7 votes

We need a massive surveillance program

10 comments

  1. [4]
    joplin
    Link
    Sorry, but no. Massive surveillance is not water, it's a bomb that will not only not fix the problem but will make new, worse problems. Once in place you will never be able to roll it back and it...

    But right now, the house is on fire. We need to pour water on it.

    Sorry, but no. Massive surveillance is not water, it's a bomb that will not only not fix the problem but will make new, worse problems. Once in place you will never be able to roll it back and it 100% will be used for political gain.

    That kind of case tracking has traditionally been very labor intensive. But we could automate large parts of it with the technical infrastructure of the surveillance economy.

    Well, since we have a lot of people out of work, maybe a better solution is to put them to work doing the intensive labor instead of curtailing the freedoms our country was founded on just because our politicians are incompetent.

    Every one of us now carries a mobile tracking device

    No, we don't. This is tech elitism talking. There are plenty of people who can't afford a device or don't want a device. They are disproportionately poor, very old, or very young. But sure, if you don't care about those people, then it's probably fine.

    This is a dangerously dumb idea.

    23 votes
    1. [2]
      pseudolobster
      Link Parent
      Given this author's previous speeches about data collection, I think the whole point would be to make people aware this data is already being collected with little to no oversight. [...] [...] I...

      Given this author's previous speeches about data collection, I think the whole point would be to make people aware this data is already being collected with little to no oversight.

      This surveillance sounds like dystopian fantasy, but it exists today, ready for use. All of the necessary data is being collected and stored already.

      [...]

      We could make similar quick changes to the surveillance infrastructure in the United States (hopefully with a little more public awareness that such a system was coming online)

      [...]

      But this proposal doesn’t require us to give up any liberty that we didn't already sacrifice long ago, on the altar of convenience. The terrifying surveillance infrastructure this project requires exists and is maintained in good working order in the hands of private industry, where it is entirely unregulated and is currently being used to try to sell people skin cream. Why not use it to save lives?

      I also think he's being a little tongue-in-cheek here:

      Those people would then be notified of the need to self-quarantine (or hunted with blowguns and tranquilizer darts, sent to FEMA labor camps, or whatever the effective intervention turns out to be.)

      Maybe if the hoards of data that already exist had the light shined on them and were put under public scrutiny we'd realize how much of a terrible idea it was to allow this data to be collected in the first place.

      8 votes
      1. joplin
        Link Parent
        I can respect that idea, but I don't think it would work, unfortunately. However, I'm a bit of a cynic.

        Maybe if the hoards of data that already exist had the light shined on them and were put under public scrutiny we'd realize how much of a terrible idea it was to allow this data to be collected in the first place.

        I can respect that idea, but I don't think it would work, unfortunately. However, I'm a bit of a cynic.

        1 vote
    2. ThatFanficGuy
      Link Parent
      And yet I kinda feel like it might work out. See, I'm a techno-optimist. Needless to say, the latter half of my life has been a never-ending challenge to such a belief, but it is fundamental to my...

      And yet I kinda feel like it might work out.

      See, I'm a techno-optimist. Needless to say, the latter half of my life has been a never-ending challenge to such a belief, but it is fundamental to my being. I feel like mass surveillance could be made to work not just for the state (or any agent eager to abuse such a vast well of information) but for citizens – primarily for citizens, even.

      The caveat here is that someone must be in control of the system – even if just for fixing the bugs and updating the hardware network to the latest version. It would have to be someone with the time, the resources, and the manpower to sustain a country-wide, 24/7 surveillance system. In most countries today that authority would be the state: the only entity powerful enough to supply all of the needs. Corporate entities could be a legitimate second choice. After that, it's the public, in a more libertarian, open-source modern-technocracy sense.

      Now, naturally, the former two options cause... just a little bit of extreme worry and dismay.

      Most states of the world have not proven themselves trustworthy or reliable: not only have many a state member been corrupted by money or power, but they also passively support a system of technically-illiterate, power-hungry persons who see no benefit in pursuing higher ideals. Entrusting these people with this much information is asking for trouble: your data would be sold, manipulated, leaked, and abused, in one fashion or another.

      Corporations? That's just removing the middleman from the simulation. Now people with monetary interests and very little leverage for public good – if they ever decide to pursue it – have direct access to an incredible amount of detail they can profile based on, meaning they can not only target you with very precise ads, but also potentially hold you hostage to the desires, thoughts, and fetishes you don't want anyone else to see. ("Comply to this ridiculous new terms-of-service document we're about to release, or we expose just how much gigabytes of extreme BDSM and incest porn you've downloaded in the past month. 31.9GB, by the way. You twisted fuck.") Nevermind that the lack of technical literacy is still there: you may be hiring the best engineers in the field, but if your arrogant CEO ass can't perceive the problem when it's breathing on your neck, expect the same crap you saw from the state: leaks, abuse, manipulation, and plain damn errors.

      Which leaves the open-source approach... and I'm not confident about that, either. It's the ideal scenario of citizen empowerment, but it still leaves glaring holes in the plan: like, how are you going to make sure only qualified engineers with no motivation for harming or abusing the system are let to the hardware part of the system? You may be able to review the code changes, but the physical infrastructure still requires manual maintainance. If you set up some sort of a security system and a vetting process, that's two more instances of the same problem to solve only one.

      Generally people act in good faith and aim to improve the livelihoods of those around them. Generally an open-source project would be in good hands and find its way to flourish and thrive, at least technically (Wikipedia is a great example). But then there are moral questions, and differences in approach, and external threats that you have to resolve or protect against, and that is just another abyss to jump across. Would it be possible to resolve? Maybe, eventually. I don't think we have the infrastructure – technical, mental, or physical – to maintain a line of development for that long, especially for a project of such existential importance.

      I think the state could be made more transparent and reliable. I think corporations can be, too. It's not an easy thing to accomplish, and it certainly won't be a priority just for this one grand surveillance system, but it can be done. Citizen empowerment could be achieved, too. Any of those is a major project of their own if you seek to do it right, and not in the span of a couple of months: this would take years of hard work from a lot of people.

      Now, why would I even consider mass surveillance to be a potential force for good?

      Because with more information the system (via its agents: citizens and lawmakers, in our case) could make clearer, better-informed decisions. If there's an epidemic brewing because of a sudden spike of similar symptoms in a small area, you'll know within hours. If there's a power outage, you can track it to the source and restore electric supply much quicker than through human analysis alone. If there's a coordinated threat to the state or its people, you'll be able to prepare a large-scale response in a straightforward and meaningful way within a short span of time.

      Every single benefit I can think of comes from an abundance of information. Experiments in the education system can be carried out and assessed with more certainty and precision, thus aiding education all over the country – hell, maybe even the world. Crime would drop, for obvious reasons. Transportation could be managed on a city level: rush-hour traffic could be directed in ways that would ease the pressure on the big roads, reducing congestion and allowing everyone to get home quicker. And so on, and so forth: it's much easier to prepare a response to a problem you can reliably see, and a powerful analytics framework could provide such clarity if designed well.

      Is any of that worth robbing people of their privacy in public? I don't know. It's not something that can be easily traded. Trust lost is trust that's going to be very hard to regain: if you make even a small mistake with the system, on such a scale it could have immense consequences.

      Could this be done on the current scale? I don't think so. Our capacity for system architecture is very limited, even with the Internet at hand: the tools we have for communication and information processing are simply not up to the snuff. If we ever decide that a mass surveillance system is worth it, we better do our damn best to come up with something that could make this job hundreds of times easier, 'cause that's exactly what we're gonna need.

      Ideally, this sort of a system should be regulated by an AI. We have excellent supercomputers today, and even they aren't enough to process even a small country's worth of data in a meaningful amount of time. One aspect of it? Maybe. Two? Maybe. But if we try to establish something state-wide, we are ridiculously underprepared, and no, humans need not apply: our brains are simply too weak to process this level of data, and in a group large enough to have a shot at this, the bureaucratic lag – the errors, the rate of dispersion, information mutation, the paperwork slowdown – will destroy the very point of establishing the group.

      Long story short? I think we might benefit from it. I think we can't build such a system reliably, now or in the near future. I think that even when we can, it only stands a small chance of remaining safe for long. I think the modern, imperfect, limited versions of such a system see abuse that indicates we're not ready to build one on a larger scale.

      But on the off-chance that the stars align? I'd say give it a shot. Keep human dignity in mind while building it: let people refuse sharing the information, for just one thing that matters. Should it ever be a system beyond abuse (one can dream), I think it would be a massive net benefit to humanity in general and all persons specifically.

      3 votes
  2. [6]
    tindall
    Link
    Speak for yourself, friend.

    But this proposal doesn’t require us to give up any liberty that we didn't already sacrifice long ago, on the altar of convenience.

    Speak for yourself, friend.

    6 votes
    1. [5]
      ThatFanficGuy
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I should tell you about the amount of people I've seen even in this shithole of a city that spend their time outside staring at the phone with their necks bent 90°. "You" and "most people" may not...

      I should tell you about the amount of people I've seen even in this shithole of a city that spend their time outside staring at the phone with their necks bent 90°. "You" and "most people" may not be intersecting circles, but hoo boy is that an altar of worship.

      1. [4]
        tindall
        Link Parent
        I own a smartphone. I take significant precautions regarding my privacy so I can use it without much fear that, for instance, my location is being tracked. It's possible, if not common.

        spend their time outside staring at the phone when their necks bent 90°

        I own a smartphone. I take significant precautions regarding my privacy so I can use it without much fear that, for instance, my location is being tracked. It's possible, if not common.

        1 vote
        1. [3]
          ThatFanficGuy
          Link Parent
          You're proving more definitively that what you took offence with wasn't the insinuation that this is the way of things: it was that someone dared to lump you in with the rest of the people. We...

          You're proving more definitively that what you took offence with wasn't the insinuation that this is the way of things: it was that someone dared to lump you in with the rest of the people.

          We seem to agree on the fact that you have a higher set of standards when it comes to use of smartphones. That doesn't imply that most people do, too.

          1. [2]
            tindall
            Link Parent
            You're absolutely correct. I'm consistently annoyed by the tendency of people on the more authoritarian side of the spectrum to decide that, because they perceive "society" to have made a move in...

            You're absolutely correct. I'm consistently annoyed by the tendency of people on the more authoritarian side of the spectrum to decide that, because they perceive "society" to have made a move in a certain direction, it's acceptable to require literally everyone to move much further in that direction.

            Maybe privacy isn't important for many people. It's very important for those of us who don't want the rising tide of fascism to carry us straight into the grave. I've never mistrusted this nation's government more than I do at this moment, and the idea that, because some people don't care that Google knows where they are, people most vulnerable to state violence should let the state know where they are at all times is shortsighted and repulsive.

            2 votes
            1. ThatFanficGuy
              Link Parent
              This elaborated and meaningful idea is much more than what you started this thread with. I'd rather see you say that than the snide "Speak for yourself, friend". That might encourage people to think.

              This elaborated and meaningful idea is much more than what you started this thread with. I'd rather see you say that than the snide "Speak for yourself, friend". That might encourage people to think.

              1 vote