Thursday, June 13, 2013

Can NSA Know Everything About "The Lives of Others"?

Yesterday in this BlogSpot I wondered about the dangers for you, me and other free citizens of free countries should the big data capabilities of NSA ever come under the control of an authoritarian government. As examples of such governments I cited Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy because certain economic and political conditions which eased those dictators' rise to power are also present–perhaps to a lesser degree– in certain western democracies such as the United States of America.

Today, thanks to this post in Yves Smith's excellent blog, Naked Capitalism, I remembered a better example: the former Democratic Republic of Germany, when East Germany was still a nominally independent country. Their intelligence agency, the Stasi, developed the most detailed big data base on its citizens that the world has ever known. The Oscar winning German film, "The Lives of Others" shows just how nasty the former East German Government could be in using their big data against their own citizens. It is chilling to read in Smith's usually reliable blog that agents of the US government have allegedly made menaces reminiscent of Stasi tactics against citizens of the United States who have dared question the legality of big data operations.

Additionally, it appears that the whole project is just as futile as it is potentially dangerous to individual freedoms, as the title of this post indicates:
Top National Security Experts: Spying Program Doesn't Make Us Safer, and Spying Leaks Don't Harm America.

By the way, If you haven't seen that film, please buy, rent or download it as soon as possible.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Big Data and Other Fascist Tendencies

Just about every blogger and columnist is getting into this act. Here is one of the more perceptive:
The Price of the Panopticon - THE revelation that the federal government has been secretly gathering records on the phone calls and online activities of millions of Americans and foreigners seems not to have alarmed most Americans. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center over the four days immediately after the news first broke found that just 41 percent of Americans deemed it unacceptable that the National Security Agency “has been getting secret court orders to track telephone calls of millions of Americans to investigate terrorism.”
So most people aren't very concerned about this yet. But just imagine if such big data capabilities came under the control of an authoritarian government such as Mussolini's Italy or Hitler's Germany. Can't happen in my country? Hopefully not.

Now, think back to the circumstances surrounding Hitler's and Mussolini's rise to power:

  • Deep economic depression.
  • Resurgent extreme nationalism.
  • Strong alliances between big business and government.
  • Convergent interests between big business and a professional military establishment.

Does any of this look familiar?