FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Seduced by Surveillance

by

We live in a world overwhelmed with intrusive technological gadgets. Most of us have learned to live with this fact and many of us have even embraced it. The latter are those who have apps to close their garage door and check the lights at home while they wait for their plane in an airport a thousand miles away. They are also those who post everything they eat and do on social media apps that then store this information for eternity. The omnipresence of social media and the technology that makes it possible has created a serious ethical situation regarding the question of personal privacy. For agencies where ethics are nothing more than a minor hindrance–government intelligence agencies and organized crime for example–this technology is a godsend. What once required actual feet on the ground and snooping inside homes and other private property is now able to take place from an office cubicle with a laptop. When one considers the voluntary provision of too much information (or TMI as the popular acronym proclaims) that social media encourages, one can understand even better why the aforementioned agencies truly appreciate the new internet-related gadgetry.

Government agencies and criminal enterprises are not the only entities enjoying the new availability of personal information. Corporations are too. As most people know, every keystroke and touch screen touch is recorded by any number of internet robots, stored and then regurgitated as an advertisement. This creates occasionally humorous buying suggestions for the user and annoying advertisements that assume too much and transform every interaction into a commercial possibility. This is an ideal metaphor for the neoliberal capitalist world we live in; it is also a disturbing trivialization of our ever-more-trivial lives.technocreep_cover

There is also an element of the entire internet snooping abilities that is, for the lack of a better word, just plain creepy. This element is one that internet security guru and University of Calgary professor Thomas P. Keenan addresses in his new book, Technocreep: The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization. It’s clear from the title that the use of the word “creep” is a play on its multiple meanings. It is also clear that the book is about much more than just the potential creepiness of unwanted Facebook “friending” or inappropriate and offensive advertisements appearing in one’s social media account. Indeed, the true focus of the book is the steady integration of this technology into not just our public lives, but also our intimate existence.

Furthermore, perhaps the most unpalatable aspect of this technocreep is that it is done under the pretense that it is to the social media users’ benefit, when in actuality its only purpose is to further atomize human existence; an atomization designed by and for a capitalism that demands greater and greater numbers of consumer units to satisfy its ravenous needs.

Keenan’s approach utilizes anecdotes and facts. Some of the anecdotes are humorous even as they uncloak one more invasive intention of the surveillance web. Others are not funny at all, evoking paranoia well beyond that which Winston Smith and Julia lived under in George Orwell’s 1984. Technocreep is not a call to arms, nor is it a hacker’s handbook. However, behind and beyond the seemingly never-ending description of tools designed to record the most intimate details of our lives and store them for corporate and governmental powers, Keenan hints that the only certain method to prevent total surveillance and domination is by outsmarting the corporate-owned geeks who create the code and devices being used to create this panopticon. In other words, anti-corporate/government hacking is legitimate self-defense. Keenan does not provide instructions on how to hack, but he does end his book with a list of tips on how one can make it more difficult for snoops to do their snooping.

If nothing else, Kennan has written a helpful description of what kind of surveillance is undertaken by corporations, governments, criminal enterprises and just plain creeps every second of every day. He presents that description with humor and a knowledge that comes from years in the industry. There is also a healthy mistrust of those who write the laws and how easily those laws are not only ignored, but irrelevant before their ink is dry thanks to the much quicker pace of technology. This book should be read by anyone who uses a smartphone, computer or other device connected to the internet. It won’t make you feel better, but at least you’ll know what you’re up against.

Ron Jacobs is the author of the just released novel All the Sinners, Saints. He is also the author of  The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.  His third novel All the Sinners Saints is a companion to the previous two and is due out in April 2013.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail