Science fiction writer and biologist Peter Watts gave a spectacular talk to the Symposium of the International Association of Privacy Professional, called The Scorched Earth Society: A Suicide Bomber's Guide to Online Privacy (PDF); Watts draws on his two disciplines to produce a stirring, darkly comic picture of the psychological toll of the surveillance society.
Watts is the writer who was beaten, maced, and convicted of a felony for asking a US border guard why he'd walked up behind his rental car and opened his trunk without any discussion or notice. His take on surveillance and its relationship to control, authoritarianism and corruption is both sharp-edged and nuanced. And his proposal for a remedy is provocative and difficult to argue with. I only wish I'd been in the room to give the talk, as he's a remarkable and acerbic storyteller.
when we talk about "privacy"
not talking about some abstract
that emerged wholesale from the Victorian era.
That's the first take-home message:
and fear is a lot older, and a lot deeper, than your average post-
likely to admit.
The usual suspects have done
a bang-up job
the fear side of the equation
years. But of course, that
narrative, when we look around we do not see
brown-skinned terrorists doing the tiger's
share of the surveilling.
invocation of "Terrorism" to cover up the fact
that an innocent person's
life was ruined for eight
years because of a typo
on the no-fly list.
denied entry to
the states because US
Customs has access to
myself; back in 1991,
while I was living
right on a red while
I asked some impertinent questions about
my rights that got me hauled in for the night. I was
of anything; it was such a
trivial infraction that
went looking we
find a record of it in the Canadian
archives. But two
cited that event
have me classed as a
That gives you some sense of the granularity of the data our
a solid decade