Assange believes too late for any pervasive privacy

Zenaan Harkness zen at
Fri Dec 11 00:38:47 PST 2015

Feels like a sell out. I suspect he feels he's being pragmatic.

 Game for privacy is gone, mass surveillance is here to stay – Assange
on #RT10 panel
Published time: 10 Dec, 2015 18:13
Edited time: 11 Dec, 2015 03:16

Humanity has lost its battle for privacy and must now learn to live in
a world where mass surveillance is becoming cheaper for governments to
implement, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said during a panel
dedicated to RT’s 10th anniversary.

Assange addressed the panel on security and surveillance hosted by RT
in central Moscow on Thursday via videoconference from the Ecuadorian
embassy in London, where he has remained holed up for the last three
years in order to avoid extradition to Sweden.

When offered a chance to comment on the session’s topic – “Security or
Surveillance: Can the right to privacy and effective anti-terror
security coexist in the digital age?” – the whistleblower asked the
moderator, and host of The Big Picture Show on RT American, Thom
Hartmann: “How long have you got, Tom?” implying he has a lot to say
on the issue.

But it was Assange’s only joke during the event, as his reply turned
out to be gravely serious and in many respects depressing.

“In thinking about this issue I want to take quite a different
position, perhaps, from what you would expect me to have taken… I
think that we should understand that the game for privacy is gone.
It’s gone. The mass surveillance is here to stay,” he said.

Mass surveillance is already being implemented not only by major world
powers, but also by some medium and small-sized countries, he added.

“The Five Eyes intelligence arrangement [of Australia, Canada, New
Zealand, the UK and the US]… is so evasive in terms of mass
surveillance of domestic and international telecommunications that
while some experts can achieve practical privacy for themselves for
limited number of operations… it’s gone for the rest of the
populations,” the WikiLeaks founder stressed.

International terrorists are among those “experts” capable of making
their communications invisible for security agencies, he added.

Privacy “will not be coming back, short of a very regressive economic
collapse, which reduces the technological capacity of civilization,”
Assange said.

“The reason it will not come back is that the cost of engaging in mass
surveillance is decreasing by about 50 per cent every 18 months,
because it’s the underlying cost that’s predicated on the cost of
telecommunications, moving surveillance intercepts around and
computerization and storage – all those costs are decreasing much
faster at a geometric rate than the human population is increasing,”
he explained.

Mass surveillance and computerization are “winning” the competition
with humanity and human values and they’re “going to continue to win
at an ever-increasing rate. That’s the reality that we have to deal
with,” the WikiLeaks whistleblower added.

The focus should now switch from defending privacy to understanding
what kind of society will be built in these new, changed conditions,
he said.

The WikiLeaks founder reminded the panel of the historic examples of
East Germany and other societies, in which people adapted to living
under the scrutiny of the authorities.

“If you look at societal behavior in very conformist, small, isolated
societies with reduced social spaces – like Sweden, South Korea,
Okinawa in Japan and North Korea – then you’ll see that society
adapts. Everyone becomes incredibly timid, they start to use code
words; use a lot of subtext to try and sneak out your controversial
views,” he said.

According to Assange, the modern world is currently moving “towards
that kind of a society.”

Privacy is among values “that simply are unsustainable… in the face of
the reality of technological change; the reality of the deep state
with a military-industrial complex and the reality of Islamic
terrorism, which is legitimizing that sector in a way that it’s
behaving,” he stressed.

Assange encouraged those present on the panel as well as the general
public to “get on the other side of the debate where it’s going” and
stop holding on to privacy.

The panel discussion was part of an RT conference titled 'Information,
messages, politics:The shape-shifting powers of today's world.' The
meeting brought together politicians, foreign policy experts and media
executives from across the globe, among them former director of the US
Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn, the Green Party’s Jill
Stein and former vice president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the
OSCE, Willy Wimmer.

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