[hackerspaces] Fwd: Hackers can’t solve Surveillance

hellekin hellekin at dyne.org
Fri Feb 13 15:18:12 CET 2015

-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: Hackers can’t solve Surveillance
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2015 01:03:22 +0100
From: stef <s.c.trl.c.hu>
To: cypherpunks <c.ypherpunks.c.punks.org>

i think this is related and relevant to recent discussions.

src: http://www.dmytri.info/hackers-cant-solve-surveillance/

quoted in full for your convenience:

>  Hackers can’t solve Surveillance
>  Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors without Borders, is
>  an organization that saves lives in war-torn and underdeveloped regions,
>  providing health care and training in over 70 different countries. MSF
>  saves lives. Yet, nobody thinks that doctors can “solve” healthcare. It’s
>  widely understood that healthcare is a social issue, and universal health
>  care can not be achieved by either the voluntary work of Doctors or by way
>  of donations and charity alone.
>  Just as Doctors can’t solve healthcare, Hackers can’t solve surveillance.
>  Doctors can’t make human frailty disappear with some sort of clever medical
>  trick. They can help mitigate issues, fight emergencies, they can be
>  selfless, heroic. but they can’t, on their own, solve healthcare.
>  One of the ways that Hackers can fight surveillance is to develop better
>  cryptographic communications tools, and train people how to use them.. This
>  is certainly critical work that hackers can contribute to, but we can’t, on
>  our own, solve surveillance.
>  Nothing that Hackers can do on their own can eliminate surveillance. Just
>  as universal healthcare is only something that can be achieved by social
>  means, privacy respecting mass communications platforms can only be
>  achieved by social means. Safe mass communications platforms can not be
>  created by private interests, neither commercially, nor voluntarily.
>  As we well know, private medical provisioning provides unequal health care.
>  The reason is obvious, health needs and the ability to pay are not usually
>  corelated. Private provisioning means that those who can’t pay, wont be
>  served by profit-driven institutions, and though this can be mitigated by
>  voluntarism and charity, it can’t be fully overcome.
>  Likewise, mass communications that are built for the profit motive either
>  need to charge a fee, and thereby be exclusive, or be advertising
>  supported. Other options can exist for connected and technically savvy
>  users, but these will be niche by necessity. For the masses, the main
>  options available will always be well funded platforms with employees to do
>  support, development, and marketing, without wich, it’s impossible to
>  build-up a mass user base.
>  The lucrativeness of advertising-based platforms, makes it difficult even
>  for fee-based systems to compete, since they don’t generally produce enough
>  revenue to invest significantly in support, development and marketing,
>  which makes them less attractive even to users who could or would pay, but
>  the major issue that kills such platforms is that the fee means that some
>  people will not be able to use it at all.
>  Thus, commercial mass platforms tend to be advertising driven. This means
>  that the business of platforms operators is selling audience commodity.
>  Commodities are sold by measure and grade. You can buy 10lbs of Fancy Grade
>  Granny Smith Apples, or two dozen Grade A free range eggs. Or 2 million
>  clicks from age 18-35 white males.
>  Audience commodity, the users of the platform, are sold to advertisers, by
>  measure of clicks or conversion, and by grade. For advertisers, audience is
>  graded by specifications that include age, sex, income level, family
>  composition, location, ethnicity, home or automobile ownership, credit card
>  status, etc. The Demographics, as they say.
>  Since an advertising funded platform must grade audience commodity, it must
>  collect data on it’s users in order to grade them. This means that the one
>  thing such a platform can not offer its users is privacy. At least not
>  privacy from the platform operators and their advertisers.
>  And so long as the platform operators collect such data, there is no way
>  that this data will not be made available to local and foreign intelligence
>  agencies.
>  This hard reality has been hard to grapple with, especially for a hacker
>  community who saw the Internet as a new realm, as John Perry Barlow wrote
>  in the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace: “We are creating a
>  world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how
>  singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.” His
>  colleague, John Gilmore, famously claimed “The Net interprets censorship as
>  damage and routes around it.”
>  Those two quotations, born of the 90s hey-day of net.culture, contrast
>  starkly with what Adam Curtis describes in his BBC documentary All Watched
>  Over By Machines of Loving Grace:
>  “The original promise of the Californian Ideology, was that the computers
>  would liberate us from all the old forms of political control, and we would
>  become Randian heroes, in control of our own destiny. Instead, today, we
>  feel the opposite, that we are helpless components in a global system, a
>  system that is controlled by a rigid logic that we are powerless to
>  challenge or to change”
>  Oddly, the film doesn’t credit Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron who coined
>  the term the “Californian Ideology” in there seminal 1995 text, which was
>  among the first to identify the libertarian ideology endemic in Silicon
>  Valley culture.
>  The visions of a free, uncensorable cyberspace envisioned by Barlow,
>  Gilmore and others was incompatible with the needs of Capital, and thus the
>  libertarian impulses that drives Silicon valley caused a change in tune.
>  Cyberspace was no longer a new world, declared independent with its own
>  unalienable rights, it was now an untamed frontier, a wild-west where
>  spooks and cypherpunks do battle and your worth is measured by your crypto
>  slinging skills and operational security. Rather than united denizens of a
>  new terrain, we are now crypto individualists homesteading in hostile
>  territory.
>  This, as Seda Gurses argues, leads to Responsibilization, “Information
>  systems that mediate communications in a way that also collects massive
>  amounts of personal information may be prone to externalizing some of the
>  risks associated with these systems onto the users.”
>  Users themselves are responsible for their privacy and safety online. No
>  more unalienable rights, no more censorship resistant mass networks, no
>  more expressing beliefs without fear of being silenced. Hack or be hacked.
>  Since libertarian ideology is often at odds with social solutions, holding
>  private enterprise as an ideal and viewing private provisioning as best,
>  the solutions presented are often pushing more entrepreneurship and
>  voluntarism and ever more responsibilization. We just need a new start-up,
>  or some new code, or some magical new business model! This is what Evgeny
>  Morozov calls Solutionism, the belief that all difficulties have benign
>  solutions, often of a technocratic nature. Morozov provides an example
>  “when a Silicon Valley company tries to solve the problem of obesity by
>  building a smart fork that will tell you that you’re eating too quickly,
>  this […] puts the onus for reform on the individual.”
>  Karl Marx makes a similar argument in Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis
>  Bonaparte:
>  “The proletariate […] gives up the task of revolutionizing the old world
>  with its own large collective weapons, and, on the contrary, seeks to bring
>  about its emancipation, behind the back of society, in private ways, within
>  the narrow bounds of its own class conditions, and, consequently,
>  inevitably fails.”
>  Solutionism underestimates social costs and assumes that social issues can
>  be solved by individuals and private interests, and some may be, but where
>  universality, equality and fairness need to be provided regardless of skill
>  or wealth this is not the case. These sorts of things can only be provided
>  socially, as public goods.
>  Many Hackers have always known this. In a excellent Journal of Peer
>  Production essay Maxigas quotes Simon Yiull:
>  “The first hacklabs developed in Europe, often coming out of the traditions
>  of squatted social centres and community media labs. In Italy they have
>  been connected with the autonomist social centres, and in Spain, Germany,
>  and the Netherlands with anarchist squatting movements.”
>  Early hacklabs didn’t view their role as being limited to solutionism,
>  though hackers have alway helped people understand how online
>  communications works and how to use it securely, hackers where embedded
>  within social movements, part of the struggle for a fairer society. Hacker
>  saw themselves as part of affinity groups fighting against privatization,
>  war, colonialism, austerity, inequality, patriarchy and capitalism, they
>  understood that this was the way to a new society, working shoulder to
>  shoulder with mass movements fighting for a new society, and that here
>  their knowledge of networks and communications systems could be of service
>  to these movements.
>  Yet, as Maxigas goes on to argue,, “hackerspaces are not embedded in and
>  not consciously committed to an overtly political project or idea.”
>  Instead, hackerspaces often focus on technological empowerment, which is
>  certainly beneficial and important, but like community health centers that
>  teach health maintenance practices are beneficial, they can’t solve larger
>  social issues, such each-one-teach-one projects can not, on their own,
>  solve social issues like privacy or health.
>  Hackers need to understand that there is no business model for secure mass
>  communications. In order to achieve a society where we can expect privacy
>  we need more hackers and hackerspaces to embrace the broader political
>  challenges of building a more equal society.

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