From what I've observed, countries are only more and more eager to adopt intelligence gathering methodology in a collective manner (à la Five Eyes). I'll quote Atlas Shrugged for this one:
> There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of law-breakers—and then you cash in on guilt.
gets slapped with "an eight-week community order, placed on an eight-week curfew and told to pay costs of £500 and an £85 victim surcharge."
oddly enough I had just learned about this and laughed about it 2 days ago
surveillance state ethos is becoming a joke in the mainstream zeitgeist with memes propogating about "the fbi man" watching our selfie cameras and asking our google home/alexa device "wiretap" what the best recipes are available... most people are very aware of what's happening with their data and they've chosen convenience
we can only be careful not to get arrested, be careful not to fight too hard at work or risk getting replaced for 99.9% of people. even for all the hype about programmers, there are millions of people banging on the doors trying to break into tech and most of us are replaceable.
On top of that, how do you steam music via your mobile phone without providing data to a 3rd party? And if your solution involves anything more than an App Store, and doesn’t include any form of customer support, I’m not sure you truely understand who you are specifying this solution to.
Now of the solutions realistically available to this user, which do not capture and retain data on the given user? And which will not change their policy in the future to do so?
People are aware, and tired. But I think you could better relate to their situation if you considered trying to live your life without creating carbon, or at least to become carbon neutral. What you understand about your carbon footprint, others understand about their data footprint.
Zero, or worse still, a bunch of half baked and misconceived ideas that result in a negative outcome.
People (and ravens) cannot help but act differently when they're being watched. Being watched (by anonymous viewers) is a stressful vigilance state.
You can get very close to them, when they are foraging on the ground, if you turn your face away from them and only look indirectly. Then when you've gotten close you stare directly at the poor bird. Except for jackdaws, I haven't met any corvid that isn't gravely startled by a such sudden leer.
City birds are very used to us humans paying them no attention and happily dart around our legs. But if they get the sense you are watching, can no amount of french fries make them take the risk of sticking around.
Crows (and probably other corvids) learn to recognize individual humans, and are smart enough to know that whether a human is friendly, indifferent, or hostile varies from human to human and is fairly consistent for a given human.
Oh, and there is evidence that they have some way of communicating their knowledge of individual humans, so a crow that has decided to dislike you can tell other crows you are bad, and they will start acting as if you had wronged them, too, and can pass on the message.
Corvids are fun to play with. I've got several Steller's jays  coming by every day to get peanuts, and recently a flock of about 20 crows. But with the crows I'm limiting my messing with them to things that they can't interpret as hostile or annoying, because I do not want 20 crows trying to annoy me back.
The crows would win.
One of my favourite books talks about how smart corvines are:
In a former workplace I used to feed the gulls and film them in slow motion. I had them taking homemade wholewheat bread (that I baked for them...) out of my hand with them flying quite hard into the wind. The bread could have letters written on them so a video could have a 'get well soon' or 'happy birthday' type of personal message spelled out for someone. Getting that one take with 'nobody' dropping the squares of bread was an art, particularly since slo-mo requires being massively quick.
I had names for about twenty of the gulls, could individually recognise fifty of them as 'regulars' and, depending on the gulls busy schedule, could have a hundred of them to entertain.
Unlike my other workmates I had them follow me as I walked to and from the office, not just at lunchtime, my presence would always be noted. It would take them a few hundred yards to realise I had 'the wrong bag' and to calm down. I had plenty of assistants - workmates that sometimes needed to chill out - but they never had the full 200 yards of 'Mexican wave' from the feathered ones.
The 'Mexican wave' from the gulls was actually quite cool. Fancy clothes and fancy cars might impress some but having a flock of birds follow you in some ribbon in the sky has magic to it that money can't buy. Well it can if you are into your home baking and don't mind spending $0.50 on flour every day.
Anyway, that is way off topic, however, as it happens I really would like facial recognition for gulls, to use the tech of surveillance for some conservation work. As well as the faces the missing feathers, broken feet and other characteristics could be part of the A.I. with each gull resolving to a made up name by way of a one-way 'hash'. Therefore if one of 'my' gulls was spotted two miles away (e.g. Percy) then he/she should resolve to the same name in someone else's picture. They should be able to find out where this particular gull normally hangs out and also have the same given name of 'Percy'. If 'Percy' then crops up regularly in their photos then they will have a name to the face, he won't be just a random gull, more of a recognisable neighbour.
The app is not something I have chosen to dedicate my life to, however, it is an interesting thought experiment in the age of surveillance. This is because we only see the oppressive side as victim, obviously with 'nothing to hide'. To understand things that stress you out it is helpful to imagine what the view is like from the other end of the telescopic panopticon. This makes it a bit easier to survive in the more normal 'Winston Smith' 1984 mode.
In 1984 there are a few details that can be missed on the initial few read-throughs. He has health problems that aren't due to Big Brother but then they are. There is also the small matter of him actually doing very little with his life. The 'proles' are able to procreate, party and live a little. Meanwhile our protagonist who is 'party' is not partying. He never goes to dinner parties, never entertains kids in a wider family, doesn't go on holiday or get on with those normal things. Big Brother ain't stopping him but because Winston has a fight going on in his head he isn't able to emotionally engage with people doing normal happy life things. Obviously Orwell wasn't writing that detail in and Winston's health issues may have been autobiographical but these also happen to be finer points of surveillance society if you are not a 'prole', 'proles' being the 'nothing to hide' crew.
I hope people on HN are taking note.
I'm uncomfortable poking too much around in scihub. Even though it's not something a national security agency would care about (I hope). Could any connection between papers from scihub and myself, be a huge issue both with my career and potentially for my institutions position when negotiating licenses. It might be paranoid, but there are so many possible ways to be compromised, that I choose to direct attention elsewhere.
I find it sad that I'm afraid to inquire on one of the most important developments in scholarly dissemination in resent years. I'm a research librarian for Price's sake.
Don't use academia.edu or researchgate. It's a big story waiting to get out. There's absolutely no privacy on these sites and they track everything. I get an email notification from these sites every time someone does a search query that happens to display my paper as a result. I also get notified when someone has been reading a paper through their platform. The privacy implications are really gross. I hope that they delete this data, stop collecting it, and that nobody ever gets a copy of that.
Academic PDFs downloaded from academic publishers include deanonymizing information such as your name, your institutional affiliation, IP address, and sometimes your email address. I wrote a tool to help remove this information from pdfs: https://github.com/kanzure/pdfparanoia
As for scihub, many of your concerns can be mitigated by having an offline copy. There are torrents published by scihub (or libgen's scimag, which is supposedly a mirror of scihub?). I have had a lot of trouble getting a relatively complete copy due to low seeder bandwidth and lack of seeders. There's a forum somewhere that you can request libgen users to seed certain torrents, your mileage will vary.
I think every academic library should have a complete copy of scihub. Keep in mind, scihub isn't just using library ezproxy accounts, she also has a large cache of files. Supposedly that's 70 million papers at the moment. It's about ~50 terabytes or something.
My recommendation is that scihub should be running pdfparanoia on all of their papers. It only removes visible watermarks. I haven't investigated invisible watermarks yet. I'm definitely interested in those.
Turning up the paranoia dial a little more, I am concerned that scihub may have a deal with a nation state actor for the purposes of phoning home about research article downloads from certain countries, in exchange for allowing scihub to continue to operate. Going further, this could include pdf malware (or metadata tainting for fingerprinting) or browser exploits. This level of international espionage would be very useful to a nation, and might explain any nation's interest in keeping scihub operational despite political or civil court pressures. Of course, it's also helpful that scihub is running in an area of the world that doesn't really care about demands from U.S. courts, so none of this is necessary to explain the continued existence of scihub.
Ever since I began thinking about the deanonymizing data inserted into pdfs by academic publishers, I've been wondering about collaboration between academic publishers and nation state entities. This is a concern even in absence of scihub existing. Also, many of these publishers have really bad web security and it's trivial to take data like apache logs or whatever, because they are publishers not software experts especially the smaller publishers. Who else is taking that data, and what can they do with it?
Academic privacy is extremely important for the freedom of science and human progress, and I haven't figured out how to juggle those priorities against the priority of making complete mirrors of scihub. I am deeply worried about that data trove disappearing. It's one of our most important data sets...
Just to be clear-- the fundamental priority is for scientists to demand free public access to the research that pubic funds have paid to produce. There are many ways to achieve that. It could but doesn't necessarily mean mirroring scihub or even using scihub.
Whatever the approach it requires no technology. It's a social problem. Until some sizable group of prominent scientists take a stand and demand that discovering and reading research papers be as easy as discovering and reading a Wikipedia entry (and accessible/maintained by a similarly reputable entity) the fundamental problem will go unsolved.
Until then practical discussions about digital privacy are unfortunately part of a continual cat-and-mouse game.
AFAIK, a tool called "Convert to trusted PDF" in Qubes OS should make sure there are no invisible markers. It just makes pictures from the files using a disposable VM (yes, the file sizes become larger...).
Problem with the reasoning is that surveillance doesn't really stop terrorism and crime.
Indeed, if I were a criminal worth my salt, I'd slither into positions where I am effectively exempt from surveillance, or could control how surveillance is used against me.
IIRC - it "only" cost the 9/11 terrorists about $1M to pull it off. Terrorism is quite effective. It's almost like an amplified reflection DDoS attack - cheap to pull off and expensive to defend against.
"Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Ben Franklin
OT historical trivia time. When Franklin wrote that, the "essential liberty" he was talking about was the government's liberty to tax, and by "purchase" literally meant to buy with money.
The Pennsylvania Assembly was trying to raise money to defend the frontier during the French and Indian war. This would include taxing the lands of the Penn family (which ruled Pennsylvania). The Governor, appointed by the Penn family, kept vetoing this, each time finding some new excuse that made little sense to Franklin and the Assembly.
Franklin's quote was in a letter he wrote to the Governor concerning this situation, rejecting the notion that the Assembly should have to give up its taxation power over the Penn family in order to get a bill approved to purchase arms to supply those on the frontier.
He later did write something similar but about personal liberty rather than government liberty. I can't quote it, though, because I stupidly saved a link to a Reddit comment that cited it rather than the direct citation, and the Reddit comment has been deleted.
Here is a list of the hundred odd local councils, union watchdogs, agriculture depts etc.  who actually access the metadata.
But the thing that most worries me about surveillance is that almost no one is exempt. The oz government has in the past have the AFP raid the offices of journalists and opposition party members. What do you think they would do with meta data access. Politicians, more than anyone else should be afraid of surveillance.
For example, people are still regularly amazed when I show off Google Translate’s augmented reality mode, whose technology is nearly 8 years old now.
Other tech demos I have seen include:
• Wall penetrating radar using ambient WiFi to do pose detection
• Remote sensing of pulse and breathing from RGB video
• Audio recovery from normal speed (sans audio channel) RGB video footage by taking advantage of the rolling shutter
• Lip reading to the level that specific speakers can be isolated or removed from the audio stream of a clip
• Non-voice audio isolation/removal, e.g. guitar
I have a big problem with how deeply flawed the ‘nothing to hide’ argument is (it’s almost a direct Kafka reference ffs), but people are allowed to have their own opinion on privacy and surveillance.
In today's polarized political environment where terms like bot/shill/NPC are thrown around willy-nilly, implying that someone lacks agency over their views is a fantastic way of getting them to shut down and refuse to engage with you as anything but a tribal enemy.
That's a particular shame because opposition to indiscriminate surveillance has the potential to transcend partisan feuding, as exemplified by Schneier's careful selection of examples that have appeal across the spectrum. Sanctimonious sniping by tech elites at them darn brainwashed masses is one way to ensure that an anti-surveillance coalition of 2a defenders and immigration reformists remains a fantasy.
Note that I don't disagree that mass surveillance is a poor way of fighting terrorism/crime, but tone of messaging is everything.
> I don't disagree that mass surveillance is a poor way of fighting terrorism/crime
No, it itself is bad for reasons that make other crimes and terrorism bad. It's a crime worse than terrorism, we're just too primitve to have it on the books yet. And plenty of entitites using surveillance also commit terrorism and other crimes, and are in bed with all sorts of people who do all sorts of things, as long as its useful. It's a great "tool" to fight activism of all sorts, and it's used for that.
Actually, I would say it's not even a tool, it's a weapon. I hope future historians will get a chuckle out of this, to me it's like people arguing about how useful a minigun is for hunting deer. As Hannah Arendt said, intellectuals are great with coming up with all sorts of high-fallutin, complicated explanations, they're the best at not seeing the obvious, not the quickest to understand. It really just boils down to this: when they came for X, Y and Z, it was more comfortable to rationalize that than to realize that they're going through the alphabet, backwards, and that all of us could have been born as anyone, and that even when they came for Z, they really came for you.
But you see, if people don't care about others, I also don't care about them. If X Y Z are not enough for someone, I'm not going to bend over backwards to explain to them them how they will also get affected at some point, how it already changed them, how ultimately, nobody gains from it, not even the very tippity-top, and so on.
If a kid kicks a dog, yes, you probably shouldn't descend on it with fury and preach to it for hours on end how horrible a person they are. But you also probably shouldn't just say "it's great you have this much energy, but check out this pillow". No, they hurt another being, they wouldn't want to be hurt that way themselves, it's not okay and they shouldn't do it again -- if there is no way to tell them that without them getting upset, let them get upset. Some things are simply too serious to be too soapy and sloppy about.
At this point, the sheer amount of crimes people have NOT cried bloody murder about, the rationalizations they already invested in, are enough to make people upset regardless of how nice you are. Nevermind personal choices, we are too many generations into too much bullshit for anyone to come away from a good, hard look unscathed. If they want to hold people who haven't even been born hostage with their petty selves, their fragile egos, their life choices that can't have been for nought, then they need to be overcome, not catered to.
The quality of seeds is not determined by how a rocky surface interacts with it, but what happens when there's fertile soil and some rain. Sometimes when the seeds are actually fine, but there's still a holdup, the soil might simply not be fertile, it might be rock. Maybe it needs more time and rain, but either way you don't wait around until something grows or doesn't. Instead you do rounds, and only after you've done at least one round can you even begin to justify focusing on the patches where nothing has grown. But instead, those patches actually demand a veto right, seeking to stop the whole thing even though the fault is with them.
If you get hung up on "brainwashed" you're simply not going by the strongest most possible interpretation, and take offense at a word people people use in casual conversation without a problem for decades. And that's not even getting into serious thinkers, or any of that.
> Now the police dreams that one look at the gigantic map on the office wall should suffice at any given moment to establish who is related to whom and in what degree of intimacy; and, theoretically, this dream is not unrealizable although its technical execution is bound to be somewhat difficult. If this map really did exist, not even memory would stand in the way of the totalitarian claim to domination; such a map might make it possible to obliterate people without any traces, as if they had never existed at all.
-- Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism"
> The frightening coincidence of the modern population explosion with the discovery of technical devices that, through automation, will make large sections of the population 'superfluous' even in terms of labor, and that, through nuclear energy, make it possible to deal with this twofold threat by the use of instruments beside which Hitler's gassing installations look like an evil child's fumbling toys, should be enough to make us tremble.
-- Hannah Arendt
Someone who not sometimes trembles to their core because of that, who never loses sleep because of the realization that right now, millions of people are in physical and/or psychological agony, which is carefully curated and hidden from sight -- how could I be moved in the least by them trembling over being called anything but innocent yet wise?
Let's say 5% of the people had no problem with being this "unflattering" because that's a near invisibly tiny thing compared to what others endure and what's at stake. Those, without interference from the rest, would probably achieve more than 30% who have the top priority to never be offended and never be sad.
How many women were suffragettes, how many weren't? This very notion that it all needs to be made inoffensive and smooth enough, until everybody can agree on it, itself may impede progress way more than people who are more blunt about it than you.
I say "in practice" to exclude native tribes and such; most of us don't enjoy the option of being neutral. That's not a matter of opinion, it's just a matter of unpacking everything there is to unpack.
If this offends some people too much to partake in the discussion of our responsibilities, and what we best should be ashamed of, if we want future generations to even have the option to not be born complicit and deceived (they might not even rationalize it as benign like is done today, for them it could be all there is), I would prefer to discuss with those who have a thicker skin, rather than discuss something that is more palatable but has nothing to do with reality.
The situation determines what is required of people. The whims and abilities of people don't determine what the situations is. Any offense people might feel for being called complicit or foolish, I see and raise by the offense done to countless of people who had their rights denied in all sorts of ways or even were murdered.
> We can’t really justify all our decisions, many them are hunches, many of them are wrong.
It's social progress that you can't have, not innovative science and technology.
Fortunately, for, uhh, national security reasons, our own science community is toying pretty strongly with the idea of substituting politics for scientific inquiry in many or most fields as well, which will prevent Chinese science from being able to lean on Western science for that connection to reality. Yay...(?)
I don't think so.
I think that most people take a single historical example (USSR) and at a certain paranoid era and extrapolate it to every kind of totalitarian or vaguely similar society -- as if its some inevitable byproduct.
An authoritative society can just as easily be quite hands off with sciences (as long as they don't meddle in politics, e.g. not so with social sciences for example).
In fact, post-Mao China has already diverted a lot from USSR (and of course of USSRs under-productivity).
They already have pragmatic (if authoritarian) political goals and approaches, and could not care less what Mao said or what the "laws of historical materialism" are, etc -- whereas early communist elites were hang up on such things.
One added difference between USSR then and China now (besides the obvious huge change in productivity and wealth) is that Chinese elites also know about Lysenkoism and its results.
Knowing it's a bad idea doesn't seem to stop anybody here, because the driving forces of politics and power don't care. Submission is more important than correctness.
And this is why we have democracies. Also, if history is any indication, it won't end well (although East Germany's end was remarkably peaceful).
The only history to remember would be USSRs, and even had quite a good track record in science and engineering (given their meagre resources).
An argument easily extended to running an adblocker suggests you'd going to be more creative and productive because there are fewer eyes watching you.
> In the months and years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many of us censored what we spoke about on social media or what we searched on the internet.
from the TFA.
i.e. Which those "many of us" were, and what "social media" were they censoring themselves in around 9/11?
(a) the only successful website that one would classify as "social media" back then was MySpace, and
(b) it was mostly for teens,
(the parent asks) if people on social media back then censored themselves, does that mean that teens of MySpace censored themselves? Either the article is BS on that part, or teens at the time quite politically aware....
By 2001, there were these, blogs, and aggregators such as Slashdot, as well as many online news and magazine sites, especially in the infotech space. So an active community. The post-9/11 era extended well through the aughts.
GeoCities was one of the Internet's earliest social networking websites, appearing in November 1994, followed by Classmates in December 1995, Six Degrees in May 1997, Open Diary in October 1998, LiveJournal in April 1999, Ryze in October 2001, Friendster in March 2002, LinkedIn in May 2003, hi5 in June 2003, MySpace in August 2003, Orkut in January 2004, Facebook in February 2004, Yahoo! 360° in March 2005, Bebo in July 2005, Twitter in July 2006, Tumblr in February 2007, and Google+ in July 2011.