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PRISM, Verizon: Surprise!

Someone in another forum was asking his friends whether they were surprised by the new revelations about US surveillance, and whether they thought there was a collective will to battle it. After the stream of “no and no” responses, I ended up saying this.

I deal with this material every day, and while what I feel isn’t really what I’d describe as “surprise”, I still feel aghast and disturbed whenever we uncover a new revelation. I also know that, if all the implications of the PRISM Powerpoint are true, there are a lot of people at the tech companies who are feeling extremely played right now. They put a lot of effort into building tools that they genuinely believed weren’t being used for this purpose, and indeed spent much of their time trying to ensure that they couldn’t be misused. If they have been betrayed by their upper management or their own government, or both, to this degree, they will be surprised, and upset, and angry.

Surprised, upset, angry, people are people I feel a bond with and sympathy. I can understand when people believe they are not surprised, although that sounds to me more like a coping strategy; I struggle a bit more with the “surprised that others are surprised” response, because that just makes you sound  dismissive of others’ ignorance, while exhibiting your own. It does no good to be aware of technical surveillance, while not knowing how most other people think of it.

I really don’t agree with the people who think “We don’t have the collective will”, as though there’s some magical way things got done in the past when everyone was in accord and surprised all the time. It’s always hard work to change the world. Endless, dull hard work. Ten years later, when you’ve freed the slaves or beat the Nazis everyone is like “WHY CAN’T IT BE AS EASY TO CHANGE THIS AS THAT WAS, BACK IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS. I GUESS WE’RE ALL JUST SHEEPLE THESE DAYS.”

You have to work hard to stop a war that kills a few hundred thousand instead of millions. You have to work hard to stop massive surveillance, instead of genocides. It’s all hard. Things can still get better. Disappointment is the price of wanting a better world.You need to stop being surprised that no-one else is fighting for it, and start being surprised you’re not doing more.

4 Responses to “PRISM, Verizon: Surprise!”

  1. Leaked NSA Slide Deck Claims Direct Access to Google, Facebook, Apple Servers | The Descrier Says:

    [...] All this confirms much of what has long been suspected by people who follow this stuff, but it's still profoundly disheartening. The spies have run amok, they won't even tell the governments they notionally work for what they think the law says, and the "most transparent" president in history has doubled down on GW Bush's surveillance smorgasbord. But Danny O'Brien has some heartening thoughts: [...]

  2. Slides Detailing Prism Program « DarkGovernment Says:

    [...] All this confirms much of what has long been suspected by people who follow this stuff, but it’s still profoundly disheartening. The spies have run amok, they won’t even tell the governments they notionally work for what they think the law says, and the “most transparent” president in history has doubled down on GW Bush’s surveillance smorgasbord. But Danny O’Brien has some heartening thoughts: [...]

  3. Four short links: 7 June 2013 - O'Reilly Radar Says:

    [...] PRISM: Surprised? (Danny O’Brien) — I really don’t agree with the people who think “We don’t have the collective will”, as though there’s some magical way things got done in the past when everyone was in accord and surprised all the time. It’s always hard work to change the world. Endless, dull hard work. Ten years later, when you’ve freed the slaves or beat the Nazis everyone is like “WHY CAN’T IT BE AS EASY TO CHANGE THIS AS THAT WAS, BACK IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS. I GUESS WE’RE ALL JUST SHEEPLE THESE DAYS.” [...]

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