Tuesday, December 10, 2013

560 Major world authors: A society under surveillance is no longer a democracy

Mon Dec 09, 2013

So says 560 of the world's leading writers in an Open Appeal they signed: "A Stand for Democracy in the Digital Age"

[Since this is an Open Letter, and there is no copyright at the site I've copied from, the Open Appeal is posted in full. If there's a problem, someone let me know.]

In recent months, the extent of mass surveillance has become common knowledge. With a few clicks of the mouse the state can access your mobile device, your e-mail, your social networking and Internet searches. It can follow your political leanings and activities and, in partnership with Internet corporations, it collects and stores your data, and thus can predict your consumption and behaviour.

The basic pillar of democracy is the inviolable integrity of the individual. Human integrity extends beyond the physical body. In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested.

This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes.

A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy. To maintain any validity, our democratic rights must apply in virtual as in real space.

* Surveillance violates the private sphere and compromises freedom of thought and opinion.

* Mass surveillance treats every citizen as a potential suspect. It overturns one of our historical triumphs, the presumption of innocence.

* Surveillance makes the individual transparent, while the state and the corporation operate in secret. As we have seen, this power is being systemically abused.

* Surveillance is theft. This data is not public property: it belongs to us. When it is used to predict our behaviour, we are robbed of something else: the principle of free will crucial to democratic liberty.

WE DEMAND THE RIGHT for all people to determine, as democratic citizens, to what extent their personal data may be legally collected, stored and processed, and by whom; to obtain information on where their data is stored and how it is being used; to obtain the deletion of their data if it has been illegally collected and stored.


WE CALL ON ALL CITIZENS to stand up and defend these rights.

At what I take to be the website for this we can read the background on this group's formation:
Public Intervention: 560 authors from 83 countries have signed an appeal against mass surveillance.
There is hardly any issue more pressing than systematic mass surveillance and the dangers it poses to democracy and civil liberties.

Under the name "Writers Against Mass Surveillance", a small group of authors has formulated an international appeal, signed by more than 500 renowned authors from around the world, including five Nobel Prize Laureates. It calls for an "International Bill of Digital Rights,“ demands that the United Nations passes a binding convention to protect civil rights in the digital age and calls upon all citizens to stand up and defend these rights.

It is noted in the Huffingtonpost  account that an attempt is going on right now to weaken a U.N. Digital Rights resolution, lead by the US, with our puppies the UK and Australia coming along on the effort.

The US and UK are probably the most surveilled societies on earth at this point. In all of human history. Who needs to turn family members into rats when you can get everyone to turn themselves in just by living. Orwell looks like a piker of the imagination in his fantasy of how far this kind of thing would go.

(More below the DailyKos fleur.)

So two points to make about this:

Yes, please, we have to stay centered in our humanity above all. And that means 'privacy' today is pretty much what the humans behind 'privacy' at the nation's founding meant.

Then, there was paper and talking if you wanted to say anything. It was resolved that there would be no interference with personally-generated papers and speech among people. The object was the person's freedom to express. The object of that being to let the best ideas and courses be heard, and develop, so we can properly self-govern. Democracy, in short.

The fact that we now communicate with the additional option of electrons does not change the requirements of a real democracy. Nor of the human need, and right, to feel space to express ourselves about serious matters.

The idea that 'it's out there and whoever can get it will' ignores that we can as easily write software to instantly obliterate traces as it is to track them; or laws to forbid looking at such traces. The idea ignores that takes a deliberate act of will and commitment of material resources to keep hold of data. That can simply be forbidden.

If a business wants to make money from my existence, and my doings, then first get me to agree in principal to my participation, Then lets talk about what fees and royalties I get.

If government suspects a crime, get a warrant based on probable cause and have at it. Stop pissing away vast resources to catch little to nothing, except the free soul of the people.

Someone looks through your window to see what you're typing, someone puts a line into your phone, someone follows you on the streets, looks at your purchases, sees who you talk to, monitors your activities in public.... in real life we call that 'someone' a Stalker.

Just because there's electrons involved doesn't stop it from being Stalking.

The other thing is an experiment I have in mind.

I think we'd all have our minds boggled if the Media were to promote this Open Appeal event with any intensity at all.

Soon after President Jimmy Carter told (Spiegel I think it was) that "The United States is not a functioning Democracy" I thought a test of whether or not the much-vaunted internet, ...

...which will change everything for the last 20 years, but hasn't changed the 1%s victorious roll-over of Democracy...

could be a base from which to hound the mass-reach Corporate Media with "We want to hear more about what the President has said, and what it means, and if it's true." Until they started talking about it as a top story for a long time.

Pres. Carter's statement, not so many years ago, would have been a 'newsflash' 'stop the presses' kind of moment. They walked right by it though, as if it never happened.

So low have we fallen.

What if we, on the internet, brow-beat our media outlets until they were forced to cover the story; forced to interview Noble Prize winning authors; .... Or can they be forced?

An interesting test of our prowess, no?

Originally posted to Jim P on Mon Dec 09, 2013