Social media, Silicon Valley are “surveillance marketers” for NSA et al

Richard Stallman, Julian Assange, with picture of Edward Snowden. Credit: Wikileaks
Richard Stallman, Julian Assange, with picture of Edward Snowden. Credit: Wikileaks

Bruce Sterling has a must-read piece about Snowden and NSA, nailing the complicity of internet companies with the national surveillance state. Rather than being plucky little startups that made it big due to grit, determination, and new ideas, the Googles and Microsofts of the planet were hugely aided by big helping hands from government spooks offering contracts, money, and connections. The companies were only too happy to oblige, chirping all the while about how they were different from those tacky old traditional companies. “Do no evil” now seems a cynical in-joke and ploy among billionaires who sold us out long ago rather than a corporate slogan that was  actually followed. Emphasis added.

Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, Google et al … are intelligence assets posing as commercial operations. They are surveillance marketers. They give you free stuff in order to spy on you and pass that info along the value chain. Personal computers can have users, but social media has livestock.

Sterling asks, why is it that Wikileaks was the only entity that really helped Snowden? I’d say it is because Assange is genuinely, perhaps even fanatically, committed to his cause and at this point has nothing left to lose.

It’s incredible to me that, among the eight zillion civil society groups on the planet that hate and fear spooks and police spies, not one of them could offer Snowden one shred of practical help, except for Wikileaks. This valiant service came from Julian Assange, a dude who can’t even pack his own suitcase without having a fit.

Activists. Read this. Political uprising must have clear-cut goals and leaders. Or else the results probably won’t be what you want or expect.

Even if the proles rise up in a wave, busily Twittering away, you’re gonna get an Arab Spring, followed by a regretful military coup once people figure out that networks just aren’t governments.

Even the electronic civil lib contingent is lying to themselves. They’re sore and indignant now, mostly because they weren’t consulted — but if the NSA released PRISM as a 99-cent Google Android app, they’d be all over it. Because they are electronic first, and civil as a very distant second.

However, Sterling is actually quite optimistic. Richard Stallman, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden now have the initiative and are genuinely making governments tremble. Super empowered inviduals can do that…

A super empowered individual, in my view, is autonomously capable of creating a cascading event that grand strategist Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett has termed a ” system perturbation”; a disruption of system function and invalidation of existing rule sets to at least the national but more likely the global scale. The key requirements to become “superempowered” are comprehension of a complex system’s connectivty and operation; access to critical network hubs; possession of a force that can be leveraged against the structure of the system and a wilingness to use it.

Let’s all become superempowered individuals.