“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to.”

George Orwell in “1984”

hat tip to Maureen Dowd for surfacing this quote in her column yesterday


Comments (Archived):

  1. JimHirshfield

    “We wanted a President that would listen to ALL Americans. Now we have one” – Jay Leno

    1. fredwilson

      apparently we’ve had one for a while

      1. JimHirshfield

        Yup. I’ve been thinking of that experiment/movie you wrote about a few years ago…something about we all live in public?

          1. Robert Holtz

            This not only predates Obama… it not only predates George W. in terms of the Patriot Act and other covert operations done in the name of national defense since 9/11…The stone cold truth is this goes back all the way to the very beginning. Our government has been snooping on us since the earliest days of its inception as a carryover from a prior regime which did exactly the same. Step by step as each new means of communication from telegraph to telephone, radio to television, and onto cellular, Wi-Fi, and the Internet, government agencies have shadowed each move by society in order to keeps its eyes and ears open to the so-called “chatter” to ensure the sanctity of the system.And before we regard ourselves in the tech industry as so innocent and removed from ever conceiving of such a model, we need to do a little honest introspection. Inescapably, every new creator and operator of a platform has put themselves at the center of world control as the all-seeing-eye as the only full oracle of the graph. As constituent members of such system, we willingly release and relinquish key aspects of our personal freedoms and individual privacy as a prerequisite condition of our participation.There is a reason that all of these literary references — Orwell, Huxley, Wachowski — are so apt. They point to a deeply pervasive and recurring tendency of humankind.

          2. johnmccarthy

            Thanks. “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

          3. Robert Holtz

            LOL. +1 on the Casablanca reference. :-D”Here are your winnings, sir.””Oh yes, thank you very much. Shocked!”

          4. SubstrateUndertow

            Volition & ControlI feel it in my bones in my DNA!I can’t help myself.Every day I wake preoccupied with using my consciousness to gathering intel, to maintain control, to have it my way.Is that so wrong?

  2. kidmercury

    Damn are enough people in the tech world finally going kook? References to 1984 are very kook.Of course as the american kook saying goes, the answer to 1984 is 1776…..

    1. leapy

      I love that kook saying. Not heard it before. 🙂

      1. ShanaC

        read the book 🙂

        1. Vasudev Ram

          Kook, read the book :-)Not aimed at you or anyone else, Shana, just for the rhyming.

    2. CJ

      I believe in a massive conspiracy, I do not, however, believe in the small ones. The world is a piece of iron and there are a few blacksmiths hammering at it to shape it. They have been for ages, they will be for ages to come. The names and families are largely irrelevant, what’s important to note is that while free will exists, it exists inside of the world they created. Unless you can train new blacksmiths to take over for the existing, there will be no noticeable changes to the world.

      1. SubstrateUndertow

        Well put !It is not so much”the manufacture of consent”that is the problemaswho is in control of the manufacturing process!

  3. pointsnfigures

    A little levity on a pretty serious situation.

    1. fredwilson

      i wasn’t trying to be funny

      1. pointsnfigures

        In satire, there is a grain of truth. They took the poorly designed Patriot Act and ran amok. But, it doesn’t surprise me. The top of govt. is from Chicago (and I am from Chicago). They took “we don’t want nobody that nobody sent” and turned it into “we will know everything about everyone so we know them before they were sent”.Chicago style politics is more than just a “machine”. It’s to get absolute power and control-along with lining the pockets of your cronies. In Illinois, it transcends both parties. We call it “The Combine”. There is no meritocracy in this type of government.This current NSA disclosure, along with others is very dangerous. Combined with the use of the IRS to stop free speech, the Benghazi cover up, the AP snooping, the assault on one Fox News reporter to try and shut up a network, the gun running scandal, etc.Big government is extremely dangerous no matter who is running it. We have gone way way too far. People bitch about corporations being in bed with government-well of course they are. They can change the playing field to their advantage by running through the revolving door of their regulator. There is only one solution-shrink govt and let the market(people) choose.Remember, Benghazi was the fault of some obscure filmmaker on YouTube. BTW, he is still in prison. The IRS has become a politicized organization. There is no fix. The only solution is to end the IRS as presently structured-go to a simplified flat tax and not even need that government organization.To add further irony-they guy who leaked it fled to China. China of all places. Hong Kong I know isn’t like the rest of China, but still.The left wing (Dowd), is placing the blame for Obama’s actions on Bush. The apparatus was built by Bush, Obama’s just choosing to use it. When is his administration responsible for their own actions?The founders have just turned over in their graves.

        1. Anne Libby

          And airport searches, where millions of regular Americans are told every day — with our bodies — that someone needs to know.I re-read the Constitution this weekend, which I hadn’t done in a very long time. It doesn’t promise safety.

          1. LE

            “And airport searches”Does anyone have any real actual statistics on the number of people violated with airport searches? I haven’t experienced it, I haven’t seen it, haven’t heard any anecdotes from personal friends or anything like that. Even if you have though personally, are there any real numbers on exactly the amount of people getting felt up or violated by airport security?

          2. Anne Libby

            The TSA says “less than 3%.” (link below)Call it 2.5% — that’s 50,000 people every day. Seriously, 50,000 people in our friendly skies look like they represent a threat? Every day?It would be impossible to ride the NYC subway if 2.5% of us might be a threat.More broadly, we’ve upsold frequent travelers (like many AVC readers) on the TSA pre-check. This means that many of us won’t have the same experience as the general traveling public. That’s a different problem.Personally, I now dread traveling. I used to love it. Today, part of the price of being allowed to travel freely is, in effect, that I must give permission for strangers to touch me. This is personally uncomfortable, and as a point of civil liberty, ridiculous.(Yes, I have an anecdote. Not important. Instead, ask the women in your life how they feel. Or anyone who has an artificial limb, or a joint replacement.)And here’s a link to the TSA blog, one of the more bizarre public places on the .gov domain:http://blog.tsa.gov/2010/11

          3. LE

            “ask the women in your life how they feel”My wife, as part of her last job, had to give rectal exams to state troopers (I’m not kidding). Ask them how they feel. Ntim, her thoughts on this are consistent with my thoughts generally which is why we are happily married.On a serious note though I don’t find the figures disturbing. There was a military draft in the past wars in which the % of people drafted (haven’t been able to quickly get accurate figures) who were put in real danger greatly exceeded the psychological impact and danger from body cavity searches. Much greater also than 2.5%. They didn’t get a say in that either. Government decided “we’re in this war” and that was that. Don’t like it go to Canada or lie with some excuse.”that I must give permission for strangers to touch me.”Look I’m not going to downplay the discomfort that you feel having “strangers touch you”. On the other hand there are probably a group of people (not saying you) that “hook up” with complete strangers and sleep with them just the same. And also a group of people who otherwise physically abuse their body smoking or taking drugs or otherwise following unhealthy common sense practices. (Something that I don’t do and have never done by the way.)I for one have no problem with what is done at the airport. I’m willing to put in more effort and have inconvenience for security as a general rule. That’s just my opinion others obviously differ. It’s a pain to have to arrive at the airport hours early and go through security but I”m glad that I am able to travel just the same. Nobody said life is fair or easy.

          4. Anne Libby

            Ah. The place of intersection between our rights under the constitution and the “I don’t have a problem with it” doctrine.@JLM?

          5. JLM

            .JLM does not comment on things which involve rectal exams. Quirky, but true.JLM.

          6. Anne Libby


          7. Richard

            If they know based on cell phone records the probability of NOT being involved with suspicious activity, why the search?One can only reject the null hypothethis. Americans need to become statistiacally literate.

        2. SubstrateUndertow

          “There is only one solution-shrink govt and let the market(people) choose”NO – The only solution!Work hard collectively to constantly refine the middle ground. A balance between GOVERNMENT & CORPORATE MONEY.We citizen are the monkeys in the middle. We are best served by a balance of power.

      2. JamesHRH

        But still, that is pretty good.

  4. Tom Labus

    Well, Americans have always been good at adjusting on the fly and will continue to do so. Face to face conversations are always better when you have something real to say/discuss.

  5. takingpitches

    Sounds a little like Snowden:A: “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.”I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”

    1. LIAD

      the guy has balls made of steel the size of watermelons. #fact

    2. JLM

      .Oddly, there is absolutely nothing new in that statement at all other than the vernacular of the Internet.The NSA has been intercepting everything it can its hands on for decades.WTF did you think they were doing with those Cray computers anyway? Now with the cost of storage at a negligible level there are literally no bounds to what they can obtain, store and comb through at their leisure.Remember these folks engage in espionage which at its core is about breaking laws including ours.JLM.

  6. LIAD

    …and in a nondescript bunker deep underground in Maryland a file is now opened with the name – ‘Fred Wilson. Collaborator’

    1. fredwilson

      as JLM said in a comment yesterday:”I once had a chance to look at my consolidated file and it was amazing how complete and comprehensive it all was.”

      1. JLM

        .Before the advent of the Internet and I was on their side at the time.JLM.

        1. William Mougayar

          Like when you look at your consumer credit report from Experian, it’s typically fairly accurate within minor discrepancies.

    2. jason wright

      it’s a common name. can’t put ’em all against the wall. that would be unamerican.

  7. davidblerner

    Eisenhower warned about this 50+ years ago…. They got too big for their britches…

  8. Humberto

    I am amazed no one has yet been amazed how everyone in the US does not give a damn about people from other countries. People are freaking out because these programs or law orders sometimes involve 1 party that is a US citizen.. What about the other party and his privacy? What about the other inter-foreigner communications? Does no one give a damn about their privacy?You know, just because the company is US based does not mean it should ignore other countries laws.I assume these companies, by answering US court orders, are constantly breaking laws in other countries they operate… And whose data protecting laws they should have to abide.To me this is a problem of international law and arbitrage much more than a US privacy and policing issue – just like any other big issue going on on the Internet…Not to try to insult anyone, but When people freak out so selfishly, something is very wrong I’m the values of a country.

    1. Mordy Kaplinsky

      The US population in general have a very insular view of the world and pretty much see it through their own “prism”. The reasons are many but as an American who has lived abroad I can attest to this.The irony is that President Obama lived abroad and theoretically should have an awareness of the global perspective yet for some reason decided to ignore it.

      1. pointsnfigures

        His world view was shaped by some individuals that would want to harness power to gain what they want. Their idea of a democratic republic is far different from what an average American might think.

    2. kidmercury

      americans as a country are self-centered beyond comprehension. don’t take it personally, it is our loss more than anything else.

      1. kirklove

        That’s a Bingo.

        1. ShanaC

          it can’t stay that way forever

      2. Adrian Sanders

        every country is self-centered. just because our communication reach is larger and more present doesn’t mean everyone else just loves being benevolent and interested in others. look at europe.

      3. LE

        “self-centered beyond comprehension”It’s nice to know that there is at least one person who would give up the seat on the life boat for his fellow passengers.

        1. kidmercury

          i don’t know what that means.

          1. LE

            I interpreted your statement “are self-centered beyond comprehension …. it is our loss more than anything else.” as (correctly) concluding that people do what is in their best interest as opposed to the good of the group. In a way that said “not me I’m not like that I think of the good of the group and others not just my self and would put that above my own security and safety”.

          2. kidmercury

            as we discussed previously, you view service to self and service to others as being in conflict. i don’t.

        2. SubstrateUndertow

          Isn’t that somewhat irrelevant level-mixing ?

      4. ObjectMethodology.com

        That may be. But when I talk with people outside the US. They complain about our self-centered attitude. During the conversation I can tell they are the same way. They just don’t *examine* theirself.

      5. SubstrateUndertow

        “it is our loss more than anything else”Now that is debatable ?

    3. ShanaC

      I really think that if this hits the mainstream radar, we’re going to be rethinking parts of US government (which is way overdue) because of questions such as these

    4. CJ

      Can’t put out the fire in my neighbors house if mine is burning to the ground.

  9. Richard

    Why does Booz Hamelton have an office in Hawaii, where midlevel back end analysts make north of 200k a year? As alluded to in the interview, it seemed like half your salary was for the purpose of keeping quiet.

    1. AgeOfSophizm

      I wonder how much of our tax dollars go towards keeping government officials or consultants quiet. We are paying for our rights being taken away.

    2. ShanaC

      because there is a naval base there. And midlevel backend people across many consulting companies make that much to be comeptitive with each other

  10. WA

    The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”Morpheus”

    1. kidmercury

      always gotta upvote matrix references

      1. Vineeth Kariappa

        Heard of “Landmark education”? The entire series is based on their “teachings”. Do their course, then watch the series, u WILL laugh.

        1. JamesHRH

          I was recruited by a Landmark member, for a weekend ‘retreat’.When they mentioned the founder & I mentioned EST, they became….. Ummmmm. …. Defensive.

          1. Vineeth Kariappa

            Their products are amazing. They way they market is genius (cost is 0). The people who “spread” the word are screwed in the head.

          2. JamesHRH

            I will go with misguided, but I am middle aged and I watch my tongue a bit more than I used to.I totally closed them off with this answer: “We could all use more tools, but I do not think my wife & I need a breakthrough.”They sell ‘breakthroughs’.What was really off-putting was that a manager had brought her 20-something direct report to the sales pitch: the pressure they put on her was nauseating. Her boss said ‘it really helped me’ and only a truly courageous person would have been able to say ‘its not for me.’She would have had to look for a new job immediately.Zealots rarely see ethical dilemmas.

          3. SubstrateUndertow

            Quick read of their online Course Syllabus sounds likeEpistemology for dummies course?That can’t be all bad?

    2. SubstrateUndertow

      There is no escape, only to another layer.Everything is inside the Matrix, always has been always will be.The question is can we inhabit the Matrix and subjugate its DNA to the machinations of own humanist manifest destiny.Are we not men, or are we just cosmic noise?

      1. WA

        Yes. That one had me shivering in my boots when I first saw it.

        1. Anne Libby

          Seriously. I am trying to imagine the meeting between the agency and the GE execs who approved it.

          1. WA

            Appealing to a demographic originally awed by the Matrix that give little thought to anything other than a nostalgic cool factor perhaps. That the bite is remembered and GE recalled was what was going through their minds.

  11. Anne Libby

    Heartbroken. I told someone on Friday that I was 9/11 upset.The question is, what to do next. The silence from most elected officials is deafening.For one thing, I will be writing (actual letters) to all of my elected officials asking them to initiate a review/repeal of the Patriot Act. It might not be much, but I can do it. (Yes, I can.)(If, like me, you’ve ever sent an email to an elected official, and gotten a canned answer several months later that doesn’t exactly apply (hello, Sen. Schumer) you might also question the wisdom of trusting the people in our legislative bodies to make decisions about our tech.)Let freedom ring.

    1. pointsnfigures

      You should add Dodd-Frank to that. Within Dodd-Frank if a bureaucrat determines for any reason that you are a risk to the financial system-they can go through every financial record you have line by line to ascertain and quantify that risk. If you don’t think the government would go after an individual person, look at the recent IRS scandal.

      1. Anne Libby

        Good point.

      2. Brad

        I am on the board of a local credit union, and I can tell you that DF is one of the biggest problems we have today. Never thought about your financial record access, that is scary.

    2. annemichals

      And what do we get for this monitoring? We are deflected, again, from considering the root cause(s) of the problem we are trying to solve.Not to mention whether this is really effective or not. Not to mention the cost, in real funds.

    3. Dave W Baldwin

      All of us will receive canned answer. Just reply back with something pertinant and be very polite. If everyone does that, then the volume of communication doubles.

      1. Anne Libby

        Got it.What I really meant: people who aren’t tech-savvy enough to set up their email process to even feign interest in constituent opinion aren’t qualified to evaluate and “oversee” the likes of PRISM.

        1. Dave W Baldwin

          I meant that reply more to the group at large anyway. FWIW, the “qualified” to “oversee” are not of organic mind. I’m hoping some will start to see why I’ve put my creativity toward the artificial.

  12. Ela Madej


  13. gorbachev

    In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.Another Orwell quote.

  14. andyswan

    You wanted them to take money from him, and give it to her….because you are “compassionate”You wanted them to take freedom from him, because you are scared.You wanted them to take opportunity from one company, and give it to another, because it benefitted your business interests.You wanted them to educate the children, because you despise their parents and the family.You wanted them to tell you who can commit to each other in love, because you are “open-minded”.You ridiculed anyone who asked the only question that mattered:”Why do you trust that most corrupt, most well-armed, most power-hungry institution with that kind of power?”The answer, always the same….always boiling down to some kind of INTENT, some juvenile compassion, some weak empathy.Instead of taking on the responsibility for helping others, for making your own gains, upon yourself, the individual— you lazily outsourced them to history’s worst possible recipient. And you laughed at those that resisted, mocked them for their backward ways.When you wonder how this happened….just remember….it was YOU that gave them these tools, these powers, this authority over YOUR life.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Very good

      1. pointsnfigures

        Unless you are in Chicago, where it doesn’t matter how you vote. They control who votes, where, how many times and the outcome. It’s all been decided before the election. Iran has a more transparent process

        1. kidmercury

          election fraud is rampant throughout the country. both the explicit kind, i.e. diebold machines, and the more subtle kind, i.e. gerrymandering.

          1. pointsnfigures

            gerrymandering is a science. look at how illinois districts are drawn-then look at how Texas districts are drawn. with incumbent advantages and no term limits, it’s tough to turn anything over. First, kill the bureaucracy-then put term limits on the representatives that over see it. Serving in government should never be a “career”.

          2. SubstrateUndertow

            Don’t forget big-money misdirection political drama!

    2. ShanaC

      if I don’t educate kids, then I have to deal with break and circuses. I prefer education, its cheaper

      1. pointsnfigures

        but, the NEA, Dept of Education, AFT, all block educational innovation. No one is against educating kids-we just need to do it differently. Vouchers and charter schools are just the tip of the iceberg. Besides, most of the money that goes to education gets swallowed up by the bureaucracy that administers education-very little of it is spent on teachers and their students.

        1. SubstrateUndertow

          If you push a process far enough it will flip into its opposite from being a tool into being an impediment as the new environmental conditions obsolete the dated process design.We have long reached that flip point in education. We are now in a holding pattern waiting for necessity to mate with the mother of invention to deliver new disruptive education technologies, updating educational processes to dovetail with the new environment.That dam has begun to burst it will be a done deal in very short order.

      2. andyswan

        Then educate them. Don’t outsource it to 535 morons in DC.Local education. I’m sick of the “federal or nothing” mentality.

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Is this a quote from something?

      1. Vasudev Ram

        It vaguely seems to me like a quote from Ayn Rand? Modified some, I mean.

      2. andyswan

        No just stream of Swan lol

    4. SubstrateUndertow

      So democratic governance bad ?Because it required on going debate and effort to right itself when it inevitably strays into the weeds as all complex processes invariably do at times.Your alternative would be what exactly?Marauding-groups of shareholders or are they too collectivist as well?

      1. andyswan

        Limited constitutional republic would be fine

      2. Dave W Baldwin

        I meant to correct someone else the past two days regarding the word democratic. We are a republic which increases the measure of responsibility of those who choose to be elected since they do not vote everything according to this morning’s poll.Unfortunately, many cannot live up to that responsibility in the arena of representation.

  15. William Mougayar

    I can see you’re pretty irked about this, with 2 posts in a row on the same subject.With this going on, the US loses credibility when they lecture other police state countries about freedom of speech & democratic liberties.There is no doubt these practices are a chilling after-effects of 9-11 & the fact that the roots of terrorism & extremism abroad have not yet been eradicated.

    1. pointsnfigures

      one point Dowd made in her column that I agree with-The Bush administration (and the rest of the government) made decisions from a place of fear. When you make decisions using fear as a base-poor decisions are made-with even worse outcomes. The Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Agency were the outcomes. Does anyone think they make a massive difference? I think the costs of operating them outweigh the benefit-and we can be a lot smarter in fixing the problem.

      1. William Mougayar

        “we can be a lot smarter in fixing the problem.”. You can say that again. It’s on the ground in the middle east and in bad areas that the US has failed. Today’s internal controls are a backlash of that failure to neutralize where these threats are coming from.

    2. leapy

      This is a highly important point.The US is losing the moral high ground further; the “land of the free” ideal is being undermined. It would be great to see your nation (and ours; I am British) rise above these things.Close Guantanamo and let the government seek to guarantee individual privacy in the face of technological onslaught from other nation states.

    3. gorbachev

      Anyone who has followed the discrepancy of US policies and what US preaches to other countries has pretty much concluded that US has lost its credibility as the “spreader of freedom and democracy” long, long ago.Hillary Clinton goes on a world tour to essentially lecture the Arab countries during Arab spring against violent suppression of civil disobedience while just a few years ago the US Government was using some of these countries as proxy torturers (re: extraordinary rendition).And if you look further back, you’d undoubtedly bump into things like Iran-Contra scandal, and the US support for the most brutal military dictatorships in Latin America, incl. Rios Montt whose genocide trial just concluded in Guatemala.The moral high ground hasn’t existed in years, if ever.

      1. JLM

        .The nature of ensuring our national defense has always required the use of men whose work occurs in the shadows.In war time it has become progessively easier to simply call them “special ops” or “special forces” and clothe their activities in secrecy.Convenient and expected and unalarming because we really do not know what is going on, now do we?It is a bit murkier in “peacetime” when we continue to fight with our adversaries either through submarine tracking, overflights or espionage. There are deaths in all of these things routinely.Again, cloaked in secrecy. Odd little violation of another country’s sovereignty to kill an American adversary — Osama Bin Laden leaps to mind — just a rounding error really.We are protected by rough men who work in the shadows and whose stock in trade is to get others to commit treason — to betray their countries, their causes and their principles.These are not members of the clergy and our folks are not either. But we hope that ours are patriots committed to safeguarding American interests though the means may be a bit rough.Sometimes just for money but sometimes for “loftier” reasons such as world peace or good v evil.Make no mistake, there is blood on our hands when we do this. It is not for the weak of heart.The friction between nations is not T Ball.JLM.

        1. SubstrateUndertow

          Translation:The ENDS justifies the MEANS.The trouble is that today’s MEANS sooner or later turn into tomorrows ENDS and we get stuck living them.Maybe in a nasty world that sometimes becomes a rare and unavoidable cost/benefit necessity?Those rare cases bear extraordinary scrutiny !No rubber stamps need apply.

    4. ShanaC

      actually 3 posts in a row

      1. William Mougayar

        True, if you exclude the Saturday Video.

        1. ShanaC

          i’m excluding it, and I suspect if fred had the interview of the whistleblower, that would be the video

    5. fredwilson

      i am irked and not entirely sure how i should my time and resources against it

      1. William Mougayar

        You are raising good visibility already that contributed to healthy discussions.

    1. Anne Libby

      Or Kafka — great piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, by Daniel Solove:http://chronicle.com/articl…(h/t Hilary Mason @hmason)

      1. tgodin

        Thanks for posting this. Read quickly this morning and will read more thoughtfully later. Like a lot of others, I’m not sure exactly what I think of all of this, but as the article suggests the potential for abuse and misuse of collected information is huge.

  16. jason wright

    so, what to do about it? time to get practical.i sense that this news comes as no *real* surprise to anyone,… if we’re being truly intellectually honest about things here. the level of shock and indignation is in direct proportion to the whopping size of the intellectual blind spot people have about the realities of modern pax americana.

  17. Brad Lindenberg

    What does this mean for cloud storage? Eg S3? Do they have access to AWS? The only safe way to store data is via private/public key encryption.

    1. kidmercury

      i don’t think it matters. they have access to one of the ways the data gets to AWS so they can get it before it ever goes there.

  18. aseoconnor

    I reread this book while I was living in Beijing, and it gave me chills. When in my dorm room there I couldn’t google “freedom”, “tiananmen”, etc., I had internet cut off to my room for using a proxy server to access BBC articles during the Arab Spring.I used to think Americans had internet freedom, now I know better.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Singapore too. Had trouble just using Yahoo when I was there a few years ago.

      1. aseoconnor

        I didn’t realize that SIngapore blocked their access. I’m in Sri Lanka now and anything around the war is… touchy.

    2. johnmccarthy

      Please do not equate what has been revealed about the NSA with how China controls basic access to information. Miles apart, and yeah, slippery slopes aside, we have the ability to have these debates in public. ….Not so in China….Having worked and been a student in Beijing pre-Tiananmen (and yes pre-WWW), I remember too well having my conversations recorded, mail opened, friendships compromised, etc.

      1. jason wright

        a state has essentially two choices. control what its citizens think, or control what its citizens do (or a variable blend of the two). in a very general sense i believe the american state operates the former strategy (as does the west in general), and china operates the latter strategy (as did the Soviet Union and its satellites).

        1. RichardF

          great comment Jason, couldn’t agree more

        2. SubstrateUndertow

          Yes Public-Perception-Management costs a lot more but in an affluent society it is much more cost effective.If push comes to shove you can always fall back on that ” variable blend of the two”.

  19. Jorge M. Torres

    I’ve been looking around for people who are having a sustained and intelligent discussion of the government’s spying programs. It’s not happing on TV, on my Facebook, or on my Twitter. It’s happening right here at AVC.

    1. pointsnfigures

      It won’t happen on TV. No one is “spinning” on AVC.

    2. ShanaC

      :(otoh, the one person I want to have this conversation is not able to: he needs to get security clearances.It is a pity when people like that can’t talk in public either. And the media is scared too (or did you miss the warrants on reporters using the espionage act)

    3. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Keiser Report.

    4. kidmercury

      katherine albrecht is the queen of raising awareness regarding the surveillance state. her book spychips is awesome. she’s been talking about this stuff for well over a decade.

    5. fredwilson

      yes. it is great to see and totally expected

  20. William Mougayar

    In other news, Apple’s new iOS to be announced this week will have a new 1-click feature, called the NSA data dump. It will accelerate sending all you data to the government, via the cloud.There’s already a BlipEnhance App that will scramble this data before you send it.An Android version is expected soon.

    1. JimHirshfield

      You joke. But it’s a growth market.

  21. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Orwell (Blair) was a genius. Just 1984 would have been enough of an achievement but throw in Animal Farm, and numerous other works, it is amazing. Read them all, folks.I must say however that there was a certain cold-efficiency in 1984’s thought-police; the arrogant corrupt idiots who ‘run’ our world are better depicted in Gilliam’s brilliant Brazil.”Do cooperate …”

  22. Matt A. Myers

    The start of the problem seems to be that a government organization has gone rogue and is lying to the government body asking questions.

    1. JLM

      .Nobody has gone rogue in the notion that some small body of people are acting independently of their leaders.Our President has set a tone that punishes success, decries accomplishment and is willing to engage in political trickery to win elections.Make no mistake that the IRS did not need to be directed by anyone anew. It was in their DNA.IRS employees are all members of the NTEU (Nat’l Treasury Employees Union), a left leaning union which has supported Democratic causes with its dues.The Tea Party, conservatives, pro-life organizations were targeted for political purposes and no other reason. The Tea Party had swayed the 2010 Congressional elections and the obvious intent was to defang them by absorbing their organizational energy, prevent them from soliciting and receiving donations to fund their programs and to intimidate them.What we have learned thus far is just the tip of the iceberg.A senior manager takes the Fifth Amendment — a Constitutional protection against self-incrimination, not a paen to awkward conversational topics — and she still has a job?We are led by a man devoid of character whose lies are so manifest and profound as to be beyond alarm and outrage. We expect to be lied to and we readily accept that behavior.Congress — the legislative branch of our 3-legged stool — was given the duty of oversight of the executive branch. The executive branch has thumbed the eye of the Congress and now people should go to jail.JLM.

      1. SubstrateUndertow

        Just to clarify.You are not an Obama supporter ?:-)

        1. JLM

          .Haha, Substrate Undertow, actually I am a huge — HUGE — supporter of his early and peaceful retirement from the pressures of his current position wherein he has demonstrated not a whit of competence nor integrity.He is easily the least competent and ill prepared President in my lifetime and makes Carter look like a wizard and Nixon like a deacon.May I assume that you are, in fact, an Obama apologist?Fair play to you, my friend.JLM.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        “Our President has set a tone that punishes success, decries accomplishment and is willing to engage in political trickery to win elections.”All presidents seem do this. And dirt can be dug on pretty much every side when there’s no transparency. I don’t understand, I mean I do – but I think the old way will be able to die soon – as to why they don’t just be open about shit that arises. It seems many people are lying, not being honest.

        1. JLM

          .”All presidents seem to do this…”WTF, Matt?JLM.

          1. Matt A. Myers

            I should have said in recent memory anyway + I didn’t have to learn about all of the U.S. presidents in school. 🙂

          2. JLM

            .Truman, Eisenhower, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr, Bush Jr — not liars or cheatersKennedy, Clinton, Obama — liars and cheaters extraordinaireJLM.

          3. William Mougayar

            I’m surprised Bush Jr is on the first list, unless his ignorance was bliss & he’s getting a pass that way.Clinton’s lies were benign.

          4. JLM

            .Bush Jr had an unfortunate collision with bad intel. There was no intention to mislead. In fact, he has been the only President to attempt to do anything on entitlements.Clinton destroyed the sanctity of the Oval Office. He was a common and nasty man. This has been obscured by the notion that Clinton is some kind of brilliant retail politician.He is an adolescent who has never grown up with a hard dick, a six pack, an El Camino and he wants to date your daughter.He is a lowlife who has coarsened the American culture by getting a blow job from a fat faced loser — not exactly Catherine Deneuve, eh? — and defiling a sacred piece of the American culture to boot.JLM.

          5. William Mougayar

            OK. Let me continue playing with you.1. A President should be able to call bullshit on bad intel, no? That’s a sign of his own intel. (Powell was probably dying to call bullshit on it, but he opted to be a good soldier instead. His body language was telling in that UN session that I recall vividly.)2. If the main character in the Clinton episode looked more like Catherine Deneuve, does it really matter?3. I think we both are caught in our own rhetoric, comparing apples & oranges – one is a moral grounds case, and the other is about presidential record.

          6. JLM

            .I think the intel was actually good. I think the chemical weapons ended up in Syria.Catherine Deneuve would not have blown a red neck like Clinton in a bathroom off the Oval Office. Too classy. Self correcting.Clinton was a low point in the culture of the US — defiler of women, landmarks and our culture. He is pond scum.JLM.cc: NSA, IRS

  23. jerrycolonna

    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.Benjamin Franklin

    1. Anne Libby

      I’ve been thinking about this one all weekend, it’s one of my favorites.And yet in context, the word “deserve” is sticking with me…

      1. ShanaC

        Do we deserve it? (as a society)

        1. Anne Libby

          Well that’s exactly where I’m stuck. Of course we deserve it. (And BTW, not just Americans.)But if a majority is not engaged and or educated enough to “get it,” does that mean our society doesn’t deserve it?And even if we don’t deserve it, shouldn’t we have it? Kind of like the love of a family?Sigh. Time to work!

          1. CJ

            My view on revolution is that you can’t have one until the people want it. There is no such thing as revolution from the outside.That said, Freedom is the same way. You can’t have it unless the people want it, otherwise they will actively cede it away until they are no more than slaves with the illusion of both safety and freedom. We have the illusion of safety and freedom now and it’s up to us to take it back.

          2. JLM

            .No revolution ever started on a full stomach. There is a reason why despots have always tried to feed their people — bread and circuses style.Dependencies take the fight out of a man.JLM.

          3. CJ

            Bread and Circuses keep the people happy. Controversial political issues keep us divided and distracted. Nukes keep us safe from the barbarians at the gates. We’re just Rome 2.0.I don’t think the will exists internally to throw off the chains, they are light and they are subtle and most confuse them for decoration.

          4. JLM

            .The problems are interconnected, aren’t they?The same folks who bitch about taxes destroying the economic vigor of the country are the same ones who are being targeted by their government for, well, everything… no?The dependency class in America has nothing to lose except for their handouts. If I were receiving a handout, I would not be cursing my benefactor.I would have no sympathy for the doers.We are no longer a united people, we are the victims of successful class warfare.JLM.

          5. ShanaC

            we’re kind of killing our dependencies right now

          6. ShanaC

            I know – and the core of the US right now probably doesn’t care 0- if we did the bradley manning trial would have happened 2 years agoMakes me want to reread part of Classics of Social and Political Though 😉

          7. Anne Libby

            This whole thing has expanded my summer reading list!

        2. JLM

          .Your terminal youth is showing, Shana.Good men died to provide us with freedom and liberty. Our Nation was nourished on their blood.They deserve and we deserve the fruits of their sacrifice.Those who would strip us of our freedoms and liberty are wrong and deserve to be punished.This is what separates us from all other countries of the world.We the people are the source of our government’s power.We are not granted these rights by government but by God. Government’s only legitimate role is to protect our freedom and liberty.JLM.

          1. JamesHRH

            This holds, even if you don’t buy the God clause.’Inalienable rights’ is such a good idea, it is the basis of the repatriated 1982 CDN Constitution.

          2. markslater

            agree – leave the god thing out please. I like to think my liberty was granted me by some fine men with the stroke of a pen…

          3. Adrian Sanders

            uh women died for that liberty too.The notion of desert is overrated – we don’t deserve anything, we’re given an opportunity to use some good systems and structures of civil society and we should because that would because that would be advantageous.saying we deserve, and so then assuming that there are people who do not, is hogwash.

          4. JLM

            Adrian SandersFair play as it relates to women.As a Veteran who actually served the Nation, yes we do deserve what men and women have sacrificed to make your and my lives free and in liberty.I know those men like my 95 year old Father who fought in WWII and received a battlefield commission. He bought our freedom and liberty with his service. This weekend we celebrated his birthday. The tough old Son of a Bitch is still alive and kicking.I held men in my arms as they died and I can tell you with complete conviction that their honor and sacrifice bought and paid for our freedom and liberty.You assume that because we Americans deserve to live in the freedom and liberty that others have mortgaged for us that others do NOT deserve the same treatment.That is YOUR assumption not mine. I think that all men are created equal and have been endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.It is not a uniquely American set of values but America has paid the price to attain and live under them. And woe to the man who would take them from us even if he is our President.JLM.

          5. Adrian Sanders

            Lots of respect for veterans. I come from a military family on both sides.I’m not at all disagreeing that people have died for the cause of freedom and liberty – though I’d argue that’s been going on long before the United States was created, and continues to this day in countries all over the world.I’m not a huge Europe fan, but to say that we’re the only country that has sacrificed and pledged lives for freedom is a stretch:”This is what separates us from all other countries of the world.”That’s just not true.And when I argue that “desert” isn’t something we should believe in, it is precisely because people have fought and died for the opportunities we have.We have abandoned simple civil engagement practices which, coupled with exploitation from others, has left the foundation of american governance in the state it is: out of touch, myopic, and self-interested.

          6. JLM

            .America underwrote and safeguarded the safety of the world in two world wars, the war on communism and the war on terror — American blood and treasure did that.Certainly that role is unique, no?It is not that people have died for freedom or liberty but rather that the unique American brand of freedom and liberty wherein the government is for, of and by the PEOPLE is what they died for.It is not a generic abstraction but a particular brand of freedom.That is why the current transgressions and outrage are so profound — the government is now for, of and by the GOVERNMENT and preys upon its people like a band of thugs.To have a government employee take the Fifth Amendment is to realize how far we have wandered off the game board.On all other things we agree.JLM.

          7. Adrian Sanders

            Of all people, I am the last to stand up for Europe.And I agree that America has done a lot in the name of our brand of freedom / capitalism. And I’m pretty pro those things.But I again think it’s dangerous to chock up the present day reality to any singular force or series of actions.Consider the effect of the French Revolution (and just before, Lafayette and the french soldiers helping us in the revolution). Or what about the uprising of the Poles during the Cold War?I think things are serious, and the NSA is a pretty serious alarm bell to those asleep or ignorant of what’s happening, but I am adverse to placing the necessary movement and change within a sort of American destiny rally… I think that outlook has taken us here, but that’s just my opinion.Take a generalized fear, justify your actions in the name of abolishing it, threaten those who disagree.Looking at the post-WWII era, I would agree the most facist nations are the ones behaving like this, and yet I couldn’t disagree if you said that America has been doing this now for decades.The War On Terror, The War On Drugs – these are the types of nebulous and generalized strawmen that result in the government we have now.I’m with you though, it’s a good time to be angry and demand action. Though to be honest, I don’t find it in the tech community – just a lot of twitter avatar stickers and responsive-websites.

          8. SubstrateUndertow

            Yup!It is important to cultivate a window of doubt, a sense of triangulated perspective, a third eye, both as individuals and as a collective national political characteristic.CNN and FOX might both want to work a little harder on their very week contribution to the important national goal!

          9. SubstrateUndertow

            “the war on communism”Was won by the dysfunctionalism of communism collapsing in on itself !Just as the war on excessive Capitalism will be won by Capitalist-Extemists!

          10. Elia Freedman

            I agree, except we only deserve it if the current and future generations respect it. We the people have had the power, and still do, to change the course of history. If we come out loudly enough against the Patriot Act, etc., then those laws don’t get passed or rescinded. It seems we are too busy trying to pay our credit card bills to pay attention, collectively. Maybe this is the point of all the screaming, left and right. The more they scream, the less we (collectively) pay attention, the more the ruling class can do what they want.

          11. JLM

            .In the ultimate American experiment on democracy perhaps there was some unforeseen wisdom in only allowing property owners to vote.JLM.

          12. Elia Freedman

            Maybe the equivalent today is literacy or current events test.

          13. SubstrateUndertow

            And then again. . . perhaps not?

          14. SubstrateUndertow

            That is clearly a long standing formal tactic used by all flavour of oligarchs throughout history. Public drama as subterfuge.Honed to a high art in the 20th century by Madison Avenue and the Public-Perception-Management industry.The GOP are presently auto-cannibalizing themselves by pushing that tactic way too far!

          15. JLM

            .Not to be too provocative but the GOP was dead and their ashes ready to be scattered and Pres Obama and his Chicago cohorts made them come back to life.Showing the he is really not competent to run, well…………………………………anything.Of course, the guy who has the NSA at his fingertips gets his news from the same places we do, right?JLM.cc: NSA

          16. ShanaC

            es, but I feel like we’re resigned :/

          17. Robert Holtz

            I agree with your patriotism. That said, it is a fact that our government has spied on us AND on other nations for literally generations.Part of why, as private citizens, we get to enjoy such a freedom-loving quality of life, is because behind the scenes our government secures the homeland using the most secretive and covert means possible.

          18. JLM

            .Those two concepts are not in conflict. A Nation can be both faithful to its duty to serve its “owners” and provide a degree of protection which is consistent with observing the niceties of it all.The IRS scandal, as an example, is not the product of a Hobson’s Choice — in which there is only one acceptable course of action — but rather an abuse of power so fundamental as to be truly criminal.One looks only to the conduct of the senior management of that enterprise — Hell, one of them literally invoked her right not to self-incriminate in order to foil the legitimate oversight functions of the US Congress.Of course, we are assured that it all was not the least bit political. Or did I get that wrong?Having had a bit of passing familiarity with such matters, I can assure you that coloring inside the lines can provide a wealth of actionable intelligence and it is not absolutely necessary to violate the strictures of the coloring book.It is one thing to get the other fellow to betray his country but something altogether different for the home team to betray the homeland. It is a nasty business when we must act upon information gleaned from traitors.Technology has now made Eve’s apple look pretty damn benign. Bit of ankle v Google — win for Google.I am not particularly squeamish on that subject and a bit of overspray has never worried me but just don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. When you get caught own up to it and take the medicine.Col Oliver North did the right thing in taking the lumps for Iran Contra. That is the way the game was played once upon a time.Now the government is caught at something untoward and begins to proselytize that it was doing nothing wrong.If you are the President and you get caught, then you have to take the consequences.JLM.

          19. ShanaC

            oh I agree that I am terminally young. I just read the comments, and then realize that TMZ gets more traffic than a lot of newspapers – so as a country, we may be getting what we deserve, sadly.

          20. JLM

            .But wise, no?JLM.

          21. ShanaC


        3. Brad

          To even ask that makes no sense to me. Deserve or to be Entitled to something is one of the greatest sources of pride and downfall of any nation or human. We are only entitled to find and execute on what our founding fathers bequeathed us, a government that does not trample on our rights as Americans.We only deserve what we allow our government to take from us. Too many people today talk about “fair” and “deserving” when it comes to social and political programs. Frankly the government has become so big and so tyrannical that it is scary what information they are taking from us.What is fair and deserving is a government for the people and by the people, not an aristocratic or fascism by design. Too many votes have been sold for “free” goods for both personal and corporate use. If we do not stand up for this, then we do “deserve” what we get.I am as capitalist as they come, but the mixing of corporate and governmental powers to me is beyond scary.”Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power” – Benito Mussolini

    2. JamesHRH

      Yesssssssassssaas – as someone we know likes to type.

      1. fredwilson


    3. LE

      I wouldn’t call avoiding a potential terrorist attack obtaining a “little temporary safety”.

      1. jerrycolonna

        I suppose the question is, has this effort really helped avoid a potential attack? I don’t know (and without there being a “control” it’s sort of impossible to know). Honestly I’m not sure how I feel about the program. I think Franklin’s words are thoughtful and wise.

        1. Elia Freedman

          Completely agree (jumping on your wagon). We hear about the Bostons but we never hear about the successes, or at least rarely do, in averting attacks.

          1. LE

            “but we never hear about the successes”From a management perspective it’s important to sometimes walk into the engine room and complement the men who keep the ship running and working properly.

          2. Elia Freedman

            Agree. I meant we the public. I’m sure pats on the back occur behind closed doors.

          3. Kirsten Lambertsen

            That’s exactly the problem. We need the data.

        2. LE

          “has this effort really helped avoid a potential attack?”That’s very bottom line thinking. If I used that metric in every business decision that I take then I wouldn’t be prepared for any situation that mattered that has never happened.Let me give you a small example.Do you back up your computer? Do you also store a backup offsite? Do you test the backups? How often do you do all of this?If you don’t have any important files and/or have never had a hard drive failure you could easily conclude that none of that matters at all. My father would say “why are you wasting your time?”. [1]I find it absolutely ridiculous that a bunch of people are jumping all over this and drawing conclusions based soley on the information that is presented in news articles and that they have already decided that none of this is needed at all and we need complete absolute transparency.On a subject close to your heart I’m reminded of what I thought depression was before I dated for several years 2 different women who suffered from it (living with one of them). Or going to medical conferences (which I did) to get educated on the subject.We all jump to conclusions of course but sometimes we need to be restrained from grabbing the low hanging fruit.[1] You know my mom in 1985 saw me using a Mac and stated “why are you playing!” not knowing of course that that’s more or less how you learn to use a computer. She would have never said that if she saw me playing baseball of course.

          1. Richard

            We need this web to prevent (undefined) terrorism (undefined) to save lives. If you challenge the official story, you are dismissed. Any challenge is downplayed and repressed. If we intend to govern ourselves, we have to be able to have a honest discussion by people disintangled from this spiders web.

          2. Kirsten Lambertsen

            The point is, though, we should have the information.

        3. Kirsten Lambertsen

          That was my point the other day here. How can we come to conclusions about all of this until we understand whether or not it is working?

          1. LE

            “until we understand”I don’t feel it is up to “us” to micromanage or need to understand every decision made. Because we’re not going to be able to. Not suppose to work that way. Easy to cherry pick and find fault w/o looking at the total picture. Nobody will take the time to fully study everything. They will rely on gatekeepers who have their own bias and agenda.I heard the other day where people were all up in arms about the IRS spending some money ($60,000?) on employee retreats and team building. It was presented as a total waste of “our money”. Totally populist. Complete with videos (reminded me of the videos back in the enron day). Completely ignoring the fact that stuff like this is quite common at corporations and used for a particular purpose which some schools of thought feel is helpful. Being criticized by many of the same simple people who probably think that “advertising doesn’t work because I never buy something just because I see it in an ad”.

          2. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I look at gov’t as people I’ve hired to do jobs I don’t want, don’t have time and don’t know how to do. I don’t need to micromanage those people.But on a matter as important as this, I think the boss should take a look at the data. And, in general, I think gov’t must be as transparent as possible.I’m with you on the IRS thing. Completely. I don’t think that everything the gov’t does is evil.

          3. Ian Drake

            Kirsten – I don’t willingly give money to the IRS. They take it from me, then they have a party. That’s a problem. When I willingly buy Windows and Office and then MSFT has a party with their profits, that’s fine.

          4. jerrycolonna

            I think, if cool heads prevail, what will emerge is not a call to end such tracking and monitoring but an openness and transparency about the process. Transparency and accountability seem to be inherent to democracy.I remember being so moved by Norway’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, after the horrific shootings by the extremist (and arguably mentally ill) Anders Behring Breivik on Utoya island: “It’s absolutely possible to have an open, democratic, inclusive society, and at the same time have security measures and not be naive.”He added that, “The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation.” More democracy seems the right answer to a host of challenges.

          5. fredwilson

            the request by the big tech companies yesterday is a step in that direction

          6. William Mougayar

            My understanding is the call is to allow them to publish what they are doing, ie more transparency, less secrecy. But I didn’t see the request to end the practices. It’s a good first step because once the public really knows the details of these asks, the next course of action can be influenced by it.

      2. SubstrateUndertow

        Hate to be a relativist but that is better than giving up on being a realist.1n 2010 there were 11,000 homicide deaths by firearms in America.Since 9/11 that is approximately 120,000 homicide deaths by firearms in America.That apparently is not serious enough of a problem to warrant undermining the constitutional right to bear arms, not even serious enough to force universal registration of guns. The trade off for such a relatively limited loss of life has been judged by congress as too high, better to defend the constitutional right to bare arms.Giving up basic democratic civil liberties and allowing your government to do mass surveillance on all the citizen all the time, not as relatively important, at least not until there is a serious depression and all those trouble makes who are clammer in the streets to eat are conveniently defined as terrorist

        1. ShanaC

          thank you

      3. Richard

        I would call 40000 NSA operatives hacking away at will a breach of essential freedom.

      4. pointsnfigures

        I’d be happier if they were using the data to screen for actual terrorists by targeting muslims. Instead, they are targeting political opponents. Now it comes out that hundreds of federal employees had access to advance word on the Medicare decision and traded Humana stock ahead of it’s public announcement a couple of weeks later. Gangster govt.

      5. Matt A. Myers

        There are ways to avoid being targets of terrorist attacks.

      6. Donna Brewington White

        I like the idea of our government protecting its citizens from terrorist attack. I have actually thanked TSA agents who make travel inconvenient. Even after a pat down which I hate. But, hey, all for the common good.However, there is a limit. I don’t know exactly what that limit is. I do know that when government actions begin to encroach on the ability to live with dignity and freedom, we are dangerously near it.When the solution has the potential to seriously undermine — even destroy — the principles upon which this country was founded then I think the terrorists have succeeded in a way they never intended. Or did they?

        1. Anne Libby

          The airport pat down for someone like you, Donna, absolutely threatens to destroy the principles on which this country was founded.And the efficacy of the data mining programs has been proven by the Boston bombing. We will never catch 100% of the people who want to wrong us.

    4. bfeld

      One of Amy and my favorite quotes.

    5. William Mougayar

      Ironic and sad that we used to mention this quote on other countries that have despot regimes. Now it is applied herein.

    6. fredwilson

      42 likes. just added one more

  24. Christopher Glowacki

    Love The Onion’s take on this…“As long as they’re using the information to learn about my tastes and then cater specific NSA products my way, I’m fine with it.”

  25. Tom Labus

    There’s a lot of tech self righteousness in this too. Everyone has been touting transparency and full disclosure through check ins, likes and constant tweeting.

  26. lenellis

    Orwell is great but he didn’t conceive this idea. It comes from Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), specifically Panopticon, or The Inspection House (1787).

    1. Martin De Saulles

      yes and Michel Foucault in the 1970s used Bentham’s Panopticon design as a metaphor for electronic surveillance and control by governments. While there is value in Foucault’s analogy I would argue that 21st century digital tools also give us more power to hold the state to account – online discussions like this are an example. However, how symmetrical the balance of power is between government and citizens in digital environments remains highly debatable.

      1. SubstrateUndertow

        Doesn’t the balance of power usually fall to the incumbent oligarchs ?Here is to”the hope of hopes”that this time is different!but on what bases ?the sheer bandwidth-magnitude required to control organic social exchange ?

      2. ShanaC

        It was more extensive than that – it was part of Discipline and Punish, and one of the points of Discipline and Punish is that as we get more civilized, punishment starts becoming more part of everyday life of ordinary citizens and more psychological. Also some of his followers in the US made the point that in general this sort of centralization of power is very unstable and tends to cause a redistribution of power over the long term

      3. lenellis

        you’re right, digital tools do provide more power to the grassroots. whether that empowerment can actually “hold the state to account” is as you point out a different matter.

    2. fredwilson

      yup. my daughter gave me a lesson in Bentham and the Panopticon this weekend as we were discussing all this “spying on us” stuff

      1. lenellis

        hat tip to her…

  27. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    *Irony alert*For the geographically challenged, may I point out that the British Isles is a cluster of European islands some 22 miles from the nearest European mainland.Reportedly the Daily Mirror Newspaper once carried the headline “Fog in Channel: Continent Cut Off.”If so, it was a superb piece of generosity to see a problem from the other persons perspective. But the British Empire in its arrogance soon collapsedUS “Oversight” might think ….Clarity in Cloud: We act unobserved.Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?yes its an old idea – who watches the watchmen ? – But it transpires that even the Roman Empire with its absolute might overlooked rather than oversaw the issue.Their demise was arguably that they failed to look inwardly to limit their excesses

  28. leigh

    I was listening to the radio this morning about Canada’s similar program being exposed — and i’m amazed the extent to which so many people have given up on the very idea of privacy. We accept big brother with no checks and balances based on a culture of fear that has been created by gov’t and media.Time to re-watch Manufacturing Consent again.

    1. jason wright

      Manufacturing Consent!http://www.youtube.com/watc…Fred, and everyone else, if you’ve never seen this documentary please do try to find the time to do so. it’s not short, but if John Doerr is worth two hours plus then so is this.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Who will carry on Chomsky’s work when he’s gone?

        1. jason wright

          Chomsky Chair at MIT?

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I didn’t know there was a Chomsky Chair, ha! I need a Chomsky Chair in my house ;-)I always think about that, cuz he’s getting older. But I’m sure he has a zillion apprentices who will take the torch when the time comes.

          2. jason wright

            i think he would simply like to see citizens challenge concentrations of power in their daily lives.

          3. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Agreed.I’m just referring to the writing, speaking, thought leadership part.

        2. pointsnfigures

          hopefully no one, and it will become a part of the dustbin of history. (assuming noam chomsky)

          1. SubstrateUndertow

            Don’t forget to burn his books !

    2. William Mougayar

      I think the Canadian program has a slight bias for monitoring foreign participants. http://www.michaelgeist.ca/

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Right on! Also, I’d like to recommend “The Corporation.” Mind-blowing documentary.Finally, if you don’t tune into “Democracy Now” every day, do so.

      1. ShanaC

        i saw The Corporations during the republican convention for Bush in NY with one of the intern staffers. Definitely surreal in that he was ok with corporations being that way

    4. Kirsten Lambertsen

      +1 to “culture of fear.” Fear sells.

  29. goldwerger

    Read that article and absolutely loved the reference.When sci-fi predictions comes into reality it is sometimes incredibly exciting (Minority Report vision of UI?:), and sometimes terribly concerning.I do think there is a bit of overweighting in the genre for the apocalyptic scenarios. At least, I used to think so…

  30. Dave W Baldwin

    Sunday- Revelation of who is responsibleMonday- Why Senators are mad, their Blackberrys are via VerizonThe storyline will get wild this week, as we add in some of the reports via the State Department.Just wanted to turn attention to the “Thought Police” referred to in 1984. Remember, as there were those yesterday that were more or less crying foul due to we have to protect the ad platform. The big corporate has been wanting to control your behavior and which entry in your mind pops up first for a long time.If we remember that a 2 yr. old will see the arches in the distance, point and say, “eat”, just think what is going to evolve. My point is, this whole debate is more than political. If those who depend on the ad platform have behind the scene protection from those demanding the data, you need to be realistic with the strategy.

  31. kidmercury

    man i’m looking at techmeme, techcrunch, and fredland. the stories and comments regarding the NSA stuff are amazing. the line between the tech blogosphere and the center of the kookosphere is getting dangerously thin. let me know when you guys start talking about the jump room to mars, ancient civilizations, and shape-shifting interdimensional/extraterrestials that engage in satanism and black magick. lol…kookology is a slippery slope, my friends. wander down the rabbit hole and you’ll see just how far it goes.

    1. jason wright

      the undermining of a legit issue. they have software that does that i think.

      1. kidmercury

        i don’t know what you mean.



  32. ObjectMethodology.com

    Sounds kinda’ cool. A personal 24/7 security crew.

  33. LIAD

    if this discussion is taking place by proxy using quotes, I think we need to bring in Col. Nathan Jessup (with minor string replacement)”Son, we live in a world that has walls and those walls need to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You?I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for privacy and curse the NSA; you have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that privacy’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives and that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use then as the backbone of a life trying to defend something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said “thank you,” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up a weapon and stand a post.Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”

    1. David Landsman

      Yeah, except Nathan Jessup was arrested for breaking the law in your Sorkin example. In my opinion, the United States is either a nation of laws or it isn’t. Everything about this program says it isn’t.Violating the civil liberties of everyone on Earth may be the most expedient way of “protecting” us, but if the United States ever expects to be anything but the police state it seems to be right now, our leaders have to do what’s hard, which is protect the citizenry without violating their civil liberties.

    2. SubstrateUndertow

      Isn’t that just a form of panic, scurrying off to hide under the skirt of yet another strong-man.The strong-man only offer a short term delusionary, dead end, cul-de-sac form of safety.



  34. ObjectMethodology.com

    Hmm… I just had a strange thought. What happens to people’s computers doesn’t really matter. What happens to them is what’s important..Our country is in bad shape – we still have ~60% of our people not employed. These days we all worry about who attacks our computer. Shouldn’t we be worried about “us”? I think we need a new law that says if national security is gonna’ focus on the cyber world it is required that every single person in the US carries a gun for protection. 🙂 Fred?

    1. ObjectMethodology.com

      Fred ?!.Are you under the weather? I can’t seem to entice you into some firebreathing.

      1. ShanaC

        probably busy – the rest of us are around.

  35. bfeld

    It’s time for all of us to read 1984 again.

    1. ObjectMethodology.com

      Read 1984?! By the sounds of these posts. People here are living it.

    2. pointsnfigures

      Or Ayn Rand…..this is more like that.

    3. Anne Libby

      Thankfully, many agree:http://blogs.wsj.com/law/20…Also, Fahrenheit 451 and William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy!

      1. bfeld

        Ooh – F451 is such a great call!

        1. Anne Libby

          Someone in one of my feeds/streams recommended the movie, which I’ve never seen. (It’s available to stream on Amazon.)I LOVE that the American Library Association is on it for us:http://www.districtdispatch

  36. jason wright

    is Tim Cook announcing the release of the ispy today?

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      I sure hope so !

  37. Jevon

    While on a panel a few years ago I said that the biggest battle we are going to fight in the next 20 years is going to be for the independence of the internet. It drew a few chuckles and I was even scolded by a few people for being melodramatic but I believe it.The network that has allowed all of us on AVC and everywhere to learn and create is being changed. It is being eroded by the corporate world (read: pipe providers) and from governments as well.I want nothing more than to make sure my kids get the same global playing field that I got and that the last 15 years weren’t just a blip.

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      There has always been major food fights over wealth/power/education/control and the internet is all those things rolled into one.They will soon be laughing out of the other side of their mouths!In the words of Eben Moglen”Software code is the crucial component of everything in the 21st centurySoftware is what the 21st century is made ofWhat steel was to the economy of the 20 th centuryWhat steel was to the power of the 20 th centuryWhat steel was to the politics of the 20 th centurySoftware is nowIt is the curial building blockthe component out of which everything else is madeand when I speak of everything – I mean of course:FREEDOMas well as Tyrannyas well as Business as usualas well as Spying on Everyone for free all the timeIn other words the very composition of social lifeThe way it works or doesn’t workFor USThe way it works or doesn’t workFor those that OwnThe way it works or doesn’t workFor those who OppressAll now depends on software!”

    2. fredwilson

      you are right

  38. Kirsten Lambertsen

    If you’ve been tuning in to “Democracy Now” for the last 10 years, like I have, you might feel a little amused at all the uproar. This crap has been going on since forever.It’s good that people are waking up to it, but we’ve been living in this state for a very long time. And I don’t mean going back to President Johnson. I mean going back to President Wilson, at least.The good news is, we’ve always found a way to keep the country from sliding into that Orwellian nightmare (I think). The bad news is that technology is making it easier for the PTB to thwart us. The good news is that tech is making it easier for us to thwart them.Want to take action this minute? Stop buying corporate. Stop buying mass produced. Buy local. Eat local. Trade local. Don’t eat fast food. Don’t buy big brands. Don’t shop at Wal Mart or Old Navy. Because the government has become a puppet of giant corporations who have economies bigger than many countries. And we *fund* those corporations with our consumer dollars. Starve the dragon that has taken our gov’t hostage.Here’s where we are already living in “1984”: Why does Verizon give the gov’t its data? Because Verizon *is* the gov’t. Because Lockheed Martin *is* the gov’t. And war is very profitable for just about every industry, including Dunkin’ Donuts and Canada Dry.

  39. Kirsten Lambertsen

    “Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.” ― Noam Chomskyhttp://www.goodreads.com/au…

  40. JLM

    .Well, on a different note. It’s not all bad.Today my laptop disk drive crashed and I was able to get a backup from the NSA.They also pointed out a couple of emails I was tardy in responding to.So, It’s not all bad. Just saying…JLM.

  41. Steve

    And unfortunately, I think that we can trust/worry that the government is always a couple of steps ahead of what we know about at any one time.For example, even though the government says that it is not “reading” the content of our emails, or “listening in” on the content of our telephone conversations, what it may very well mean (but not be telling us) is that, instead, it is actively scanning that (recorded) content in real time with incredibly sophisticated software that looks for key words/clues/patterns and only then reads/listens to the content (with or without a warrant) that is flagged.Still just as chilling. And the truth is only distinguished from the government’s denial by semantics.

  42. Richard

    Want to see how screwed up this is: hungry? “hummus is such the bomb”.

  43. Donna Brewington White

    Yay! We can see who “likes” us! Thanks, Disqus.

    1. William Mougayar

      Brought back by popular demand it seems? Nice.New Disqus features have a tendency to creep-up on us without warnings 🙂

  44. Edward

    And now sales are up 69 percent, this feels like an elaborate marketing campagin….

  45. Daniel Plainview

    Privacy as we have know it is gone. Forever. It’s not coming back and no amount of SSL, Tor Browsing, always HTTPS, etc. etc. is going to protect you in a real worlds sense. They can see everything – IF they want you. The real question is: How does we conduct ourselves in light of this new reality?

  46. Cant Because They Are Watching

    The thing that truly astounds me, is that no matter how many breaches, how many leaks, how many mistakes are made, or how bad the system is, the government still has the gall to step up and say “trust us”.Perhaps snooping is necessary (I don’t agree, but just say it is). How will we /ever/ know when enough is enough when there are gagging orders that require, by law, that people don’t even acknowledge that there was a gagging order.Even more than the actual snooping is that they’ve bothered to put a legal framework into place that the people can no longer see. It’s not even /legal/ to see what’s going on.To paraphrase, “Only crooks, robbers, and thieves need to worry about the people seeing what’s going on.”

  47. John Revay

    I was up late last night watching the Jon Stewart show – John Oliver is hosting for the next 3 months.John Stewart was talking about the government/NSA news items…he goes on to refer to and showed a clip from 1984 and showed a brief clip to the Enemy of the State movie where Gene Hackman – was telling Will Smith about how the NSA was tracking people. It was a great movie.http://tinyurl.com/mcg4v47

  48. par

    so appropriate.

  49. sachmo

    One of my favorite books ever.

  50. jason wright

    NSA Boundless heatmap;http://hothardware.com/news…Germany receives as much attention as China – industrial espionage.Are Alaskans radical subversives?

  51. John Revay

    Saw this on my twitter feed this amGetting to know Big Brother: Sales of George Orwell’s “1984” jumped 4,903% on Amazon after news of #Prism broke | bloom.bg/14vgKBS— Eric Hippeau (@erichippeau) June 12, 2013

  52. jason wright

    i wonder if this news might begin to erode the use of online pseudonyms?

  53. jason wright

    The glorious alliance that is the special relationship of The United Stasi of America & The UKGB, long may it reign.