Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame has emerged from his solace in an Ecuadorian embassy to talk about a new book he has come out with, “Cyberpunks” Freedom and the Future of the Internet”. The headline is that Assange states that the internet may enslave us. The idea is not as far-fetched as it sounds. The premise of this notion centers around the amount of information and control over that information that exists today. Physical control of the internet is in focus here, with those who are “intercepting entire nations, not individuals” with powerful data warehouse and mega-network infrastructures. Assange is famously critical of the United States intelligence agencies, and asserts that this has been going on for 20-30 years by the US National Security Agency (NSA), but is now spreading to mid-size countries in state-wide national interception systems. In his view, the cost has changed the game. Once upon a time, the focus was on spying of the individual, with wiretaps, secret access to banking, and surveillance, Now, as Assange states, it is economically cheaper to intercept the information of every individual versus picking on individuals to spy on. The video with RT:
Assange further goes on to point to Google and Facebook as examples where people voluntarily giving up their information and it is potentially shared with intelligence agencies, such as the FBI and the CIA.
Do you know what you were thinking one year, two days, three months ago? No, you don’t know, but Google knows, it remembers.
The National Security Agency who intercepts the request if it flowed over the US border, it knows.
So by just communicating to our friends, by emailing each other, by updating Facebook profiles, we are informing on our friends.
‘by updating Facebook profiles, we are informing on our friends’
Assange also points to the infrastructure itself, alluding to an NSA whistleblower Bill Binney who has stated that the infrastructure leading to mass interceptions of information in the billions that happen daily and then stored are potential tool for “turnkey totalitarianism”. Meaning it could fall into the wrong hands, and probably has in some cases. Assange adds that “all the infrastructure has been built for absolute totalitarianism”
The assertions that Assange is putting out probably don’t surprise much. Nations are very interested in intelligence and abilities for security operations throughout the world. That includes surveillance and it includes data warehousing. Assange of course is a curious character, he is in exile, is reported to be in poor health with a chronic lung condition and has been isolated for months inside his Ecuadorian embassy hideout on the run from international persecution for his release of confidential information and further accusations of civil misconduct. Given that, he clearly has an awareness of this potential issue, certainly there are nations that are advanced in such efforts, others on the way.
We witnessed in Syria a nationwide shutdown of the internet this week. Oppressive states recognize the fundamental nature of the internet and the power of information, they have witnessed the leakage of information during civil protest using things like twitter and other social media that did not fit in with what they wanted to be out there. Assange makes some great points to the potential of abuse of power. He asks whether the internet will keep us free or whether enslave us. Assange’s definition of freedom may not fit with what most would consider, especially with the potential damage that was done with the level of confidential information that was released, but his point remains that the forum should continue to be open.