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Meta-data, online privacy and the Global Caliphate

In some ways i think that Orwell was both right and wrong about universal surveillance of the people in his seminal novel 1984. He was certainly correct about the possibilities of modern technology, of View-screens that could watch as well as be watched ( does your device have a web cam?), but what most people miss in the novel is the simple fact that it was only those in the party who were subject to detailed scrutiny from Big Brother.  With this in mind I am rather bemused by all of the fuss and Hoo-Ha about the NSA collecting and analysing telephony meta-data especially by the way that various organs of the left like to characterise this sort of intelligence gathering as “phone tapping”  take this example from today’s Age:

click for source

click for source

Once you read the article you find not one mention of actual surveillance of the content of any telephone calls because surveillance at that level would be logistically impossible. None the less minions of the left like to think that they are each important enough to invoke the sort of scrutiny they fear.  Of course this ties in nicely with their misconceptions about just what is private in the age of the search engine. In my long years of blogging the number of people who think that they can put things up on the net that remain “private” never ceases to amuse me. You just have to assume that everything that you post on the internet is fully public and that even if you post it under a pseudonym it will eventually be associated with your real life. This simple truth should be the foundation stone of every computer literacy course in our schools because it is the best guarantor that our online past will not comeback to haunt us.  The same goes for any calls you make on the phone assume that it is entirely private at your own peril, especially if you are interacting with dodgy characters but take comfort that the sheer volume of telephonic communications makes tapping of your innocuous calls  unlikely unless you are a subscriber  to Jihad-R-Us.

Fundamentally there has to be a sound reason for any intelligence agency to take any interest in the lives of the average citizen and as Judge Pauley says:

But the ruling from Judge William Pauley, a Clinton appointee to the Southern District of New York, will provide important ammunition for those within the intelligence community urging Obama to maintain the programme.

Judge Pauley said privacy protections enshrined in the fourth amendment of the US constitution needed to be balanced against a government need to maintain a database of records to prevent future terrorist attacks. “The right to be free from searches is fundamental but not absolute,” he said. “Whether the fourth amendment protects bulk telephony metadata is ultimately a question of reasonableness.”

Pauley argued that al-Qaida’s “bold jujitsu” strategy to marry seventh century ideology with 21st century technology made it imperative that government authorities be allowed to push privacy boundaries.

“As the September 11 attacks demonstrate, the cost of missing such a threat can be horrific,” he wrote in the ruling. “Technology allowed al-Qaida to operate decentralised and plot international terrorist attacks remotely. The bulk telephony metadata collection programme represents the government’s counter-punch: connecting fragmented and fleeting communications to re-construct and eliminate al-Qaida’s terror network.”


The one thing that all of this seems to be ignoring is that there are other modalities  of communication that can circumvent any sort of surveillance and the one that occurs to me is  online gaming which allows players to talk to each other privately while they play. So the next time that you are playing GTAV and you hear other online players talking in Arabic will you , like me, wonder if they are just enjoying the game or if they are plotting for the establishment of the global caliphate?  Call me paranoid if you like but such thoughts are the reason that I think the monitoring of meta data has more virtue than vice in a world where religious totalitarians would have the entire planet praying in the same direction five times a day.

Cheers Comrades


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