois Guillaute designed one of the first blueprints for a French surveillance state 1. In his design, the city of Paris was divided into a fine-grained set of districts of 20 houses apiece, each district under the supervision of district supervisor. Each supervisor was then responsible for the collection of all data picked up by agents on the streets, which would be subsequently catalogued for later retrieval via a set of newly designed large, mechanized wheels holding folders of data that were quite similar in concept to the later rolodex as shown in the picture below (2).
The concepts behind this early design were supposed to fulfill the growing desire on the parts of some in society for an all-seeing surveillance state. However, the entire concept remained a fantasy of those in French society that had dreams of total state control over the populace.
Today’s intrusive surveillance then is nothing new to the same types of people who deign to have full control over an entire citizenry of a nation.
Nicolaus Heinrich Julius and the birth of the surveillance system
However, the French concepts of 1749 did not remain as elusive as one would have hoped for.
In 1827 a doctor of medicine, prison reformer, and professor at the University of Berlin by the name of Nicolaus Heinrich Julius proposed a new concept on surveillance that reversed the ancient concept of “spectacle” of the arena where many would watch the few (ie: the Roman Games) to one where the few could watch the many. This new theory on surveillance was given in Julius’ “Lectures on Prisons” in that year.
These lectures eventually gave rise to the development of new design principals in prison architecture that were actually lifted from the existing, punitive, American system that was found in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the time whereby prisoners were completely isolated from each other or put to work at hard labor.
Julius refined his theories as he became more adept at the science of prison architectures and in time became one of the leading of experts in prison design. As a result, he assisted the King of Prussia in the implementation of new prison systems that promoted similar radiating designs to the Philadelphia prison style in the cities of Berlin, Konigsberg, Ratibor, and Munster. All would be completed in 1843.
Such a design would implement his earlier theories on reversing the concepts of “spectacle” as only a few security guards were required in each section of these new prisons to oversee a larger number of inmates. Thus, the modern concept of surveillance was born.
Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon
Another contributor to the theory that promoted the reversal of “spectacle” to that of surveillance was Jeremy Bentham and his design for his own version of a prison, which he called the “Panopticon”. This design was somewhat different from the radiating designs of Julius and instead promoted a circular design as shown in the picture below.
Bentham’s design was primarily to support the idea of less expensive prison systems while at the same time modernize the concept of surveillance by reducing the need for prison security personnel through the implementation of behavioral engineering whereby since all prisoners knew they were being watched continuously and they could not see their watchers, they would internalize this knowledge and thus modify their behavior accordingly.
His theories were formalized in 1791 when he had blueprints professionally produced for the prison system that he would promote to the English government. Yet, he also considered such a design applicable to schools, hospitals, and other public institutions.
No prison system was ever built based on Bentham’s original designs, though he refined them a number of times over the years and continued to seek government grants to build experimental sites.
However, his concepts in which the many could be seen continuously by the few have influenced radical surveillance thinking from his time until now. Bentham’s theories were mostly limited by the available technologies of the day but as subsequent new mathematical models and computer technologies began to advance so to were Bentham’s design theories returned to.
At the same time and from the beginning of his promotional efforts, social theorists have accorded Bentham’s designs and theories as dehumanizing. His designs, in essence, were to encourage the complete subservience of those they were to be used against; initially by internalizing the knowledge of being watched while also being provided the barest of essentials while later, as with the current digital age, of accepting such authoritarian behavior as a natural part of daily life and thus ignoring or completely forgetting about it.
Actuarial science – The development of group-based models
By the beginning of the 20th century, mathematical development allowed insurance companies to begin implementing sophisticated group-model algorithms that gave rise to the actuarial sciences; a form of forecasting that allowed one to predict longevity rates based on habits correlated into groups.
However, this new level of mathematical/sociological interpretation of Human groups did not remain strictly in the confines of insurance company environs. It gave rise to a new perception on classification theory that eventually saw itself adopted by other orientations such as criminology, employment patterns, and even rates of divorce.
Again, these underlying developments found their way back into the area of prison sociology whereby such new algorithms were adopted to forecast recidivism rates and the capacities for potential parolees to succeed in society once returned. Yet, prison researchers took this new style of forecasting to greater lengths as they found ways to finely granulate Human groups into sub-groups allowing for better forecasted outcomes. In time, such statistical analysis would be implemented across the US prison system to forecast prison population behavior.
The popularity of such new “technology” eventually seeped its way into multiple areas of the studies on society by those who wished to control it.
All of this was made possible by the ability to accumulate statistical data that went hand in hand with the development of empirical methods and techniques. And this in turn was the foundation for the emergence of social engineering, which many are now witnessing as being refined in today’s digital age.
Not surprisingly this emergence of social engineering also found its way into the rising popularity of American eugenics programs that would actually become the basis for the adoption by the National Socialists in the 1930s with their use of racial philosophies to rebuild the German nation.
Many would come to believe with the eventual American war propaganda preceding World War II that the study of Eugenics was a purely German concept when in fact it was more demonstrably an American one based upon some earlier theories by German sociologists. In fact, emerging American eugenics programs were becoming quite popular in American intellectual society and were the basis for many degenerate policies by successive US government administrations and institutions such as the placement of Native American children into institutions where they would be deprived of their rights to their own heritage and histories.
World War II, The Cold War and the refinement of statistical analysis
As World War II dominated the globe beginning in 1939 and American involvement was ramped up after Pearl Harbor, new requirements for the military use of statistical analysis became evident. However, instead of needing behavioral analysis, what military units required was statistical mathematics applied to situational data whereby such data was used to model information on combat engagements and their results such as the type of aircraft used in bombing runs.
By 1942 the US Army Air Corp, with the help of the Harvard Business School, set up a brand new training school to train young officers in statistical control so that they could then be assigned to combat bases to acquire data on real combat events that spanned the breadth of everything from refueling, stockpiling, manpower, and casualty rates to name just a few. All of this acquired data would be used to refine mission criteria of all types in order to produce the best results.
After the war, the use of new military statistical developments began to mushroom to such an extent that the newly named US Air Force (1947) would spin of its statistical research institution into the privately formed RAND Corporation in 1948, which became commonly known as the “RAND Think Tank”.
This development along with the modernized data modeling theories then became the original catalysts for what is being seen today in the modern, digital world as a direct result of this creation of the RAND Corporation, which became the first major avenue for such theory and analysis to be streamed into the public domain as governments in the United States at all levels began to adopt such technologies for their own use. And with the spreading of such capabilities so too would a new development in statistical analysis see light; that of the move from group-based data models to that of the individual data model whereby individuals could be categorized in their own granulated data-driven compartments.
By the 1970s a new technique in determining individual Human behavior was introduced to corporate marketing organizations known as “psycho dynamics”. This technology became the popular forerunner to understanding Human beings as consumers and was used as an adjunct to the rise in consumer transactions with emerging credit-card usage along with the paper trails that they provided at the transaction point.
With this development and those before it, the stage was now set and merely waiting for a seminal event to occur in order to turn the entirety of observational statistical analysis on its head whereby observation was no longer required to acquire data; people would simply voluntarily provide all such data on their own. This seminal event would be the emergence of neoliberal economics in the 1980s with the elections of Ronald Reagan as the president of the United States and Margaret Thatcher as prime minister of Great Britain.
Neoliberalism and the subversion of humanism to economic theory
While the technical underpinnings for mass surveillance were being developed the sociology for accepting such intrusion of citizen privacy had yet to be refined to the point where it would be ambiguous enough to be easily acceptable by a willing public. Most such operations prior to such developments were often very covert and secret leaving unsuspecting publics comfortable in the belief that governments would never attempt to create systems that would be overt as it was popularized George Orwell’s, “1984” and made real in the Soviet Union under administrations that were still heavily influenced from the Stalin years.
However, much of the development of the fertile grounds for the growth of modern surveillance states in the West would be as much sociological as it would become economical.
After World War II the idea of Humanism, whereby the rights of individuals to develop and grow spiritually as well as materially were very much protected by US society and especially in the Supreme Court where judicial decisions often protected such concepts as privacy rigorously.
This sense of Humanism had always been within US sociology but often made subservient to the nation’s economic and imperial needs. However, with the end of World War II, the cost and devastation of the planet promoted an opening for this tendency is US society to grow and flourish right up through the 1970s. Western Europe contended with such matters in similar ways such as for example, the 1949 Evans trail that saw England eliminate the death penalty as a result of the trial’s subsequent false conviction of the defendant. Yet, most of Western Europe was too damaged form the war to really consider anything other than the rebuilding of its nations. Britain, on the other hand, though scarcely damaged to the extent of her continental neighbors had lost nearly the entirety of her empire as a consequence of the war and was left reeling from the costs she had expended on it.
Thus, a good portion of the development for the basis of a modern surveillance state was initially led by the United States since she alone along with her northern neighbor, Canada, were left physically untouched by the conflict. Canada on the other hand was also much more attuned to Humanism at the time than the United States.
With successful economic growth in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, as Humanism flourished it also began to meet its limits as new theories of economics were being developed and researched. Keynesian Economics, which was one of the first general theories to diverge from classic economic theory where supply and demand would be always kept in sync as a result of corrective prices, instead promoted state intervention when such equilibrium was found to go out of sync. With the resources of the state, it was simple common sense for Keynes to see this connection. And to date, Keynesian Economics has probably been the only sound economic system ever devised that has consistently kept the inherent weaknesses of Capitalism in check. The result has been that such economics practiced in the United States helped alleviate the more destructive aspects of US Capitalism during recessions and financial crises that unregulated Capitalism has been proven to foment.
Keynesian Economics was also in its own way a very Humanistic form of economics as it was meant to keep a nation’s economy in balance allowing the entire citizenry to maintain their lives without any real overt intrusions by varying economic factors that were common-place to even the most sound of economies. The entirety of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was completely based off of such theory and it actually demonstrated signs of working successfully prior to the entry into the European conflict thereby debunking the idea that World War II helped save the US from its own self-inflicted depression, though wars are often used to hoodwink citizens into believing that there is some tangible link between them and their economies. Actually, military investments result in some of the poorest rates of ROI in the long term when measured against all other types of investments.
While sound economic principals were being followed in the United States in the post-war years, other economists who wanted to return to a purely private form of economics instead of maintaining the public-private relationship that Keynesian Economics set forth began promoting their theories on privatized economics, the most famous being those of Austrian economist, Friedrich Hayek, who has become known as the father of modern neoliberal economic theory. However, Hayek was a social reformer as well but promoted the idea that a completely privatized economy would yield a better avenue to sustainable wealth his sense of Humanism was entwined with his economic theories in that once sustainable wealth has been achieved it could be returned to the welfare of the citizenry.
However, economists such as Milton Friedman and his Chicago School of Economics (aka “The Chicago Boys”) along with others who began to emerge in the 1970s only saw that part of Hayek’s theories that would benefit capitalists themselves. These economists became natural allies to those who were enamored with political philosopher, Leo Strauss, who was influential as the philosophical base of American neoconservative political ideology.
This emergence of neoliberalism/neo-conservatism slowly began to affect how people viewed the inherent tenets of Humanism, which now saw privacy more as an economic factor than a Humanistic one. This was demonstrated in the slow changing attitudes of the US Supreme Court in such cases that were brought before it.
With the elections of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher the West saw the confluence of neoliberal economic theory morph into the beginnings of a political force, which eventually moved the citizenry completely away from Humanistic approaches to strictly economic ones over the years until present day. Thus, privacy, just one of the factors of Humanism, became an economic commodity that could be viewed as something that could be bought and sold like everything else in society.
The result was that many areas of quality endeavor in the US and elsewhere that came under this rather grotesque influence were also commodified such as manufacturing expertise, software development, health care, and with the rise of the Internet, social interaction.
Though many citizens reacted negatively to these changes there was little that they could initially do given the increasing wealth and power of the elites conflated with their laser-like focus on profits and cost cutting. Nonetheless, the sociology of societies that came under such combined economic and political influences dramatically changed for the worse. Students of economic theory were taught that economics was all about “choice” while the “carnival barkers” for industry touted their achievements while their companies were being whittled down to near stages of corporate anorexia in the effort to squeeze every ounce of profit out of them.
The original theories of Friedrich Hayek of privatization were taken and promoted into a monstrous form of hyper-Capitalism that would destroy everything and anything that’s stood in its way.
The emergence of the expository society
Nonetheless, though companies were changing their economic outlooks rather quickly, the law was a slower co-conspirator that had to catch up. While the Clinton years saw the devastation of services to the poor and those honestly in need of state assistance while initiating the most destructive of anti-regulation legislation that was begun with Reagan and Thatcher, it wasn’t until the George W. Bush Administration and the subsequent fallout from the 9-11 attacks that whatever changes were happening in the legal and judicial sectors got a hyper-boost of support from the top echelons in government including arch right-wing conservative appointments to the Supreme Court.
Up until this point there were still many laws preventing law enforcement and intelligence agencies from simply gathering up data on a mass scale though they already had the technologies to do so. There were initial attempts that such as the “Total Information Awareness” program that deemed it necessary to track masses of people to keep the US safe from terrorism but it was the Bush Administration’s ridiculous new “War on Terror” and all its inherent plans that put everything into high gear for the modernizing of the US surveillance state. The physical technologies of hardware as well as the software tools to process and store massive amounts of data was now all there, the confluence of surveillance theory over the centuries had been refined, and increasingly precise mathematical data modeling of Human interaction had been developed to a point where massive data mining was now possible.
The seminal event had occurred right under everyone’s noses and in plain sight… but no one really reacted on a sociological level with the exception of protests to the government.
However, with the introduction of the Apple iPhone in 2007 and the preceding rise of social media networks as a result of developing Internet technologies, any resistance to the coming changes was washed away in the exuberance so many had for a new technology that as many believed would allow them to be connected to each other on 24/7 basis.
Social media sites prior to 2007 were just getting started compared to their rise in popularity along with the faster and more convenient access that the iPhone provided with the emergence of other similar products. And the result, to the delight of intrusive organizations, institutions, and governments everywhere, nearly everyone drank the “Kool Aid” by adopting to a new life-style that emphasized economic choice, openness of one’s most intimate details to the public as Humanistic concerns if any lingered were finally vaporized with this new technical onslaught.
However, with the convergence of Internet technologies, smart-mobile devices, and the origins of how statistical analysis had been developed, the idea that such smart device development was singularly altruistic to the betterment of people’s lives does not appear to hold much water. All of the mathematical techniques that had been developed either for determining future outcomes or for modeling individual data were done by organizations, institutions, and individuals that were interested in controlling Human behavior and situational outcomes. Such a basis could never lend itself well for the strengthening of democratic ideals; in fact as recent events have shown, and as should have been expected, just the opposite has happened. Yet people, more than ever, are willing to put up any tidbit of personal information they can in a race to feel important against the masses they are knowingly competing with. This then is what Bernard E. Harcourt has defined as the “Expository Society” in which people willingly expose themselves to the world at large while not caring who or what is watching them. And this is the zenith of such Human control as desired by the hidden watchers of the NSA, FBI, CIA and all the other alphabet agencies and increasingly local and state police organizations who are being trained to become para-military protectorates of an authoritarian state instead of society in general.
However, everything has a breaking point…
Encryption as insurgency
The breakdown of societies or the transformation from Humanistic approaches to strictly economic ones, especially in the United States and in a number of European countries can be directly attributable to these technologies, sociological trends, and their convergence with authoritarian desires for control. These developments have all fulfilled the original quests of “the few wanting to watch the many” along with the abuse of such technologies for the individual aggrandizement of wealth and power.
The majority of people in the United States seemingly have little care for the fact that everything they do electronically is being recorded and categorized by highly sophisticated computer systems across a span of agencies, organizations, and institutions. And why should they since privacy is no longer viewed as an inherent right to be protected but instead a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. This is what happens when traditional, social boundaries are broken down in the pursuit of insidious agendas. The US populace is up for sale and many times the price is free. US society has become hypnotized by the constant barrage of new smart devices, apps, and tantalizing offers to commit oneself to one site or another. Even within the software development industry itself, younger generations of technical professionals are more interested in the next new software tool (toy) than they are in creating high quality software. And many older professionals have commented on how software code has become so sloppy as elegance of style is thought to be something quaint.
The emergence of these trends in recent years was forewarned in many writings by science-fiction writers years ago as well as sociologists who had clear understandings of where US society and societies in general could be headed if given the right stimuli. And the US was provided such stimuli over a period of many years while the populace was slowly reduced from critical thinking individuals to obedient automatons through radical policies of the federal and state governments. The results were a staggering lowering in intelligence and capability among younger generations to not only perform to pre-1970 academic standards but pursue decisions from a purely rational and intelligent standpoint. One anthropologist even found that the size of the Human brain has actually been reduced by approximately 14% as a direct result of the reliance on smart-devices and the supporting trends to have such technologies actually do the thinking for younger people. There is quite a spate of quality documentation on all of this.
So while Humanism was relegated to a relic of the past and new economic, political, and even legal theory took hold, citizens in the United States were at the same time dumbed down into a willing sense of submission to all that was occurring around them. This does not excuse them, or worse, excuse the parents who have allowed their children to become so involved in such constant nonsense as modern society provides as many abdicated their parenting responsibilities from disinterest, exhaustion, or inability all from the stresses that modern economics have placed on family units. However, their plight can be understood.
England followed a similar trajectory since the political leadership in that nation that would support the new economic policies was elected at the same time as the corresponding leadership in the United States. However, continental Europe was slower to catch up mostly as a result of the protections afforded it from evolving the European Union. Yet, this too was to be breached in time as the EU became corrupted over the years. Germany under the Merkel administration slowly but increasingly followed the path of the United States, though not nearly to the same extent. France has finally devolved into a modernizing surveillance state while implementing such draconian laws as to make the state nearly completely totalitarian. And even traditional Austria has seen her wonderful culture and history subordinated to the modern desires of the younger generations who see little of value of maintaining their reverence for an 19th century emperor who some historians have concluded was probably one of the finest leaders in Human history.
The Scandinavian countries, once a bastion of social liberalism, are now increasingly turning rightward from the consequences of America’s destructive and destabilizing wars in the Mid-East as refugees fleeing from the violence and trauma are threatening to change their national cultures while also threatening the same in continental Western Europe.
However, it is has been the United States that has led this transformation in the West given that for all intents and purposes, Americans historically have never been the brightest bulbs in the universe; not from a lack of capability but more from an ingrained sense of laziness that a lack of curiosity into the realities around them appears to have fostered. Some of this can be attributed to geography but much more can be laid at the doorstep of a willingness to except as truth anything powerful institutions promote.
Reputable information among all the fields of study is now available in a variety of forms for all Americans as well as populations in other western countries to review so that informed decisions about their surroundings can be made. Unfortunately, the advantage of this free flow of information has not incentivized many Americans to understand their pasts in order to see their futures. Instead, they have let themselves be led like a herd to the slaughter as they acquiesce increasingly to the neoconservative economic theories of greed that underlie nearly all policy development in the government infrastructures.
Yet with the move of the younger generations into adult-hood, there appears to be a stirring of an emerging resistance by those who do in fact understand the dangers that such technologies and trends pose to the Human race in general. The rise of the “Occupy” movements signified this growing awareness in terms of social movement structures reacting to inequalities, again, much of it attributed to the abuse of technology by the powerful, which has recently morphed into support for the Trump and Sanders campaigns in the current US presidential election cycle.
However, with this type of socially oriented resistance its longevity has always been very ambiguous as a result of a lack of focus and coordination from too many people being involved that inhibits the generation of firm consensuses on goals and tactics. And social movements historically have rarely if ever created any lasting sociological change in a society as the current attacks on and denigration of social services and Labor in the United States and in Europe amply demonstrate.
Nor has violent revolution garnered much success since most often such events merely replace one set of bad leaders with another as both opponents in a revolution are built upon hierarchical structures that foster similar personalities to move to the highest rungs.
However, within the technology field alone, we could be witnessing the single issue of data encryption as a focal point for concerted and focused resistance against the mass use of technologies to know everything about everyone. Encryption may be a small but viable path to reverse current trends back to Humanistic approaches since it is an attempt to defy government apparatuses to invade the privacy of individuals. It is here that the breaking point of abuse by authoritarian governments on both sides of the Atlantic have found a battlefield with a small but determined foe, which does not take the form of a corporation but instead that of small pockets of highly trained and intelligent technical personnel that are resisting attempts to provide institutional eavesdroppers with free access to any one person’s private digital data. The unlikely allies in all of this may in fact be the technology vendors themselves that understand that providing government snooping capabilities into their products could very well ruin them financially.
Instead of this part of the 21st century being known as the modern, digital age it may become more known as the age of the “Encryption Wars” where idealistic software engineers are providing new tools to protect the privacy of those who use them from the snooping eyes of governments and anyone else. As a result, In the United States we have such tools as “Whatsapp” that promotes end-to-end encryption of messages between persons, which has been recently acquired by Facebook who is slowly understanding that the trickle of defections from its quite security-porous online applications could eventually become a torrential storm of defection.
In Switzerland there is “Proton Email”, which promises the same level of end-to-end encryption for those who avail themselves of their email service. And there are more developments on the horizon pitting technicians and even technology corporations directly against those governments that demand complete transparency of such technologies for their mass spying, none of which has proven to protect anyone from anything so far.
To support this growing reaction to massive spying on innocent citizens with the excuse that “some” may be terrorists, security specialists in near totality across continents are promoting resistance to such government intrusion on the basis that allowing for it technically is impossible since a “window” for one is the same as a ‘window” for all; you either have complete security or none at all.
Even government figures are beginning to side with the technologists on this issue.
The fact that such resistance is growing is a good sign that people are starting to come to understand at whatever level that the use of modern technologies have begun to run amok. However, the downside is that when insurgencies build so to do the reactions of those who they oppose5. In a very real sense insurgencies are just one side of a Chinese party favor where one has their fingers inserted at both ends of the favor and the harder they try to pull them out the more constricting the favor becomes around them. This is why insurgencies take so long to either win or be suppressed as they are incapable of providing a knockout punch. Instead, insurgencies are wars of attrition fostering the exhaustion of who they are opposing.
In this case this potential, technical insurgency is opposed to some of the most powerful organizations on Earth; law enforcement and intelligence. And even though such organizations are populated by many honest, hard-working personnel who are all attempting to bring security to their own societies, it is not these people that are in opposition to such an insurgency but instead the people that run such institutions that have radically, extreme ideas about how populations should be governed and controlled.
In addition, in this type of insurgency, which bears a resemblance to weapons development analysis whereby all major weapon systems are designed specifically to neutralize the advantages of an opponent’s weapon system, technologists on both sides of this fight will find that creating a better encryption\decryption scheme will only mean that the other side will do the same. In short, for the insurgency to win, a sociological solution will be required, not merely a technical one or it will have to be suppressed ruthlessly through new government policies, which will then possibly initiate a spontaneous, violent reaction.
Like all insurgencies, this one has all the earmarks of those that have preceded it; the opponent has unlimited resources, the collaborators who turn on their colleagues in the resistance, the “traitors” to the government’s cause, the idealism of the insurgents’ cause, and so on. Yet, there is no question that massive surveillance of a populace is not only unwarranted it has already been proven to be of completely no use to those who are honestly attempting to resolve serious law enforcement issues and the safety of citizens. Yet, the willingness of so many to expose themselves on a regular basis so consistently makes the temptation of governments to eavesdrop on such personal information nearly impossible to avoid.
The world has begun to enter that dystopian future that many socially oriented science fiction writers, sociologists, and historians have been warning the Human race of for many years. All of the symptoms are in place and only another seminal event to turn the current trends one way or the other will be needed to seal the fate of how Humanity wants to live in that future.
Right now, things aren’t looking all that good…
In all fairness to Ronald Reagan, as Dr. Paul Craig Roberts (former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal) outlines in his recent essay, President Reagan came to understand the inherent dangers of the neoconservative political philosophies and then eliminated them from his administration at which point he opened peace and disarmament negotiations with Soviet Union.
See this link.
Page 62, “Exposed”, Bernard E. Harcourt (2015)
Page 63, “Exposed”, Bernard E. Harcourt (2015)
Pennsylvania Eastern State Penitentiary – Wikipedia
Panopticon – Wikipedia
Bill to ban end-to-end encryption in the United States…
Editorial assistance: Gabriela Motroc
This article first appeared on Tech Notes, Black Falcon Software’s technical articles for .NET Development.