The current flow of society shifts towards the cyber society has shifted to a public, paranoid mood with the expansion of the internet, growing threats to the US, and improper use of checks and balances. The current culture has led the US to become a near totalitarian cyber state. Through The Guardian and Edward Snowden’s revelations of this and exposition of mountains of data collected and distributed among public and private organizations. The notion of privacy or our ability to keep computer information private is a thing of the past. Gibson’s Pattern Recognition paints a consistent picture incorporating government and private corporations’ (like Google) involvement with surveillance and data mining combined with the political motivations and some of the revelations learned in Snowden’s leak of the NSA. Obviously one account of something doesn’t make claims or conspiracies true so the more evidence of such datavalence is encouraging towards its validity. All artifacts tell the political story of the current climate, this technology boom is no different, and the internet and social media’s ability to connect and share/access instantly does benefit consumers. Likely its original intention, but it has been altered to fit the authoritative needs to regulate the wave of societal involvement with the internet in this new cyber state.
Cayce delivers an inspiring story for those who are terrified by the NSA, government surveillance, or diminishing privacy in Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. The story centers on her pursuit of these untraceable video leakers but it obviously turns out to be more deep and centered around her and her past. Much like another actual United States reporter mentioned later, Cayce must travel around the world in her search of these leakers and as a result she comes up in other countries datavalence. Snooping around in other countries problems usually results in some trouble, coupled with the fact that every agency and major telecom or internet company is already watching her with vested interests. The black veil that the CIA, Bigend, Blue Ant, and other various foreign government agencies cast over their cyber defense and surveillance teams eerily resembles the actual practices of their nonfictional counterparts.
This consistency in stories about datavalence with private companies and government agencies alike paints a clear image of this fact of life, anything on your computer is public. The more digging that is done into these operations, the more dirt that is revealed. Gibson describes a world very similar to ours, he undoubtedly based these practices off of the current trends of the government and private companies. This darkness he creates over the datavalence game, created a sub culture of paranoia, deceit, secret trading, and wide scale stalking that seemed to go unnoticed in the real world too.
Society has evolved new ways of thinking, communicating, and interacting. The addition of the internet and other media combined with the accessibility of such technology has created a cultural change. In 05-06 study conducted consisting of 8-18 year old kids displayed averages of 6.5 hours on media or 8.5 when on multiples counted separately. Undoubtedly this number has skyrocketed over ten years and is even more instrumental evidence of society’s dependence on media. Uses term, “Google jockeying – while a speaker is making a presentation, participants search the Web for appropriate content to display on the screens – for example sites with examples, definitions, images, or opposing views” (Hayles 196). Artifacts and the new technologies that shape cultures for generations have had their purposes, their pitfalls, and progresses, but they each tell a story about the society and its winners and losers. Lewis Mumford, author of Technology and Culture, explains the two styles that create and run new technologies that rule our culture. The first is the authoritarian, a strong and systematic unit that fails more often than it succeeds. The second is the democratic, concentrates on the individual but is often split in its direction but is the way of the people. Mumford argues that new technologies often make great strides in human progression in one area but they also bring about great struggle in other areas. The technology itself is made to serve the system so its use shouldn’t be the main concern, its impact on the culture and society should. Winner suggests that we, “Notice the social circumstances of their development, deployment, and use”(Winner 122). The suggestion is that technology does not mold to fit society’s patterns, rather society molds to fit technologies pattern.
The social media campaign President Obama used in his first campaign, collecting and using of person data to predict social media campaigns outcome and finances gained per email or message or status etc. is an example of using popular technology to complete a political agenda. This was major factor in his election to the presidency as he was finally able to connect with so many younger American voters. Although this was a success and a brilliant strategy by Obama, but it does demonstrate how politicians and government agencies are using data-mining. There’s almost no way to commonly use the internet or social media without somehow donating our data to one of these major companies like Experian, Epsilon, or Acxiom. All the small personal apps about health, counting calories or steps, pictures of food, and other random bits of your personal file are recorded and stored in your personal file creating a large collection of data. One major issue with this profiling is people are discriminated based upon data. This may go totally unnoticed, as the person who is categorized as a low value customer could be missing out on the latest deals and other first rate marketing strategies used by these major companies. The same companies that own these mountains of personal data such as criminal reports, credit scores, and Social Security numbers, will then sell this data to government agencies on federal, state, and local levels.
The fictional aspect of Cayce’s litmus gift does a great job of simplifying her objective and making it easily relatable. She doesn’t participate and isn’t affected by the advanced marketing strategies and corporate trends rather she interprets and reacts to these techniques aiding them in their vast distribution. She stands right next to the shadow of this subculture but doesn’t think she is too engulfed by it until she starts to dig deeper. Her exposing of the patterns in this tech wild goose chase eventually set her and this enslaved subculture free but it took a lot of trust and revelation to create change in this vicious cycle of cyber surveillance. Perhaps Gibson is writing another code for us to decipher in order to crack our own subculture shadowed by the ever watching big brother.
The NSA has complete access to and monitors our cell phones, laptops, Facebook, Skype, chatrooms, etc., builds “Pattern of Life – profile of target/non-target and known associates”(Guardian). The agency uses three hop system with targets, discerning three levels of communication. They expand the networks of regular people and triple all their contacts to further expanded networks that can equate to whole states of people. NSA says it needs this access and database to prevent terrorist attacks (9/11). Snowden believes NSA far overreaches its uses in national security, as the NSA claims to only collect metadata of phone calls and messages. The term “metadata” is coined through Snowden’s report referring to info on time and location of phone calls, emails etc. not just content of messages. They obviously don’t just collect and keep the files in a “Do Not Touch” folder. This allows for NSA to literally build profile of your search history, preferences, personal information, personal conversations, places visited, times of events, etc. also known as upstream program. Claiming to use this data to defend nation from cyber-attacks, watch over drug cartels, and break up fraud gangs involved with credit cards and identity theft the NSA justifies all of this data mining. The Federal Government claims that this access to info has been instrumental in defending US from counter-terrorism, and even claimed 54 plots discovered or diffused but evidence only shows four plots.
The Special Source Operations (division of NSA) partners with major telecom/internet companies to gain access to fiber optic cables and run easy surveillance through whole countries and major private companies. The US is connected to 63 countries currently via fiber optic cables but that list surely can’t be complete. “Leverage unique key corporate partnerships to gain access to high-capacity international fiber-optic cables, switches and/or routes throughout the world.” (Guardian). The NSA uses Prisim which is downstream program that taps into data from Google, Facebook, etc. This brings the personal details that are shared on emails, conversations, and searches that are accessed and saved through companies like Facebook, Google, or Yahoo. Each person has their own profile that compiles much of the data off of these sites with other public records and datavalence.
Easily accessible, the Google Dashboard gives a detailed account of my own information. Personally, I was intrigued at the twelve categories, and their varying amounts of detail and data about my personal life. The first category on my Google Account displayed my apps and sites I had viewed, the locations of my logins and the service provider, browsers used and devices I had used in the last month. For my devices included, only my Android phone from 2013, odd to still included that. The contacts really surprised me, my girlfriend was the first one, which I expected, but the others listed were random and not at all my most contacted. The Google docs were very specific but I expected to see a good bit of information but didn’t expect the most recent documents to be highlighted. I was startled to see my trash conversations show up on my Gmail category. The saved drafts and conversations appearing also surprised me because I thought they would not be registered since they were temporary. The recent apps downloaded were not current but I suppose that was from my android phone. I’m glad my search history was disabled just because that would be a bit privacy breaching. The other categories were kind of irrelevant besides the Groups description which read, “Nothing interesting here”. That was very strange and seemed rather weird. As the internet’s relevance and our dependence on it continue to rise, our public information will become more accessible as we type our freedoms away. One very interesting grouping of settings on the Google ads setting was the interests, advertisers’ campaigns you’ve blocked, and opt-out settings. These are interesting because they are extremely labeling in their content, the interest’s column is empty for me but it’s not like that for everyone. The more interests that Google aligns you with, the more predictable for private companies and advertising you are and you are extremely accessible to the NSA based on topic they are searching for. Another interesting category if you block a certain campaign you obviously stand against that campaign and you are labeled. This only applies to if you are against the government in a major, dangerous way or it is for the NSA targeting certain stereotypes like the IRS targeting Tea Party members, just unnecessary information that the NSA and other government agencies should not be able to use against us for our personal decisions and opinions. Opt out settings also touches on interest based ads on Google further classifying the individual in a security type of prioritizing method.
Monitoring individuals as well as partnering with major and minor advertising, marketing and data mining firms, The NSA aims to collect as much info as possible. Using techniques like loyalty cards, targeted advertisement, and smaller companies give up very personal info. There are two types of data collected; involuntary/passive collection of data by private companies and active, voluntary collection and stashing of personal data. “Database Marketing – fairly common term of collecting aggregating and brokering personal data, this contributes to one’s online buying behavior”(Marwick 2). This in and of itself seems harmless, this is good business techniques of reaching your customer, it can sometimes overstep its boundaries and get to personal. This is just the modern form of advertising, include behavioral targeting/predictive targeting. Companies like Acxiom creates profiles for people on all these different topics and sells these profiles to credit card issuers, retail banks, telecom/media companies, as well as property and casualty insurers. Major data collection falls under the term Big Data, and big data is made of little data that may be loads of personal info.
Another major problem with these companies distributing this information is when it gets sold to the wrong person or company. Experian sold a sleuth of personal information to a Vietnamese hacker accidentally and the repercussions were drastic. All the while these people whose info is being tossed around don’t know they are being monitored and they certainly don’t realize their info is being traded like currency. The heart of the issue is technology develops at such a faster pace than our consumer protection laws, there will always be a disadvantage for the consumer in this regard. New applications and social media apps are developed every day and the methods of datavalence to monitor these new forms of communication and compression develop with the apps. The laws will always be archaic relative to the technology, but private companies need to be held to a higher privacy standard too, just as the government should.
The only law to originally contain the power of the NSA was the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA). But FISA continues to allow for increased, warrantless surveillance and has relaxed more and more to allow national defense. Before Snowden, FISA was secret and nearly impossible to challenge these laws, almost nobody besides the government knew of or had advocates in this realm. Courts have allowed for NSA to collect metadata but use honor code and not use it? What a joke. Info is supposed to delete after a period, but that’s unlikely. NSA given extremely vague and unclear amount of power, with little to no checks or balances, definitely oversteps its authority and uses major incidents to justify widespread datavalence. The courts have approved nearly every government surveillance request in last 35 years. Journalists are directly affected by this datavalence especially those who issues in national security. Journalist and his contacts communicated with by phone, text, email, location all negatively impact journalists, their safety, and ability to do job. What professions are also being destroyed by this type of breach in security? People’s monitored search history is even blowing up with increased searches of privacy and government pitfalls in their dealing with of internet security. A Pew Poll near end of July (2013) suggested that first time since the 90’s that people were more concerned with government stepping on civil liberties rather than a terrorist attack (Guardian). There is a significant difference among the rapid increase of watched persons by the NSA in as little as two years.
(Read up on your rights)
Even the creators of Silicon Valley products, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo are retaliating at NSA due to outcries of privacy from users. These companies are trying to appear more transparent about their involvement with intelligence agencies. Congress has even managed to create bipartisanship as it builds a defense against the NSA and invasion of privacy. The Intelligence Oversight and Reform Act is up for vote to try and limit some of the unchecked power of the NSA and close up some loopholes used by government.
The general public often doesn’t take notice, as it is enthralled with the new technology and its updated uses, but these technologies often have uses that are politically driven and are motivated by political relations. One example would be the television and its possible application to promote a politician, originally it could be used for entertainment or other news but its existence certainly had a political goal. “If our moral and political language for evaluating technology includes only categories having to do with tools and uses, if it does not include attention to the meaning of the designs and arrangements of our artifacts, then we will be blinded to much that is intellectually and practically crucial.” (Winner 125). Basically Winner suggests that we are distracted by the bells and whistles of a new technology and we are blind to its true political motives. Some of these motives are intended others unintended but none the less it is an example of governing bodies taking advantage of their power and influence. Think about Facebook for a minute, it began as a college social site for computer oriented communicators to talk to girls near them. Seems plenty legitimate and harmless but it has become a massive personal database that encases our personal information, updated jobs, relationships, locations, interests, and regular behavior with updated pictures and other media all in one file. For a government organization it is widely voluntary publicizing of ourselves and an easy access, high-tech phonebook. But the public is partly responsible too, when you deal with any field of study or area of interest you will get the most intense of their kind. Investing so much of our time and person in the internet brings the hackers, whiz kids, and otherwise computer geniuses that will use their skills for personal and business uses good and bad alike. This culture will continue for generations as it is engrained in our society for the foreseeable future. But the array of uses for entities like Facebook and Google and their wide ranging connecting abilities needs to be noted for its personal reasons and political applications. The overall message serves to keep yourself informed on your rights and information you are dolling out, there’s almost no way to completely avoid being the subject of datavalence. Simply watch who you communicate with and what you put on your computer because someone else can definitely see it, all we can do is fight for transparency and the upholding of our civil liberties.
(Abuse Causes That Cause Datavalence)
(Are YOU A Threat?)
Final Scholarly Statement
My project aims to inform the public of the type of surveillance we encounter on a daily basis through our dependency on the internet and social media as a society. I want people to realize that your computer emails, contacts, credit card numbers, etc. are all accessible and are traded like livestock. Understanding that this information trading exists is part of the battle of securing some of our civil rights. The government and its numerous agencies certainly are using the technology available to advance and push their own political agendas. The public is not, simply using the apps and internet for their consumer purposes as they are systematically categorized and handled accordingly. My project gives some visual aid of how the NSA works with Prism to collect our personal data from the Twitter, Google, Facebook, etc. private companies. Also included are links to Prism dealings, the law on our civil liberties and the internet, former threats, and levels of threat. These are meant to inform people of their own status with the NSA and to evaluate their online self. The point of my project is much like Snowden’s revelations, to expose the powers abused by those in power. A simple concept of whistleblowing is always taken with mixed results, some call him a traitor, others a hero but he is neither. He is a reporter, a journalist, a teller of truths. Telling the truth about a system that has operated unknowing to the public it monitors, giving up the details that the government has purposefully hidden and locked away. My project seeks to speak to the audience through suggestive evidence that exposes a topic that has very little literature or documentation of. I also aim to give a litany of resources that range in opinion, topic, timeframe, and overall purpose to construct a developed yet diversified argument. Using pictures that show processes of the NSA, articles discussing threats, current laws, and other relevant information to look in one’s own personal profile. This information needs to be shouted from a mountain, or shared from a computer way up high. Either way the whole issue here is not that the NSA watches everyone and keeps details because many people figured that, but the real problem is their discretion in their datavalence and their willy-nilly use of trading personal info of millions of people. The manipulation of public entities and information for political gain is pathetic and needs to end. Hopefully the spread of information with this technology that we knowingly give ourselves away on will save us from totalitarian like cyber security going forward. Changes need to be made before this concepts and practices become standard in our generation and those future generations to come. The dependence on the internet and our publication of ourselves will only continue and magnify, we need to put proper checks and balances on our leaders as we enter this unknown realm. The time is now, if you’re reading this NSA, things will change soon, I hope.