Silicon Valley wants 24/7 surveillance, as do governments. How convenient

Maybe it’s not so strange that a technology, the internet, that was started as a way to watch the public, continues to do exactly that, often with governments concealed behind the curtains as we get distracted by all the shiny new online toys.

There is, of course, no going back. And the internet absolutely does many wonderful things for us. However we are being watched 24/7 and there’s no way to know who has that data and what they are doing with it. People on all sides of politics are getting alarmed. Joel Kotkin, a conservative, writes in the Orange County Register about the sinister side of Silicon Valley.

How Silicon Valley went from ‘don’t be evil’ to doing evil

At the same time these firms are fostering what British academic David Lyon has called a “surveillance society” both here and abroad. Companies like Facebook and Google thrive by mining personal data, and their only way to grow, as Wired recently suggested, was, creepily, to “know you better.”

Whether one sits on the progressive left or the political right, this growing hegemony presents a clear and present danger. It is increasingly clear that the oligarchs have forgotten that Americans are more than a collection of data-bases to be exploited. People, whatever their ideology, generally want to maintain a modicum of privacy, and choose their way of life.

We have traveled far from the heroic era of spunky start-ups nurtured in suburban garages. But a future of ever greater robotic dependence — a kind of high-tech feudalism — is not inevitable. Setting aside their many differences, conservatives and progressives need to agree on strategies to limit the oligarch’s stranglehold on our future.

Yasha Levin’s new book explores the roots of the current surveillance.

In Surveillance Valley, Yasha Levine traces the history of the internet back to its beginnings as a Vietnam-era tool for spying on guerrilla fighters and antiwar protesters–a military computer networking project that ultimately envisioned the creation of a global system of surveillance and prediction. Levine shows how the same military objectives that drove the development of early internet technology are still at the heart of Silicon Valley today. Spies, counterinsurgency campaigns, hippie entrepreneurs, privacy apps funded by the CIA. From the 1960s to the 2010s — this revelatory and sweeping story will make you reconsider what you know about the most powerful, ubiquitous tool ever created.