Fwd: GNU hackers discover HACIENDA government surveillance and give us a way to fight back

Robert J. Hansen rjh at sixdemonbag.org
Wed Aug 27 18:15:09 CEST 2014

> I fully agree with you, which means that I see few ways to preserve
> the liberty that privacy represents than to withdraw from much of
> civil society while it shares ever more...

I see a couple, but much like Dan, I'm not optimistic about them.

The first is this: *stop talking about privacy*.  What people are
calling 'privacy' is really a large number of concepts which are all
being glommed together under the umbrella of 'privacy', but these
concepts may not all belong together at all.  Figure out what
*precisely* you're concerned with, and start talking about that -- but
"privacy" as a word has become so vague it's almost useless.  If we
can't describe precisely what we're afraid of losing, we're going to
lose it and we won't even be able to accurately tell people what we've lost.

The second is a more general observation: authority tends to behave best
when it's forced to submit to oversight.  Corporations behave best when
they're forced to answer to public shareholder meetings where anyone
with a single share to their name can demand answers -- and if they
don't get them, there's hell to pay.  Politicians behave best when
there's a free press following them around and asking them rude
questions.  Terrorists wear masks not to hide from the authorities, but
to hide from their own communities -- social oversight would make their
job impossible.  Unfortunately, oversight only works when those in
charge take it seriously.  We as a society would rather watch reality
television than television about reality: we'd rather watch _Big
Brother_ than C-SPAN hearings about whether government has become Big

The third is that those who *do* care, tend to care in deeply broken
ways.  I can't tell you how many times I've run into self-styled privacy
advocates here in the U.S. who are furious over how the U.S. has been
reading their email.  The only problem is there's very little evidence
of that occurring.  Reading email metadata, maybe, but not email
content.  When I try to explain that to them I usually find myself
wondering inside of two minutes why I ever bothered trying to bring fact
and reason to what is fundamentally an argument from passion and
emotion.  I have had people literally yell in my face over the
metadata-versus-content distinction.  When the front line of advocacy
appears to be detached from reality in one way, and the body politic is
detached from reality in another (reality television), well... how does
one fix this?

My reading of what Dan's said (I apologize, Dan, if I'm getting you
wrong) is that he sees no way to stop the technological assault.  I
don't think that's quite true, though.  If we were as a society to
suddenly say, "stop this, right now, let's establish some laws to
protect the essential core of privacy," we'd do it.

The problem I see is the old one of the Eloi and the Morlocks... and I
feel like an Eloi who fell down into the Morlock tunnels and spent just
barely enough time down there to get a sense of just how bad it's going
to be.  Now I'm waving my arms and screaming at the other Eloi that they
aren't going to like what happens when the Morlocks come, but nobody's
listening to me.  I'm getting in the way of the latest special about the
Kardashians, you see...

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