Big Brother Is in High Gear

bigbroSocial media and smart phones don’t have to be evil – there’s nothing bad about talking to your friends, after all – but right now social media and “Big Brother in your pocket” phones are very clearly servicing evil. It wouldn’t be hard to build non-evil alternatives, but for the moment, the evil versions enjoy a monopoly. (At least with search engines, there are non-evil alternatives.)

However we choose to look at it, Big Brother is on the greatest roll in all of history. No Pharaoh, no Caesar, no commissar ever had anything approaching the surveillance and manipulation capacities of modern rulers. And in support of it all stand Jane and Joe Average, ever-compliant, who simply don’t want to know. Give them the slightest excuse to close their eyes, and they will.

This kind of thing doesn’t often end well.

Two Recent Outrages

Not that many people will actually be outraged, of course; there won’t be a great deal of that so long as ignorance remains possible. Joe and Jane have already forgotten about Snowden, after all. Still, I will continue to do my part.

One of the hundreds of US government offices, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), recently announced that they developed a system to predict the psychological status of smartphone users. They’re in the process of farming this out to businesses now.

This system tracks your location, tracks your psychological state, and when necessary, will “deliver an automated intervention.” In the NIH’s typical gov-speak, it sounds like this:

Continuously collected ambulatory psychological data are fused with data on location and responses to questions. The mobile data are combined with geospatial risk maps to quantify exposure to risk and predict a future psychological state. The future predictions are used to warn the user when he or she is at especially high risk of experiencing a negative event that might lead to an unwanted outcome…

This is all couched as “help for drug addicts,” of course. (Is “do it for the children” already out of the rotation?) No thinking person, of course, believes that this system will be used only “for good” and by beneficent angelic beings. And if not, then how shall it be used?

The second recent outrage was a long list of manipulations that were cataloged by The Washington Post. They make it very clear that the US government is actively manipulating its populace. Their list is only a small fraction of the whole, of course, but I was grateful to see it.

And from the Glorious United Nations…

Yes, the shining white knights at the UN are chiming in with their new plans to protect us from all evil.

As Mike Krieger reports, the UN (to protect women from harassment, of course),

proposes both that social networks proactively police every profile and post, and that government agencies only ‘license’ those who agree to do so.

So, if you wish to run any kind of “social” network (do comment boards count?), you’d have to be licensed. And if not, you’ll be a law-breaker. Granted, the UN pushes out destructive ideas all the time, and many are never implemented but some of them are. And this isn’t the first idea like this I’ve seen.

From Here, It Gets Ugly

A few months ago, I devoted an entire issue of my subscription newsletter (#59) to the subject of what’s coming next from the Big Brother crew, and it’s not comforting.

Do you remember old episodes of Star Trek where a civilization became controlled by computers and eventually no one moved without the system moving them? Well, that’s where Big Brother is headed, and their new Big Data systems are capable of reaching that kind of result.

Yes, I know it sounds farfetched. So did the lectures I was giving in 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and even earlier. And then came Snowden, and it didn’t sound so farfetched anymore.

My job is to deliver information. What you do with it is up to you. Still, to provide some backup, here’s a reminder of the infamous Facebook experiment that came and went from the newsfeed in early 2012:

Facebook ran a troubling set of experiments on 689,000 of its users, to determine if they could tweak their news feeds and purposely change their users’ emotions. And it turned out that they could… and that those emotions spread to their friends.

What they’ve been doing along these lines since then, we don’t know. We learned about this experiment more or less by accident.


And so, I’ll close here. I feel I have discharged my duties. Make of it what you will.

Paul Rosenberg

11 thoughts on “Big Brother Is in High Gear”

  1. Usually when I enter Yahoo from Google, I have to sign in; then sometimes my comments are messed with by someone as I type and I once got a full screen message “how does it feel to be censored”.

  2. This sounds like just another good reason to eschew cellphones, as much as possible. I have two Tracfone flip phones, one from where I used to live and a local one. I receive less than one call on both of them in the average week, and never carry one unless I am expecting an important call that has to be received rather than made by myself. Almost all of the calls on the past location phone are from a bill collector, who is entered in my contacts as “spam” and always uses that number. They are trying to collect a debt that they never will, as I told the creditor who sold it to them. I use that phone only for outbound calls.
    Since all cellphones are always listening and capable of transmitting whatever they are hearing, as long as they have a power supply, and most have internal batteries to defeat battery removal, carrying a cellphone is the same thing as wearing a bug.

    1. So, you took money from someone, promising to pay it back, spent it, and are now using technology to avoid paying it back. Nice example.

      1. They promised to provide me with an education that they were not providing, so they breached the contract. Are you in the habit of paying for things that weren’t provided just because you said you were? If so, you deserve not to receive anything you have ever paid for,just to drill reality into your empty head. You need a reality check, your current one bounced.

      2. A very apt reply, below, but the post stated “…a bill collector…”, which is at least a 3rd party agent, and the original principal can be sold over and over again, til you dont recall how much it was.
        The OBVIOUS method is for the originator of the loan to take the mortagee to court, but they seldom do, and until they do and I can state my case in some format other than via a computerized fone answering svce, I will continue to ignore, avoid, and evade the collectors.
        As a side thot, the lenders dont care about bad debts, non payments, bankruptcies, or any other “negative” mark on your credit score. They’re willing to take a chance — they lose NOTHING.
        A 3rd point: loans are anti social, since the principal is created out of thin air — in other words they loan you “money” that doesnt even exist other than as a mark in a book, or a tic in an electronic record ledger, so they dont lose a cent if it isnt paid back.
        Plus they create thieves, since the interest “money” is never created; one must steal from others to get the non existent “money” to pay off the loan.
        And we’re all thieves anyway if we use credit cards, since each plastic transaction must be paid for by “the merchant”, who simply passes it on to the other customers, AND raises his prices accordingly, which means if I pay ca$h for my purchases, I’m forced to subsidize YOUR credit card purchases, so you’re stealing from me every time you use a card.
        It’s a racket, and they’ve figgered out the rules centuries ago, and change them at will….

  3. What I think is most outrageous is how wonderful this technology is, how hard we’ve worked as a civilization to get it, but how WRONG it’s turned out.
    I can take photos and share them anywhere in the world? Great! OOPS: Anybody can see them, and computers are analyzing them for faces, and content, and making decisions about you from them.
    I can communicate with anyone anywhere in the world? Great! OOPS: Those conversations are being stored forever, without your permission, to be trolled through by other technology to look for “negative thoughts”.
    I hate to whine, but the only thing I can call it is unfair. This isn’t how it was supposed to turn out. They’ve taken something wonderful and turned it against us. And we helped. In the early days of computers, we (geeks) controlled everything, now we (geeks and public) control nothing.

    1. I hate to whine, but the only thing I can call it is unfair. This isn’t how it was supposed to turn out.
      Fair enough, but let’s not cast ourselves as helpless victims. We have ways of making intrusive spying much more difficult. Don’t want the world to see the photographs you posted? Encrypt them and give only your friends the password. Don’t want your communications stored in plaintext forever? Encrypt them. Yeah, it’s a bit of a pain, but isn’t it worth it to flip off criminal government assholes?
      I personally like steganography. That’s where you hide information AND hide the fact that any information is hidden. Photographs, videos, and sound files are ideal for embedding private data.

      1. I take a lot of counter-measures, but encrypting email (for example) brings attention, like a one-way plane ticket.

        1. I take a lot of counter-measures, but encrypting email (for example) brings attention, like a one-way plane ticket.
          Quite true. One way to look at that is to do it all the more, to make it more “normal” while flipping off the Man. The other is to play more secret games, with steganography perhaps leading the way. An innocuous email with an innocuous photo attachment that has the real, secret message. Knowing that kind of thing goes on drives them crazy, an added bonus. And if, as I half expect, encryption without a government back door is criminalized, we’ll be ready.

    2. More galling to me is the blatant asymmetry.
      Zero transparency into the actions of the govt and State institutions. Witness Obamacare (“we must pass the bill to find out what is in it”), secret actions of the Fed, TPP, etc.
      Complete transparency into the lives of the “citizen”. Too many examples to list out here, including the various items mentioned in the article.

  4. What about the way people put 1984 memes/idea into other peoples minds and this helps co creates or manifests outcomes? Have the alternative side of the oligarchy’s media ‘(freedom” movement )been dooming and glooming?
    Since emotional contagions are as real as anything why not suggest we stop contaminating ourselves and others.
    Simply put there is collective insanity. And these insane people are compliant with authority as it keeps them weakened in fear and loathing.This insane just interested in growing material wealth and surviving think they are winning.

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