Governments everywhere have an insatiable appetite for power, and this is generally pursued via the pretext of “national security” kabuki theater.
Case in point - Germany. You think they’d know better given modern history testifies to homegrown dictatorships and the bitter repression of 4 decades of Staatssicherheitsdienst (Stasi) activity.
Germany’s Interior Minister wants to force tech and car companies to provide the German security services with hidden digital access to cars, computers, phones and more, according to a media report from Friday.
The RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) reported that Thomas de Maizière had written up a draft proposal for the interior minister conference, taking place next week in Leipzig, which he has called “the legal duty for third parties to allow for secret surveillance.”
But the parameters of the proposed law are reportedly much wider. De Maizière also wants the security services to have the ability to spy on any device connected to the internet. Tech companies would have to give the state “back door” access to private tablets and computers, and even to smart TVs and digital kitchen systems.
Unfortunately, corporate entities are also abusing workers (and customers) via complete surveillance. In this case, profits are the goal and “productivity” (or “an improved service”) is the pretext, but the basic mechanism is the same: dehumanizing individuals by obliterating their privacy, putting them under a constant and oppressive gaze, and reducing all activity to data points in the corporate machine.
Amazon in Germany illustrates nicely how surveillance has a toxic effect in other spheres outside of the Internet (granted this is happening globally).
The company’s new logistics center at Winsen in Lower Saxony is considered to be the most modern in Germany and is the first to use transport robots. The German television program “Panorama 3” recently took a close look at the plant.
“Grasp, scan, drop”this was Kooroshy’s work from just after three in the afternoon until midnight. Modern technology should make work easier and more enjoyable. But instead of the worker determining what needs to be done and at what speed, it’s the other way around: computers and robots tell him what he has to do and register how fast he’s doing it. The work rhythm is clocked to the second, and the worker is completely at the mercy of the machinery. Kooroshy comments: “You actually become a robot yourself. … One speaks of robots becoming more and more like humans, at Amazon it’s the other way round: humans become robots.”
At the same time, nothing remains hidden from the system. Computers register every movement, every process and every step in the labour process. (“How many items are transferred per minute? how many per hour? is the worker efficient enough?”) The tasks are laid down meticulously. Foremen can check every second what workers are doing and how long they need for the task. If there is any slacking, they will be immediately scolded by their supervisor.
The fact that Amazon is establishing vast levels of performance control in its logistics centres is not new. In Winsen, however, it is tantamount to total surveillance. The Panorama reporter discovered cameras on the ceiling everywhere. They are installed in the production halls, above the assembly lines and above workers’ lockers in the changing area.
With woeful tales of grand backdooring and corporate psychopathy (see http://siivola.org/monte/papers_grouped/uncopyrighted/Misc/corporate_psychopathy.htm), it is worth contemplating the bigger picture, since the trajectory is evident if one opens their eyes.
Total information awareness is a real possibility in the near future, based on the merging of state and corporate surveillance, extensive facial recognition via publicly and privately owned cameras, automated license scanners, Stingrays, IoT, and so forth.
Now, an oppressive Skynet is no accident, but strictly by design. The hysterical noises from government are laughable if any cursory research is undertaken. Similarly, claims made by business for the necessity to surveil workers, customers and end-users are easily dismissed; profits associated with data profiling and workplace repression are the real driving factors.
This poses a conundrum if surveillance is merely about profits and power. Nobody remembers voting for humiliation of the labor force or being digitally tagged as a common suspect in your daily activities, ad infinitum. What are we to make of this?
An empowered citizenry living in a true democracy would have representatives that register the majority’s hostility to blanket surveillance and corporate debasement of workers and customers. Consequently, these programs should have been quickly (and verifiably) shut down and strictly outlawed under threat of serious punishment.
But democracies are an ideal and a phantasm. Most are living in a militarized police state where the state security apparatus is acting like the fourth branch of government, and the tail is wagging the dog. The corporate sector has also snatched the levers of power, effectively writing laws and policies to their benefit via compromised politicians, an army of lobbyists, and soft corruption in the form of political donations, bribes, and the government-corporate revolving door.
Since independent government is a facade, and the corporate and military psychopaths are effectively in control, it would be foolish to ever expect any of these measures to unwind.
In many cases, the only way to win is not to play the digital game. In the corporate sphere, individuals can have a limited impact when they boycott products / services of certain countries or companies. However, a well-educated, motivated and focused mass movement of people has not eventuated. Those that are willing to advocate for necessary political and structural changes are few and far between.
Without an effective power base, the ongoing targeting by the state of “undesirables” (which continually broadens in scope), and the majority hypnotized by techno-bling and narcissistic pursuits, the chances of a radical improvement in 2018 is looking very remote.