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Schneier: The Internet Is a Surveillance State 333

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-are-the-product-being-sold dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Bruce Schneier has written a blunt article in CNN about the state of privacy on the internet. Quoting: 'The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period. ... This is ubiquitous surveillance: All of us being watched, all the time, and that data being stored forever. This is what a surveillance state looks like, and it's efficient beyond the wildest dreams of George Orwell. Sure, we can take measures to prevent this. We can limit what we search on Google from our iPhones, and instead use computer web browsers that allow us to delete cookies. We can use an alias on Facebook. We can turn our cell phones off and spend cash. But increasingly, none of it matters. There are simply too many ways to be tracked."
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Schneier: The Internet Is a Surveillance State

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  • Sadly true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 16, 2013 @07:09PM (#43193595)

    And sadly most of us contributed to this. Either actively by working on some piece of technology that is enabling this, or passively by sacrificing our privacy for our convenience.

    How sad it is to realize that the technology that we so much love and spend our lives working on is helping the state and big corps to spy on us.

  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @07:10PM (#43193605) Homepage

    Something I wrote a couple years ago: http://pcast.ideascale.com/a/dtd/-The-need-for-FOSS-intelligence-tools-for-sensemaking-etc.-/76207-8319 [ideascale.com]
    "Now, there are many people out there (including computer scientists) who may raise legitimate concerns about privacy or other important issues in regards to any system that can support the intelligence community (as well as civilian needs). As I see it, there is a race going on. The race is between two trends. On the one hand, the internet can be used to profile and round up dissenters to the scarcity-based economic status quo (thus legitimate worries about privacy and something like TIA). On the other hand, the internet can be used to change the status quo in various ways (better designs, better science, stronger social networks advocating for some healthy mix of a basic income, a gift economy, democratic resource-based planning, improved local subsistence, etc., all supported by better structured arguments like with the Genoa II approach) to the point where there is abundance for all and rounding up dissenters to mainstream economics is a non-issue because material abundance is everywhere. So, as Bucky Fuller said, whether is will be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race to the very end. While I can't guarantee success at the second option of using the internet for abundance for all, I can guarantee that if we do nothing, the first option of using the internet to round up dissenters (or really, anybody who is different, like was done using IBM computers in WWII Germany) will probably prevail. So, I feel the global public really needs access to these sorts of sensemaking tools in an open source way, and the way to use them is not so much to "fight back" as to "transform and/or transcend the system". As Bucky Fuller said, you never change thing by fighting the old paradigm directly; you change things by inventing a new way that makes the old paradigm obsolete."

  • I blame the web (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hentes (2461350) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @07:11PM (#43193619)

    While the W3C is always keen to push all kinds of new fancy unnecessary technology, they never cared much about security. Privacy and security should become an important part in web standard design.

  • by jonfr (888673) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @07:17PM (#43193639) Homepage

    If you don't want to be on the grid.

    1: Don't use the internet. Rather that be e-mail, web pages, internet bank.
    2: Don't use mobile phone of any type. Dumb-phones can be tracked just as easy as smartphones.
    3: Don't use credit or debit card of any type. Since most of us need bank account. Get one that is not connected to any debit or credit card. Pay cash only. But be advised that still leaves you up to tracking. Since all stores and banks have security cameras that can be used to track you if needed.
    4: Don't buy electricity or anything off companies. This is hard to avoid.
    5: Live remote and not connected to anything. Then you might avoid being on the grid 99,95% of the time. I do think it is close to impossible to fall 100% of the grid due to the nature of the modern world.

    The other option is to mix in with the grid in such a way that you don't get detected. That however does not matter if the authorities are tracking you activity. Since one spot (or "unit" as they prefer to call it) can be tracked easy if needed. Be that over banks, phone or internet. They got the hardware for this ability about 13 years ago. It has only been growing since then.

    Not AC, since it would not have mattered anyway.

  • by ToadProphet (1148333) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @07:25PM (#43193675)

    There always have been. We're social creatures. Try living in total isolation from society in, say, the 1800s. It was hard to completely disappear even then

    There's a considerable difference between being 'tracked' by individuals we are socially connected to and entities we aren't. The reclusive uncle who had some odd reading habits wasn't at risk of being rounded up in the way that he might be with the latter.

  • I can't see Schneier as a Libertarian since he states in the article that "Fixing this requires strong government will...". No Libertarian would suggest such a fix, which I imply to mean that this issue goes beyond Libertarians.
  • The larger issue. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekmux (1040042) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @07:35PM (#43193745)

    "...We can turn our cell phones off and spend cash. But increasingly, none of it matters. There are simply too many ways to be tracked."

    Actually, the larger issue is there are simply far too many people who don't give a shit about privacy anymore.

    How do you think we got to this point.

  • Spread it around (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AndyCanfield (700565) <andycanfield@yand e x . c om> on Saturday March 16, 2013 @07:44PM (#43193799) Homepage
    One technique is to spread it around. Use DuckDuckGo or Yandex for search. Use independent e-mail services. If you must do social networking, use low-volume third-layer sites. Remember that Google is now one database; your gmail and youtube use are correlated. Whenever possible use companies based outside the US. Google (USA) will tell the FBI; Yandex (Russia) will not. Sure, any fact about you is in some database. But don't let all those facts get into a single database.
  • by geekmux (1040042) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @07:45PM (#43193803)

    There are simply too many ways to be tracked."

    There always have been. We're social creatures. Try living in total isolation from society in, say, the 1800s. It was hard to completely disappear even then. Someone always knew your whereabouts even then.

    My "whereabouts" on December 25, 2017 do not concern me. Chances are on that day I'll be with family (sorry for the spoiler)

    Someone being able to record and play back every damn thing I've ever done between now and then is the difference between today and the 1800s.

  • by aztracker1 (702135) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @07:48PM (#43193825) Homepage
    That was my thought as well.. sometimes it comes down to personal awareness of the tools you are using. If you only read books from the library... surprise, they can track your reading habits. Personally, my rule of thumb is don't do anything online you wouldn't want people to know about... Yes, I'm a geek, and I also like sex, and porn... If drugs were legal, I'd be inclined to partake on occasion. I do have a couple drinks about a dozen times a year.

    I think what it comes down to is how private do you want to be.. there are ways to accomplish this. Most browsers allow for a "clean" or "incognito" session that doesn't carry forward cookies/data ... you can even set your browser to clear private data on close. Disable flash and silverlight, and you've closed the gap to outside storage/tracking. The problem is that cookies and JavaScript have good purposes, and a handful of organizations abuse them... That doesn't mean that they shouldn't be allowed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 16, 2013 @07:49PM (#43193831)

    In my opinion, we are selling out future generations for a few dollars savings and a fart app.

    You think that companies knowing what you want makes things better for you. I say it mostly doesn't now and it certainly won't in the future. Companies are tracking us very, very effectively. Soon they will know such things like "89% of males of XX age asked about this" so they will show you that even if *you* haven't thought about. It is narrowing your choices, not expanding them. In the future, companies will know things like "most people can be made to do X if you repeatedly tell them Y". How will they know these things? By tracking millions of people for decades, that's how. Statistically speaking, companies will know what you can be made to do during each period of your life and they will narrow the choices for you so that you will likely arrive at the decision they want you to.

    And you will think it is all your choices and your freewill but in the end there will not be such things.

  • Re:Sadly true (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @07:51PM (#43193841) Journal

    While it may be irritating, as long as they don't feed data to governments, it's not really Orwellian.

    The correct solution is ever-better cryptography and disallowing government from making it illegal, or mandating backdoors into things.

  • by drrilll (2593537) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @08:13PM (#43193945)

    I am probably the lone wolf (in particular on slashdot) when it comes to being apathetic towards this sort of thing, but I don't see the point in being alarmist without documenting something specific. Near as I can tell it is a sophisticated way to to online advertising, not profiling for the KGB. This whole "tracking is Orwellian" thing, well please, what specifically are they doing with this information that is Orwellian? If they are tracking me for advertising purposes (which they most certainly are) what could possibly be more pedestrian and less alarming than that?. All it means is that there are occasionally ads that I care about (though still remarkably few at that).

    And yes, there is potential to do something evil, but potential is not the same as doing. If it was we would all be in jail.

  • by ios and web coder (2552484) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @08:25PM (#43194003) Journal

    I have already written off true anonymity (years ago).

    When I am in public, at work, or with friends and family, I am constrained to behave myself. There may be different rules in different contexts, but there are always rules. Some written, some not.

    The Internet gave an illusion of a "rule free" context, and look what happened.

    That vacation is over. Time to behave like a grown-up.

  • The Job Creators (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @08:43PM (#43194065) Homepage Journal

    105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period. ... This is ubiquitous surveillance

    We should have known the Internet was going to become a surveillance state the day we turned the whole thing over to corporate control.

    I'm trying to think...was there a lot of tracking and surveillance back before the Internet became the world's shopping mall? I remember using the Internet back then, and I don't recall a lot of trackers.

    Personally, I preferred the old non-commercial Internet. It was more fun. There was no Netflix or Amazon, but there was also nobody crawling up my ass. I would trade Facebook for Usenet in a hot second.

    But I don't despair. I'm confident that people will innovate for privacy again.

  • Re:Sadly true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lennier (44736) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @08:55PM (#43194109) Homepage

    While it may be irritating, as long as they don't feed data to governments, it's not really Orwellian.

    And you know thatInternet companies which keep all their internal dealings secret for "commercial sensitivity" reasons are NOT feeding our data to a government which made it illegal for companies to report their national security letters.... how?

    Same way as we know that meat companies aren't cutting their beefburgers with horsemeat, I guess.

  • by Kell Bengal (711123) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @08:58PM (#43194117)
    I think a big misconception here is that being totally 'off the grid' is somehow the logical goal. Leaving the grid will satisfy your need to not be tracked, certainly, but I think the pareto principle applies: you can do 20% of the effort to gain 80 percent of the benefit - no need to become a survivalist to avoid intrusive tracking. Turn off cookies, use public transport, leave the cellphone at work when you go home, pay in cash.

    Yes, stores have CCTV cameras in them, but they rarely check them except in case of a crime being committed. Sure, they could use fancy face-tracking software cross-referenced with databases to find out who everyone who pays cash is, but really, they won't bother because the vast majority of people will pay with a loyalty card anyway, incentivised with frequent flyer miles or somesuch. Companies go for what's going to turn a profit - they don't do long-tail very well unless it costs them nothing.

    You might say that being conspicuously absent from some modes (eg. trackable transactions) highlights you for scrutiny, but I would argue that that's a bit paranoid - companies won't double their tracking efforts to make 2% more from 'different valuers'. Governments might worry about the 2% of weirdos out there, but they already track the things that concern them - purchases of explosive materials, weapons, and phonecalls to known agitators. The best way to keep the government out of your life is to keep your nose clean, follow the law and don't publicise it if you belong to the scarlet letter club du jour (eg. communists, satanists, pedophiles, science fiction writers, etc).
  • Re:Sadly true (Score:3, Insightful)

    by maxwell demon (590494) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @08:58PM (#43194121) Journal

    It's feeding the data to those who actually govern the world these days.

  • Re:Sadly true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TarPitt (217247) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @10:03PM (#43194453)

    Because private corporations by definition can't intimidate people by force, since only people intimidated, beaten up or killed by the evil government lose their freedom.

    Being intimidated, beaten up or killed by private corporations doesn't restrict your freedom at all

    ref:
    Colorado Labor Wars [wikipedia.org]
    Iron and Coal Police, a privatized law enforcement entity [wikipedia.org]
    Henry Ford's Service Department - which didn't repari customers' cars but beat the crap out of union organizers [autonews.com]

    Remember, if your are beaten or shot at by a government employee, it is evil tyranny. If you are beaten or shot at by a private security force, you are feeling the pains of FREEDOM.

    It is only bad if the government does it.

  • by gallondr00nk (868673) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @10:19PM (#43194517)

    It was inevitable I suppose. The fuck-knows-how-many dollars spent on advertising and marketing and consumer focus were going to be spent somewhere. As a result, the last few years people have been flocking to build sites whose entire business model was developed in order to provide data and information in exchange for it.

    Inevitably, there is a push for more information. What your real name is. Your DOB. Where you work or live. What your favourite place to eat is. What you like. Even where you are at any moment.

    (It follows that government either already is or will be a customer.)

    I do wonder if there is a speculative bubble forming around the market for that particular business model. How much of what is gathered can actually be used? How much is it actually worth?

    I suspect that is the escape. If the bubble bursts and the data isn't profitable enough then the intrusion should subside dramatically.

  • Re:Good Story (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sloppy (14984) on Sunday March 17, 2013 @12:19AM (#43194983) Homepage Journal

    They got you when you loaded the iframe, not when you clicked Like.

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Sunday March 17, 2013 @01:45AM (#43195237)

    The simple fact is society as a whole has never worn a tinfoil hat like you do. This never changed.

    You needn't wear a tinfoil hat in order to care about privacy; you only need to look at history and see countless examples of government abuses and realize that allowing the government to violate people's privacy would most likely lead to abuses of power.

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