Digital Raven (digitalraven) wrote,
Digital Raven
digitalraven

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Panopticon

First draft. Request for comments/suggestions/updates.

"A panopticon would be fine, as long as there wasn't a person within 200 miles."
--Rob Collins.

Civil liberties are no more. The lie that people have privacy or freedom from monitoring is just that — false. The panopticon is coming, the total surveillance society. Given recent events in the world, it seems almost inevitable.

Some people clamour against it, thinking things like ID cards and CCTV can be 'beaten', that there's some way to starve off the world of constant watchers. There may be. There may be all manner of ways to change things. But right here and right now, this is where the world is headed. Time to work out how to survive it.

The panopticon brings the fears of fundamentalist Christians to the minds of perfectly normal people. Instead of some fictional beard in the sky who sees all and yet cares desperately about every person's sexual proclivities, the panopticon sees all through RFID dust, drug tests, CCTV, tagging, and all manner of other tracking and surveillance technologies. And if you do anything out of line, they will watch you. The difference is that this watcher isn't a figment of a mind burdened by repressed guilt but a real technological society.

Assume that it's coming. Better people than I have demonstrated that it's going to happen, I'm not going to waste words rehashing them. Instead: How to survive when the world is watching.

1: Don't do anything wrong
Hahahahah. As fucking if. The panopticon can and will dictate things as being wrong on an almost arbitrary level. Someone doing a chemistry or physics degree might be a dangerous bomber. A 15-year-old geek with a C++ fetish is obviously a potential cyber-terrorist. People who smoke or drink are targets — thanks to government crackdowns — as are loners or the antisocial thanks to psychological profiling.

Not doing anything wrong hinges on knowing what's wrong at a given moment. If you can manage that, then give it a shot. Given that most of the people reading this will never manage to be an ideal citizen, we need other methods.

2: Cover your tracks
Start paying in cash where possible. Don't sign up for storecards. Don't get an ID card. Use an anonymising proxy for surfing the web. Stop leaving traces. E-mails have been monitored for years, so use encryption. You might not have anything you particularly want to hide, but given that the panopticon sees all, making is work is a good idea, right? Wrong.

Covering your tracks is a good idea in general, but go too far and you start arousing suspicion. If a panopticon doesn't jknow anything about you, you're automatically singled out for more attention. If you have something to hide, you must be doing wrong. To the panopticon, that's logic.

2.1: A word on encryption
Crypto is a tricky proposition. On the one hand, being able to send messages that aren't in the open is a Good Thing, especially if the encryption is strong enough that the panopticon can't break it (hint — Big fucking keys from a true source of natural entropy like balanced radio static). On the other hand, sending messages that can't be read is like screaming "Pay attention to me" from a loudhailer. It's a double-edged sword. Encrypting everything or nothing is marginally safer than encrypting only some things ('obviously' your secrets)

3: Be good
Not doing anything wrong is impossible for you. Maybe you like some weird porn, maybe you sleep better after a couple of spliffs. That doesn't matter. Instead of doing your best to blend in, this next measure is to drown in the sea of data that the panopticon has to process. No organisation can watch every CCTV camera all the time. No expert system can process every credit card transaction. Don't worry about it and go about your life. Just don't do anything too wrong and hope that you stay lucky.

Unfortunately, you have to stay lucky. What you're doing is essentially hoping nobody has any reason to watch you. Which is a fair enough assumption to make in general, but all it takes is a buildup of small things before people decide to review your file and everything is laid bare. And then, you've no defences left.

4: Stay ahead of the curve
Necessity is the mother of invention. Censorship provides plenty of necessity. A passive panopticon doesn't censor, but then it ceases to have any point beyond taking in information. During times of censorship or prohibition, invention skyrockets. The devices for moving bootleg rum during in the 1920's, devices for copying copy-protected media in the early part of the 21st century, all these are sparks of invention that run faster than the normal trend.

This invention is your friend. Adopt bleeding-edge technologies before the mainstream becomes aware. Never keep using something long enough for it to be countered. Neophillia is a really hard act to keep up for any length of time, especially when every new thing is actively stopping the government doing what it wants to, and the risk of burnout is high, but it can work well.

5: Get religion
Or at least take a lesson from them. Religions who have the omniscient deity-figure aren't genearlly feared of being under constant surveillance, because the deity is also omnibenevolent. In a panopticon society, it's the duty of the people who live in the society to make the panopticon omnibenevolent. The watched must make sure that the watchers don't fuck up. Direct action is easy — but all too often not effective. Civil disobedience in large enough numbers will convince almost anyone. Tear up the ID card and make sure that the government knows that it has to be good, or hundreds of thousands of people will rise up against them.

This is the hardest strategy because it requires a hell of a lot of people to work. One hundred people complaining are a lunatic fringe, a million complaining is a government asking to be kicked in the sack. This action relies on educating other people like you about what they can — and should — do.
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