Sunday, December 15, 2013

NSA Bulk Surveillance and the Problem of Freedom

Yochai Benkler

Observation as the projection of power
Distinction between transparency and surveillance
Bull Run - intervention on standards through NIST and product design with private companies - not surveillance and not subject to legal oversight
Monitoring cloud - again without legal oversight and with voluntary cooperation or acquiescence of telcos
Classification and secrecy used to end run oversight - no staff or notes for Congresscritters or judges 
FBI has issued over 180,000 national security letters
2006 Mark Klein sues AT&T about federal switch in SF office
Section 215 surveillance can be contested but the subjects of surveillance don't about their surveillance and the companies comply voluntarily and do not contest government requests
Systemic problem but all human systems are imperfect
"Freedom of action is also freedom to threaten"
Organizational imperfections are exacerbated by secrecy
Internalized censorship
Freedom - capacity to plan and execute that life plan.  Autonomy is not yes/no but how much?  And we live within systems, imperfect human systems, and there is a continual tension between open and closed systems.
The claim of completeness is authoritarian
Q: What are the changes of this century that led to this?
Basic imperfection of systems, the solution space of voluntary action has expanded due to technology, but the same technology can increase the power of the state too.
Q:  How to describe Snowden to 8th graders?
He's a person of conscience.

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