This Big Business of Big Brother

By now all have heard of the whistle blower exposing the NSA capturing all sorts of communications traffic.  The latest is the United States and Great Britain didn't stop there, they have been spying at the G-20 meeting, filled with the highest echelons of economic and financial officials.

Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic.

The revelation comes as Britain prepares to host another summit on Monday.

If anyone recalls, 2009 was the height of the Great Recession, with still a blare glimmer of hope the world would actually truly reform the global financial system.  This latest revelation also refutes the claim all of this warrantless eavesdropping going on is simply to thwart terrorists.  The 2009 G-20 meeting was all about financial reform, so the fact real time spying was going on one has to wonder why that is.  At the time, massive debt forgiveness as well as nationalizing the banks was being considered.  Needless to say none of that happened.  The Guardian's article sums up the 2009 G-20 spyfest:

  • Setting up internet cafes where they used an email interception programme and key-logging software to spy on delegates' use of computers
  • Penetrating the security on delegates' BlackBerrys to monitor their email messages and phone calls
  • Supplying 45 analysts with a live round-the-clock summary of who was phoning who at the summit
  • Targeting the Turkish finance minister and possibly 15 others in his party
  •  Receiving reports from an NSA attempt to eavesdrop on the Russian leader, Dmitry Medvedev, as his phone calls passed through satellite links to Moscow.

Gets better still as the NSA has confirmed they can listen into actual conversations and read any written communications as well.

National Security Agency discloses in secret Capitol Hill briefing that thousands of analysts can listen to domestic phone calls. That authorization appears to extend to e-mail and text messages too.

Below is the full NSA PRISM whistleblower Edward Snowden interview if you haven't seen it.  Snowden's interview on the NSA having access to our data is prophetic, assuredly true and folks, we're all living in a fishbowl, with static water to boot.  Even though life is transitory, the golden rule is really this too shall pass, in digital bit land, it is the opposite, everything is static.  Do something stupid or off the cuff and there is no electronic eraser.  You are now labeled for life.

 

 

We often wonder how much money can our personal data possibly be actually worth?  After all, most people in America are really flat broke and obviously almost no one is a terrorist.   The latest projections for big data as a big market is $48.3 billion by 2018 and processing all of those profiles and Internet searches spawns $600 billion in additional value each year.  We are being profiled everywhere and paying for the privilege.  The never ending data chase has also caused a 8.7% global security increase from 2012 to $67.2 billion projected for 2013.  Having national security privatized shows the great disconnect between the outrage of government spying to the bizarre acceptance that it is somehow ok if corporations do the same thing, all the while collecting the big money to be had by violating people's privacy.

Corporations are functionally kingdoms, with the CEO and Board of Directors as the King and main Lords, senior executives as Minor Lords, and all other employees as serfs.

And “national security” corporations have a specific carve-out from FOIA laws and whistleblower laws; they don’t generally have to disclose secrets or wrongdoings like government agencies do, and are additionally protected from doing so by privacy and trade secrecy laws. So you can’t just directly send a FOIA request to Booz Allen’s McLean, Virginia headquarters demanding information on its intelligence operations.

And for those, like Edward Snowden, who work for contractors engaged in questionable activities, there are few consistent and functional internal whistleblower mechanisms like those that exist for government workers.

The lack of accountability or transparency inherent to corporations isn’t a huge deal if a company is making, say sneakers, but it is a problem if that company is in control of an essential part of the commons like national security.

Indeed, private contractors now capture 70% of the U.S. intelligence budget.  Corporations are feeling the heat, as Facebook and Microsoft are trying to quell the disaster by releasing their NSA requests.  Google's revenues are mainly from ads.  That means they are profiling you, but simply to sell you whatever product some advertiser is willing to pay Google to push.  Google is really all knowing and if anyone has looked at their Analytics tools or even their Google cookie, it's outright scary how much they know.  Yet can one imagine what would happen if Google took their immense power and truly used it against people?  They would make the NSA seem like a bothersome fly being swatted by the Google gorilla.

Did you wonder how Facebook could have ever been evaluated at $75 billion when it had no products?  Beyond the hype, that was all about Facebook having your personal behavior data and profile.

The magnitude of online information Facebook has available about each of us for targeted marketing is stunning. In Europe, laws give people the right to know what data companies have about them, but that is not the case in the United States.

Facebook made $3.2 billion in advertising revenue last year, 85 percent of its total revenue. Yet Facebook’s inventory of data and its revenue from advertising are small potatoes compared to some others. Google took in more than 10 times as much, with an estimated $36.5 billion in advertising revenue in 2011, by analyzing what people sent over Gmail and what they searched on the Web, and then using that data to sell ads. Hundreds of other companies have also staked claims on people’s online data by depositing software called cookies or other tracking mechanisms on people’s computers and in their browsers.

Bill Moyers has been covering Big Brother data and interviewed Harvard Law Professor Larry Lessig, who warned on privacy and totalitarian states in 1998.  The below interview is really terrifying.  Lessig connects the privatization and profits to be had in Big Brother land.  Lessig also amplifies how the surveillance these days is not just one individual event, say a phone call or email, it is the application of artificial intelligence to discover our daily patterns by our e-behavior to statically classify us in a variety of very limited, two dimensional ways.

 

 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation now has an action item to demand government stop the spying.  Yet where are the calls to stop Experian, Transunion, Microsoft, Yahoo, Intel, Apple, Google and whoever else from spying and profiling us?  Google may not be able to arrest us, but through credit and other elements, can come damn close to completely ruining our lives with the information they have.  Below is a great Bloomberg Law interview with EFF's Trevor Timm on Edward Snowden and the NSA leaks.  The message is clear, culture, society and liberty will be damned if it gets in the way of big profits.  This is a corporate bill of rights that is guaranteed into today's digitized global world.

 

 

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Monday on Charlie Rose Pres. Obama said the collection of metadata should be a public discussion because it is not only useful to government, but also for commerce. Hard to depend on a Congress with approval ratings almost 0, but that is where the discussion should begin. We are late to the party especially if we want democracy and a public voice. We could add the system of checks and balances should not always be done in secret.

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what's the bane of digital life? Spam

Well, frankly I don't believe a word Obama says but in terms of profiling people by corporations, private business it is way more worrisome to me than the NSA. Yes, I know the NSA could lead to jail and being blown up by a drone and what not, so clearly that's a huge problem, but being profiled by employers, by credit agencies, banks, etc. could destroy one's life almost to the level of jail and being murdered.

One must wonder though, we know the government is doing some sophisticated AI, data mining, pattern profiling, face recognition and so on, so why is it, Drug cartels are running around with impunity.

Congress is corporate lobbyists these days so having them pass a bill sounds like the fox in the hen house for corporations.

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