Technology Being Perverted by Contemporary Despots

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-12-06 Print this article Print


Black points to Carrier IQ as just the latest means of spying on people and latest perversion of technology. "We need to be afraid," Black said. "The Internet is corralling, and has the ability not to set you free but to make you captive."

That captivity is and has always been the goal of oppressors, whether they were the Nazis of the mid 20th century or the contemporary despots who would shut off the Internet to prevent this year's Arab Spring. But that captivity can always be broken, at first a little, as the trickles of information, text messages and voice-over-IP calls demonstrated that Egypt and other repressive regimes can't really cut off the Internet.

Genachowski, speaking in January 2010 at the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, pointed out that the Nazis fought to shut off the flow of information, just as the dictators who run many of the countries in the Middle East do today. "We know that for the Nazis, control of the flow of information was an imperative," Genachowski said. But the same thing can just as easily be perpetrated today by those who would control information so that they can have their way with the people they seek to control.

Unfortunately, the quest to control the flow of information goes beyond oppressive governments. So likewise does the quest to gather, catalog and sequester information. That information, which in many cases started out as freely available facts, now often resides in the information mines of corporations that want to know just a little more about us. They want to know where we shop, how we spend our money, where we travel and where we are at any moment. Often these same organizations that are gathering and using this information are loath to share that fact with the very people whose information they gather.

While those organizations are many, and while they gather this information for many reasons, sometimes claiming that they're doing us a favor, they gather it nonetheless. Once the information is gathered, it's saved, and more information is added to it, until whoever is doing the gathering knows all there is to know about you. But will they tell you? Not if they can avoid it.

And this is why the reaction to the secretive gathering of information has been so strong. A year ago, Apple was pilloried for recording the places some of its users went. Now it's Carrier IQ coming under fire for stealthily gathering personal mobile communication data without the knowledge or consent of phone users. Companies like these take advantage of the free flow of information, but they don't reciprocate in terms of being open about the data collection or by asking permission to do it.

Perhaps it's time that we find a way to take that bright light Chairman Genachowski speaks about to shine on what they're doing. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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