Friday, October 31, 2014

Big Brother2.0 debate/conversazione, Lady Mitchell Hall, Nov 1, 11-12.30

I'm going to discuss things from a technical (computing) perspective, but with a modicum of social science

1. The canard: "If you've got nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" needs debunking
(cue visual duck being thrown out of a hammock:)

This oft-repeated statement misses various important features of the way the world and people work:
Firstly, we all hide things all the time - the reasons are many:

some things are not finished, and need further work before they are presentable - 
sometimes, that is our own selves -our half baked opinions.

some things are hurtful to some people, but not to others

we present ourselves differently to different people - our kin, our close friends, our colleagues, our acquaintances and people that we encounter - all are given different levels of trust, because there are different levels of shared experience (and many other reasons). Context matters

Surveillance is toxic. It reduces everyone's choice of behaviour to that which is acceptable to everyone else. For all time. 

2. Because of the change of context over time (we grow older, our social network varies, the world changes, new stuff gets discovered, people forget stuff), we need to control aspects of information about ourselves as seen by others - indeed, we need to have obsolete data removed from their view

The statement that this is "censorship" is false. It is about a generalization of the "public right to know"

In general, the "public" is a set of people who we can send information to - e.g. my family, my friends, google, facebook, Sky TV, Isil, or GCHQ or the NSA or the Polis. Most of these, most the time, do not have a "right" to know. this is obviously false. I have a right to tell or not. I can judge my context.

e.g. Wes Hardaker, en route from san Francisco to Vancouver in SFO airport tweets to his partner at 5am "this airport is so dead" - the NSA might think he's a terrorist. he isn't - he means that the airport is really quiet (its 5am, after all).

e.g. Euan Blair on his 18th birthday gets drunk and is found /photographed in a gutter. before he was 18 it was no-one's business (he's a minor)- after he's 18, he's an adult -t he fact that his father is prime minister isn't relevant. the fact that many of the journalists covering the story are functional alcoholics and hipocrites is of no more interest, either, even if it is deliciously ironic.

e.g. mark thatcher gets lost in a rally drive across the sahara isn't specially interesting - see above. His mother isn't responsible for her 25yr old son's poor navigation skills doesn't reflect on her free market dogma or handbagging skills

3.with a suitable combination of technology (tracking content using DRM just as music and movie companies do, but on behalf of the citizen) we can tell if people send our data further than we wish, and law (data protection law, esp. in Germany - mainly because over time, the experience of the Stasi surveillance state rammed home why you really should care about this) we can 
catch bad people, fine them, put them in jail and (hopefully) make people think about whether they should inappropriately gossip - we can also age and remove from sight data that is no longer relevant (criminal records for crimes that the perp has rehabilitated, health records of no public interest, financial info that is out of date). THis is no less true of trivia (my birthdate is not necessary for buying a drink, just the fact that I am over age X...)

4. Enforcement ideally should be social, but should include suitable independent organisations - perhaps a new Estate (the first virtual estate)

5. GCHQ (and the NSA etc) are in no special privileged relation to most people in regards the above.
We need to incent them to do their job right. expensive surveillance is not a substitute for good old fashioned Humint....

6. Google (facebook, NHS care data/Price Waterhouse) aren't exempt either

7. we need law with sharper teeth, because of the heavily asymmetric power held by agencies named above compared with the individual

8. data,just because it can be copied without error, is not necessarily true in the first place. and it can become false (law change, for example). recall by humans is revisionist, because context changes. Data without context is inherently false

9. Every decoding is an encoding (Maurice Zapp, Small World, by david lodge).

10. If you don't by this, give me all your keys and all your passwords.

There's a lot of background work to this, but I'm assuming the audience probably won't want bell, book, candle and footnotes:-)

My 10 cents

stephen farrell quite (59 mins in):

terrorism, evidence etc report card:

CATO report on costs of counter terrorism compared to what:

John Naughton's notes are now available too

1 comment:

Simon Leinen said...
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misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home