American "independence" was won with subterfuge and revolution, but this would fail today in a smart city or from AI data analysis. State and federal constitutions prohibit "unreasonable searches and seizures," knowing tyranny, blackmail, threat, or physical force may result. But privacy is a right neglected by technology corporations today and sold to the highest bidder, whether foreign or local government or other corporations. Technology can intrude not only on our privacy, but shape our society and formidable weapons.
Technology allows concentration of power, gathering of information, and facilitates fake truths. Military research such as Next-Generation NonSurgical Technology examines how to read and write into brains, developing knowledge that may be used to read secrets or manipulate minds. Technology and tech investments need to be circumscribed, regulated, and absolutely reduced.
Security experts have warned that the "smart" grid and Internet of Things represents a security threat: our utilities or data can be controlled by hackers. Transmitters in every device & data storage may be hacked and identify our habit, where to find us and those we love, or when to rob our homes.
New Mexico recently sued Google, stating that Google has failed to protect children's privacy from apps as prohibited by the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), but that is just one small example of the many breaches or negligence from commercial apps, Facebook, Google, etc. The project Social Cooling states tracking and profiling fears even impact personal lives, promoting conformity, risk-aversion, and self-censorship.
Our federal government continues to support widespread technological surveillance, with hundreds of thousands of data requests a year just to a single company. Even at the state level, our tax dollars go towards the Commonwealth's Fusion Center resulting in monitoring of groups engaged in political activities because of a stated purpose of terrorist surveillance. Companies like Google regularly provide digital fingerprints of individuals and group trends. China demonstrates what is possible with its monitoring of citizens and assigning citizenship scores. As result, sites dedicated to online privacy are growing in popularity, including Restore Privacy and nonprofits like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Electronic Privacy Information Center.
An open letter viewable at the International Committee of Robot Arms Control is addressed to the heads of Amazon from a "coalition of human rights groups," professors Peter Azaro, Evan Salinger, and others. The message states: "face recognition technology represents an unprecedented threat to privacy and civil liberties... from the infrastructure of cameras, face databases, and biometric data its products are creating." Collection of personal data threatens democracy, such as through targeting of social activists or blackmail of elected representatives.
During WWII, protesters hid Jews in safety. During the Vietnam War, protesters encouraged soldiers to desert and hid them. These actions would be incredibly hard today with technology and data mining. While we can pretend we are safe in the USA, our acceptance and use of this technology fosters development and use in dictatorships.
The Future of Life Institute has posted a letter about the autonomous or AI killing machines, requesting the signatures of AI researchers to reject creation of such machines and noting the risks of such an arms race, including assassinations, destabilization, and programmed ethnic cleansing. What if these autonomous killing machines get a virus or have a crucial flaw?
When human armies fight, that is terrible. But more chilling is the thought of how much easier to kill via remote technology: so easy to destroy others without dirtying one's own fingers or even admitting responsibility. The USA is far ahead in creating these technologies, in the perfect kill rather than the perfect life.
Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex a threat to democracy, meaning the heavy cost and potential loss of control. The focus on weapons and war seems to spiral into absolute stupidity.
Dr. Leonard Cole has written a book Clouds of Secrecy: The Army's Germ Warfare Tests Over Populated Areas on germ warfare, detailing events such as in 1950, when the Navy conducted secret germ warfare tests on the population of San Francisco, ostensibly to see how to protect against such an attack. The Pentagon admitted admitted subjecting 60,000 black soldiers to chemical testing, denying chemical testing today but neglecting bio- or electromagnetic weapon testing. Today soldiers have little choice about electromagnetic exposures from weapons, and human-computer synthesis appears to be the new experimental frontier, with experiments to alter moods and study AI being reported. The concept of mood alteration hints at possibilities.
In a sense, technology magnifies systemic inequalities. Ordinary citizens cannot frack and poison wells, mine for conflict minerals, nor collect telecommunications or IT data to dangle over politicians. Ordinary citizens lack the wealth to create islands safe from intrusion and harm. The purpose of a democracy is to protect and work for its citizens, rather than to allow abuses to human rights.
Entergy was recently caught paying actors to attend public forums on its behalf, although Entergy steadfastly denies responsibility for astroturfing, having paid a subtractor to provide 75 and 35 supporters respectively. The contractor appears to be Crowds on Demand, which pays actors to provide on-demand crowds, though, making Entergy's claim suspicious. Similarly, the FCC's net neutrality docket was flooded with automated submissions to herald corporate view. Technology such as crowds-on-demand and online bots has the power to eclipse democratic representation.
As reported by US Right to Know and others, Monsanto hired third-party experts to use online media (tweets, blogs, etc.) and sometimes ghostwritten articles and research to be signed by experts. Monsanto's intention was to discredit findings that glysophate poses risks. In this case, wealth allowed disproportionate media access and perversion. Monsanto is defending itself in court, but what can an immortal company with limited liability lose? The loss however is great to democracy and intellectual understanding for those people educated by Monsanto's Fake News, and the Fake News of other corporations seeking to promote products and consumption.
These abuses speak to why citizens are moving to take away "corporate personhood," in Massachusetts a petition by Pass Mass Amendment or federally with the Move to Amend. Certainly, removing corporate personhood would go a long way to sustaining democracy, and improve our chances of regulating technology appropriately.
Our laws seem to be in patches. Michigan recently passed a law banning the National Security Agency’s intrusive data collection practices by prohibiting law enforcement and state agencies from turning over personal data to the federal government without due process. The law states unless certain informed consent or other requirements are met that Michigan, "shall not assist, participate with, or provide material support or resources to a federal agency to enable it to collect or to facilitate in the collection or use of a person’s electronic data or metadata." While Michigan's intent is admirable, corporations collect data and can sell to any bidder, such as local or foreign government.
California recently passed a strong law that would facilitate lawsuits against companies failing to protect privacy or to respects citizens' right to privacy, as enshrined in the California state constitution. The law gives Californians options to delete data being sold, and prevents sale of personal information of a consumer under 16 years unless opting in to sale. According to a recent NPR report, telecommunications companies are apparently are worried about California's privacy legislation and are pursuing federal legislation on the topic to preempt state laws.
For more information, see:
Hartman, T. (2002). Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became People - and How You Can Fight Back. San Francisco, CA: Berret-Koehler Publishers Inc.
Martin, (2017, Jul 11). US military to spend £50M on digital brain implants to create super soldiers. Express. Available at https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/827350/brain-implant-us-military-super-soldier
Michigan law H.B. 4430 of 2017, Available at http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(uvp4i1qutpetcuzm1exgc2qf))/mileg.aspx?page=getobject&objectname=2017-HEBS-4430
Move to Amend. Federal Initiative. Available at https://movetoamend.org/amendment
Rothbard, D. (2016, Mar 31). Crowd Source: Inside the company that provides fake paparazzi, pretend campaign supporters, and counterfeit protesters. The California Sunday Magazine. Available at https://story.californiasunday.com/crowds-on-demand
Nesbit, J (2017, Dec 8). Google’s true origin partly lies in CIA and NSA research grants for mass surveillance. Quartz. Available at https://qz.com/1145669/googles-true-origin-partly-lies-in-cia-and-nsa-research-grants-for-mass-surveillance/
Sample, I (2016, Nov 7). US military successfully tests electrical brain stimulation to enhance staff skills. The Guardian. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/nov/07/us-military-successfully-tests-electrical-brain-stimulation-to-enhance-staff-skills
Stein, M. I. (2018, May 4). Actors were paid to support Entergy’s power plant at New Orleans City Council meetings. The Lens. Available at https://thelensnola.org/2018/05/04/actors-were-paid-to-support-entergys-power-plant-at-new-orleans-city-council-meetings/