This isn’t funny at all:
GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.
In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.
Coupled with the idea that it doesn’t matter because (mostly) robots analyse the data – and keep in mind that Google seriously suggests robots will overtake human intelligence in the next couple of decades – this is really rather an outrageous state of affairs.
Not that I’m particularly sympathetic to Yahoo’s protestations of innocence here. They, along with the Googles of this world, invented (certainly popularised massively) the tracking of each and every user, the collection of their online behaviours and the bubble-filtering of what we see, in order that advertisers would pay more for the honour of occupying screen real-estate. What we have here, therefore, is a Modern Prometheus – they are the Frankensteins who unleashed this technology on the world, and now, like all good (bad) monsters of such an ilk, their creations – in the guise of the American NSA, and, perhaps even more fearfully and lately we discover, the British GCHQ – simply come back to bite them where they least expect it.
Or so they would have us believe when they see their bottom lines threatened.
The most amazing thing about all of this is that we have paid for the entire 1984.2 infrastructure: but not even as taxpayers; no, as willing consumers, prepared to contract and consume these surveillance infrastructures in the shape of all these deliciously expensive smartphones and gadgets various, so governments, corporates and other interested institutions can gleefully piggyback on the shoulders of our now miserable lack of privacy.
But #caredata (or care.data, depending on the CMS/social network you’re using maybe!) also raises its ugly head, though in the form of a YouTube video which Paul Bernal has sent our way. This is funny, even as its implications really aren’t. Embedded and linked to below.
Nope. I really have no sympathy for the big transnationals whose business models are being ruined by these revelations. They were the first to play silly buggers with our privacies, and whilst it seemed a question of money, we seemed (for some reason) to understand and tolerate it. But now it’s a question of matters of state, now the state gets randomly stuck into our most private of exchanges, now we see all our confidences were perhaps misplaced in the big companies, now they’re telling us that “it doesn’t matter because only robots [who, remember, will be smarter than us in fifteen years] will see most of what the state harvests on us” (so didn’t our glorious Gmail start off that happy habit?), the downfalls tumbling around us are becoming hugely apparent.
Yahoo webcams and their random intervention, #caredata and its generic misuse of potentially profitable, hugely cheap datasets, and the latterday story of a 21st century Internet which now turns out to be Mary Shelley (II) … for an explanation, we need look no further than the message of the YouTube video above: money, money, money, money – in all its shapes and forms.
As I said a long time ago, this is the progressive monetisation of life. And no one in their right mind seems to know how to slow its encroachment – never mind reverse the trend.
The downfall of humanity more generally? Maybe not yet. But on the horizon, surely. On that terrible horizon.