The End of Privacy and Freedom of Thought?

I saw this chilling report in my Twit­ter feed today (thanks @Asher_Wolf): Tel­stra is imple­ment­ing deep pack­et inspec­tion tech­no­logy to throttle peer to peer shar­ing over the inter­net.

Des­pite being a clas­si­cist not a geek by train­ing, this sounds like I know what I’m talk­ing about, right?  Well some­what to my own sur­prise, I do, after years of expos­ure to the “hackt­iv­ist” eth­os and a grow­ing aware­ness that geeks may our last line of defence against the cor­por­at­ists.  In fact, I recently did an inter­view on The Keiser Report about the “war on the inter­net”.

Offi­cially, Tel­stra is imple­ment­ing this cap­ab­il­ity to pro­tect those fra­gile busi­ness flowers (surely “broken busi­ness mod­els” — Ed) with­in the enter­tain­ment and copy­right indus­tries — you know, the com­pan­ies who pimp out cre­at­ive artists, pay most of them a pit­tance while keep­ing the bulk of the loot for them­selves, and then whine about how P2P file shar­ing and the cir­cu­la­tion and enjoy­ment of the artists’ work is theft?

But who, ser­i­ously, thinks that such tech­no­logy, once developed, will not be used and abused by all and sun­dry, down to and includ­ing our bur­geon­ing police state appar­at­us? If the secur­ity forces can use any tool, no mat­ter how sor­did, they will do so, as has been recently repor­ted with the UK under­cov­er cops assum­ing the iden­tit­ies of dead chil­dren in order to infilt­rate peace­ful protest groups.

Writer and act­iv­ist, Cory Doc­torow, summed this prob­lem up best in an excel­lent talk at the CCC hack­er­fest in Ber­lin in 2011:

The shred­ding of any notion of pri­vacy will also have a chilling effect not only on the pri­vacy of our com­mu­nic­a­tions, but will also res­ult in our begin­ning to self-cen­sor the inform­a­tion we ingest for fear of sur­veil­lance (Nazi book burn­ings are so 20th Cen­tury).  It will, inev­it­ably, also lead us to self-cen­sor what we say and what we write, which will slide us into an Orwellian dysto­pia faster than we could say “Aaron Swartz”.

As Columbi­an Pro­fess­or of Law, Eben Moglen, said so elo­quently last year at anoth­er event in Ber­lin — “free­dom of thought requires free media”:

Two of my favour­ite talks, still freely avail­able on the inter­net. Enjoy.

Bits of Freedom — Amsterdam Talk, 16 September 2010

It’s going to be a busy month for talks — I’ll be in Ams­ter­dam with the Dutch (digit­al) civil rights organ­isa­tion, Bits of Free­dom, on 16th Septem­ber.  I use the brack­ets con­sciously, as I don’t per­son­ally see a dis­tinc­tion between rights in the phys­ic­al or digit­al world — the under­ly­ing prin­ciples are the same.

BoF is doing great work, so any­one with­in strik­ing dis­tance of Amstie please come along, not only for the talk, but for what also prom­ises to be a great social even­ing!

Little_BrotherIf you can­’t make that night, I ser­i­ously recom­mend com­ing along to a BoF din­ner on 24th Septem­ber, where the guest of hon­our is acclaimed journ­al­ist, blog­ger and author, Cory Doc­torow.  I had the pleas­ure of meet­ing up with him a couple of years ago in Lon­don — an extremely switched on man.

I really, really enjoyed his digit­al act­iv­ists’ hand­book — sorry, nov­el — “Little Broth­er”, ostens­ibly aimed at the young adult mar­ket.  But, hey, we’re all young at heart, and this book is spot on!

Watch out, Big Broth­er.….