The 1% Hypothesis of Mass Surveillance
Post from April 13, 2015 (↻ June 8, 2021), filed under Everything Else.
A few weeks back I read this security article, I don’t recall where, about how it’s odd that no one has ever suspected and detected anything related to all that mass surveillance we learned about through Edward Snowden. In particular, physical manipulation of devices, and devices phoning home.
While that article circled around some specific security matters, it reminded me of that low probability suspicion of what if—what if—what the leaks entailed wasn’t entirely true? Why did indeed no one ever notice anything of this apparently vast, aggressive, criminal super-surveillance? Why does by now almost everything we know about global spying come from Edward Snowden?
What if there is no mass surveillance to the extent we have been made to believe?
What if, rather, the revelations were a test to a) gauge how the public would react, with enough room to plausibly deny if things got out of hand, and b) prepare the stage for more invasive measures, now that everyone got used to the idea of unwarranted global surveillance, so to speak?
a), the test, we pretty clearly failed, no matter that media silenced some protests by barely reporting on them. We have not yet done nearly enough to hold back our governments; they shouldn’t be our governments anymore if we had done enough. (Surveillance is undemocratic.)
b), preparation, is actually happening then. Our governments appear to expand their surveillance operations. There was no new legislation in the U.S. granting people their rights, and curtailing intelligence; there are rather trends to up the ante. The other Five Eyes countries don’t cut back, either—quite the contrary. Germany, also, is repeatedly trying to overpower E.U. legislation so to store data for longer, and to further—not close the shop—BND authority.
This 1% hypothesis, as I’ll call it here, as unlikely as it must look given the heaps of Snowden evidence and Five Eyes government admissions, fits a page of the propaganda and research book that some institutions have been working on for more than a hundred years. Staging of dramatic events is something Bernays and Lippmann have propagated at the beginning of the last century, false flag attacks appear common, and there are a good number of rather freaky things some of our countries are purported to test.
Yet this is all a mere thought experiment. Instead of downplaying the surveillance revelations by underestimating and doubting them, the hypothesis would amplify maliciousness, intransparency, and unaccountability of our governments. I’m not saying this is what has been happening; I’m not implying anything about my own beliefs, either (I’m a philosopher, and we ask questions). The only thing to take out of this is that in investigations of world affairs, which are usually criminal investigations, we should perhaps duly look into every corner at least once.
I’m Jens, and I’m an engineering lead—currently manager for Developer Experience at LivePerson—and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
If you have a question or suggestion about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message. Thank you!
Have a look at the most popular posts, possibly including:
Looking for a way to comment? Comments have been disabled, unfortunately.
Get a good look at web development? Try The Web Development Glossary (2020). With explanations and definitions for literally thousands of terms from Web Development and related fields, building on Wikipedia as well as the MDN Web Docs. Available at Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.