The New Weapons of Mass Detection | Shoshana Zuboff’s Response to Martin Schulz
#surveillance #tracking #silicon_army
Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Summons: Our Fight for the Soul of an Information Civilization (Forthcoming, 2015), is the Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration (retired) at the Harvard Business School.
The challenge I see is that, thanks to Edward #Snowden, we know that the technology revolution has once again been hijacked by the dream of perfect control. It’s being used as a Trojan horse for a still poorly understood convergence of public and private institutions that wield unprecedented power over information. This new power bloc operates outside our control as citizens and consumers. I’m calling it the military-informational complex, because its power derives from the production and deployment of what I call new weapons of mass detection composed of information and the technical apparatus required for its access, analysis, and storage.
Eisenhower’s Message in a Bottle
The military-information complex is a convergence of public and private expertise in the control and analysis of information camouflaged by a forest of excuses. The official story is that these growing powers are a necessary response to forces beyond control: technological requirements, digital proliferation, autonomous market dynamics, and security imperatives.
Rewind for a moment to 1961 and President Eisenhower’s farewell address to the American people. He had revised the speech many times over a two year period. In each draft he insisted on retaining a crucial passage, as if he was determined to send a message in a bottle to be discovered, read, and grasped by future generations. American society was under threat from a new “military-industrial complex,” he warned, and only “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” could ensure that “security and liberty” would both prosper. Guardian readers will recognize the phrase “security and liberty” as the tag line on Glen Greenwald’s now immortal series. Greenwald found the bottle.
Five years later economist John Kenneth Galbraith, elaborated his concept of the “technostructure” in The New Industrial State. “Power,” he wrote, had “passed to...a new production function... men of diverse technical knowledge, experience or other talent, which modern industrial technology and planning require.” Galbraith’s book celebrated an industrial oligarchy at the heart of the military-industrial complex, enmeshed in state functions and protected by state power, insulated from public accountability, and innocent of responsibility. Why? Because it promoted itself as the inevitable expression of technology’s indisputable “requirements.” Galbraith had fallen under the spell of technological determinism.
«I’m all about demilitarization»
Demilitarization had been essential for what Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain calls the “generative” capabilities of the Internet –– the ways it lends itself to trust, interaction, invention, and creativity. Militarization is already having the opposite effect, as firms withdraw their data from cloud servers and governments explore new regulations and infrastructures that enable nation-specific privacy controls.
Of equal concern are the economic effects of information militarization. It suppresses the creative adaptation to human needs that is #capitalism’s greatest strength . In the annals of capitalism, the production of prosperity and well-being have depended on a steady flow of commercial “mutations” that better align business with the changing needs of people.
In at least two cases, at Google and Facebook, one of the plans discussed was to build separate secure portals...in some instances on company servers.” In some cases, the New York Times reported, tech company employees have national security clearance. In others, NSA agents installed their own software on company servers, and even hung out at the company for days or weeks of system monitoring.
Had Google and Facebook learned surveillance tactics from the NSA in the first place? Or was it the other way around? The identity of the military-informational complex was taking shape along with its assumptions, attitudes, interests, and perspectives. Armaments production was well underway.
That self-censorship is a life sentence to an endlessly repeating present. Nothing new can happen once we curb our thoughts.