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[liberationtech] Fwd: IGP Blog :: Technology as symbol: Is resistance to surveillance technology being misdirected?

Jillian C. York jilliancyork at gmail.com
Mon Jan 2 11:29:25 PST 2012


I think Evgeny mentioned this in a different context, but this article is
actually a great example of how out-of-hand some of the media on the topic
has gotten:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-12/tunisia-after-revolt-can-alter-e-mails-with-big-brother-software.html

The headline implies that Tunisia is still intercepting emails; and yet,
read on, and the context is that Tunisia is still *capable*.  And sure,
that's problematic, but nonetheless, the article is misleading in a number
of ways.

Anyway, just throwing it out there for a read.

-Jillian

On Thu, Dec 29, 2011 at 2:55 PM, Robert Guerra <rguerra at privaterra.org>wrote:

> As Milton is not on this list, I took the initiative of letting him know
> that his posts are being actively discussed on this list. He asked that I
> forward his response to the list... See below
>
> Regards
>
> Robert
>
> Sent from a mobile device.  Apologies for typos or brevity.
>
>
> Begin forwarded message:
>
> *From:* Milton L Mueller <mueller at syr.edu>
> *Date:* 29 December, 2011 5:43:25 PM EST
> *To:* Robert Guerra <rguerra at privaterra.org>
> *Subject:* *FW: IGP Blog :: Technology as symbol: Is resistance to
> surveillance technology being misdirected?*
>
>  Hey, Robert,
>
> Can you forward it to the list...
>
>
>
> It's good that your community is having a discussion of this; on the whole
> I think it's best that it go on without me directly joining the list and
> getting into it.
>
> But I do want to make a few points on my own; would appreciate it if you
> could forward my message below.
>
>
>
> First, I am not trying to take cheap shots at the activists. This was a
> baffling charge to me because if one ever takes cheap shots, one does so at
> people with whom one is fundamentally opposed and wants to discredit. I
> take cheap shots at nationalism, religion, Republican evangelicals,
> trademark lawyers & copyright maximalists, the CIA and beltway bandits
> around DHS, and, if I'm in a bad mood, ditsy OWS protesters. My motive was
> actually the opposite. I thought that some of the exaggerated and
> thoughtless claims being aired in the media were in fact making it easy for
> the activists to discredit themselves. I am on the whole a big fan of EFF,
> work with them in OECD and other contexts, deeply respect what they have
> done and am really, really glad that they are out there to take up the
> cudgel on issues like ISP liability, censorship, SOPA, etc.
>
>
>
> Second, I am surprised and a bit amused by how many people think they can
> dismiss a person or an argument by calling it "cyberlibertarian," out of
> the 1990s, etc. OK, yes, there are people out there (both Left and Right)
> who mindlessly repeat formulaic mantras that conform to a doctrine, and
> perhaps they can be dismissed. The IGP blog however tries to combine an
> 'ideological' commitment to freedom with a very keen appreciation of the
> concrete facts about technology and institutions that affect the governance
> and operations of the internet. More importantly, ideology at its best is
> simply an attempt to be logical and principled, and to tie political
> positions to core values. People who dismiss one ideology are usually just
> slaves of some other ideology, whose assumptions their group takes for
> granted, so you may as well 'fess up and deal with it.
>
>
>
> A significant part of the debate over how to approach export controls is
> rooted in differences over how one perceives the role of state in the
> protection of human rights globally (as you'll see below when I address a
> point Collin makes). That is a deep and important debate; ignore its full
> ramifications at your own peril.
>
>
>
> Third, the impetus for my intervention came primarily from the newspaper
> reporters. It began with the highly questionable piece on Iran written by
> Rhoads of the WSJ back in 2009, which was full of technical errors and
> seemed to have a hidden agenda, and continued through two interviews with
> the Bloomberg reporters, who seemed to be genuinely interested in learning
> more about the tech and its use, but the reports always seemed to take a
> simplistic line that did not reflect those discussions. So this has been
> building for some time.
>
>
>
> Now let me address a few points Collin A. makes:
>
>
>
> >The article should not generate much reaction because
>
> > many of the conversations on this list and in the community
>
> > already negate or move past his points. He assumes, or
>
> > exploits the reader's ignorance, that there is no introspection
>
> > among those activists he appears to criticize as naive or self-serving.
>
>
>
> This is doubly false. 1) The article does not assume anything about how
> much "introspection" there is or isn’t, it's unreasonable to expect public
> commentary to read others' minds. The article is directed to the general
> public and puts forward concerns that need to  be aired but were not being
> aired properly. 2) While Collin is correct that there has been a
> longstanding debate about the efficacy of export controls and on attempts
> to control the 'proliferation' of technology/ies, the dialogue around
> surveillance tech reflected none of its nuances or history prior to my
> intervention. E.g., when I tried to bring up militarization of encryption
> the Bloomberg reporter was both ignorant of it and uninterested. The strong
> reaction to the piece is proof that that debate is still vibrant and far
> from settled. The fact that the article generated so much reaction on this
> list is proof that those points needed to be discussed more.
>
>
>
> > the American government's arming of other countries is an
>
> > excellent point of leverage for inducing foreign regimes to
>
> > behave in a certain way. Materiel is not a completely durable
>
> > good, requiring servicing and upgrades. It was this dependency
>
> > that was probably the origin of the Egyptian military's fracture
>
> > with the Mubarak regime. There are countless instances where
>
> > servicing aircraft and other weapons was a way for the US to
>
> > pressure a point with another country.
>
>
>
> Yikes. Here we get to the real, most substantive point where our views may
> diverge and where ideology - i.e. basic views about political philosophy,
> the nature of the state, etc. - is unavoidable.  Yes,
> I am deeply suspicious of this belief that the powers of the 21st century
> nation-state can be harnessed to serve human rights ends. This is not a
> "let the market decide" argument it is a "you'd better be pretty fucking
> careful with states" argument.
>
>
>
> A globally dominant hegemon's arming of other countries can become a
> "point of leverage" indeed. But leverage for what? Collin's words are
> carefully chosen: "leverage for inducing foreign regimes to behave in a
> certain way." Yes. Leverage for individual rights and freedom? I don't
> think so. A national government will pursue its national interest, and
> enter into bargains with other states regarding their national interests.
> Liberals and progressives are always suckers for the idea that if "good
> people" are in power, the state as an institution can and will do all kinds
> of good things. But the interests of a global hegemon are primarily in
> protecting its power and position, maintaining stability, preserving key
> economic interests. Doesn't matter whether it’s a Dem or a Repub holding
> the reins. We should know from our own domestic experience with
> surveillance, SOPA, etc., that the interests of the American state, qua
> state, rarely align with the interests of the ordinary person in autonomy
> and prosperity - not at home and certainly not overseas. One does not have
> to be a raging anarcho-whatever to notice that the USG's Internet freedom
> initiatives align very closely with its strategic and geopolitical concerns
> with particular governments - Iran, China - and seem to ignore others -
> Saudi, etc. While I am not completely opposed to the State Department's IF
> program or initiatives such as GOFA, I think the advocates of a more
> extensive global regime of surveillance and controls on ICT technologies
> are not fully coming to grips with its political and institutional
> implications, or its potential unintended effects.
>
>
>
> We are not going to resolve this question here, but one MUST recognize
> that the idea of "regulating dual use technology" is itself a highly
> ideological position, one that rests on a specific philosophy of government
> (one that I think ignores the practical realities of international
> relations). So Collin's admonition that we need to avoid philosophy is off
> target.
>
>
>
> However, one obvious limitation of my critique is that I am not offering a
> full-blown alternative, just criticizing what I saw as veering off the in
> the wrong direction. I remain open to good, practical ideas for ways to
> prevent dictatorships from abusing networking technologies, but let's not
> lose sight of the fact that it's the dictatorships themselves that are the
> source of the problem.
>
>
>
> Milton L. Mueller
>
> Professor, Syracuse University School of Information Studies
>
> Internet Governance Project
>
> http://blog.internetgovernance.org
>
>
>
>
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-- 
jilliancyork.com | @jilliancyork | tel: +1-857-891-4244 | google voice:
+1-415-562-JILL
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