Law in the Internet Society
Trust issues

Nowadays, the level of trust we place on things that we do not understand is surprisingly high. To use myself as an example, I store my credit card information on iPhone and my photos on Baidu Cloud and talk freely on WeChat? , without knowing who else has access to this information. The reasons I did not educate myself on privacy issues are, firstly, I am not good with technology; second, I have (almost) nothing to hide; third, I am not important enough for anyone to watch; and fourth, even assume my browsing history was sold on the market, what is the harm?

I think most people share my ignorance and the attitude of indifference: they do not know how computers or phones work, and they are not going to bother figuring it out.

Software has becomes a necessity in human life. It provides us with content to read, transportation to ride, games to play and porns to watch. Software affects and controls our consciousness. The ability to create and control software is power. With that power, the rich and powerful exerts dominion over us in a way that Genghis Khan had never dreamed of.

It is always in the best interest of the rulers to keep the people ignorant. Laozi wanted to create a world in which "the people renounce [their] sageness and discard [their] wisdom," and "they should think their (coarse) food sweet; their (plain) clothes beautiful; their (poor) dwellings places of rest; and their common (simple) ways sources of enjoyment." For centuries, the rulers did not know how to accomplish that. They resorted to violence to subdue their people, while trembled in fear of being overthrown by greater violence. Now, technology provides the perfect solution. Software that possesses and controls our thinking and consciousness can create a feeling of contentedness by providing the right stimuli. They can make us think the food that they want us to consumer delicious, clothes beautiful. They reduce us to data points, of which the only purpose is to consume.

The Chinese Communist Party used to resist and suppress the internet. In recent years, it started to abandon such position and began to embrace the internet. The network provides them the perfect way to control peoples’ mind while appearing reformative and open-minded. Xi Jinping recently attended the World Internet Conference held in Wuzhen and addressed the internet tycoons in China. He said that the advancement of internet economy should follow four principles: first, respect of sovereignty on the internet; second, protection of peace and safety; third, promotion of cooperation between various parties; and fourth, creation and maintenance of social order and harmony. What he really means is that China will use the network, with the help from the internet services providers, to maintain its sovereignty and social order. The psychological network that Facebook and Tencent have created, will be incorporated into the bureaucracy of the Chinese Communist Party at last.

This should serve a wake-up call to all the people who trade off their privacy for convenience, who think that the only harm is seeing the advertisement of goods and services that they want to buy anyway. What is at stake is personal freedom. In deciding a Fourth Amendment case, Judge Greenaway expressed his concern over the intrusiveness of GPS tracking device, “while ‘[y]ou can preserve your anonymity from prying eyes, even in public, by traveling at night, through heavy traffic, in crowds, by using a circuitous route, disguising your appearance, passing in and out of buildings and being careful not to be followed,” there is “no hiding from the all-seeing network of GPS satellites that hover overhead, which never sleep, never blink, never get confused and never lose attention.”’ U.S. v. Katzin, 732 F.3d 187, 196 (3d Cir.,2013) (quoting U.S. v. Pineda–Moreno, 617 F.3d 1120, 1126 (9th Cir.2010) (Kozinski, C.J., dissenting)). The network is one hundred folds more intrusive. Not only it tracks where you have been, what you have read, and who you have been talking to, it knows what you think, consciously and unconsciously, and controls what you buy and how you behave. Never before, the ruler of China is close to creating the ideal world that Laozi aspired by reducing his people to complete ignorance and eliminating entirely the urge to rebel. People who control the technology control the social outcome. This time, the technology they use is so formidable that it is not only capable of eradicating dissident voices but also rebellious thoughts.

To safeguard our privacy, our consciousness and our thinking becomes a civic duty. We have to educate ourselves on the ways that software works, to take control of software that runs on our computers and smartphones, and to protect the data we generate from any third party.

If software does not work for us but for someone else, it will be used to suppress and oppress. It will end the freedom of mind and freedom of choices as we know them.

A better draft, improved by some thoughtful rewriting of the individual paragraphs. The central thesis is familiar to me, mostly from listening to what I say myself. Although I sometimes use the Taoist metaphor myself, I think as real political analysis it isn't very strong. Even an Internet designed to CCP specifications would still leave the people overall better informed than they were before, certainly no closer to being the uncarved block. The Party needs the Net to help it know what is going on in the China it governs, and to make its presence felt, hardly to become invisible.

That people who have little to hide and aren't very important shouldn't store their credit cards, their contacts lists, or their photographs somewhere they can easily be pillaged is hardly a sophisticated lesson we're unready to learn: no previous generation of human beings since the beginning of civilization has been inclined to store what is precious to it somewhere unguarded. This aspect of the problem is just a temporary madness caused by ignorance. But by the time we recur to the central habits of previous humanity, we may have lost the technical freedom to do what everybody before us was able to do, and which our progeny will intensely regret. What the Party wants is realtime access to actual behavior and the ability to predict future behavior of one point seven billion or so individuals. One generation from now, if we have not prevented the technical structures from forming and crippled or eliminated the Party, they will get what they want.


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r6 - 11 Jan 2016 - 22:53:54 - EbenMoglen
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