Feeds

Total Poindexter Awareness: essential information

Americans bite back against the Panopticon

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

John Gilmore has picked up a call to give the government's snoopers and window-peepers a taste of their own medicine. His suggestion is at the top of MIT's Blogdex today, so it looks like it's already gaining some traction.

To illustrate the potential loss of privacy SF Weekly columnist Matt Smith called Admiral John Poindexter at home, and helpfully provided us with his address and telephone number, in a piece published here. The disgraced Iran Contra felon - who was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction, and lying to Congress and escaped a custodial sentence on a technicality - has been given the job of creating the largest dragnet of personal information ever devised. DARPA will forage for details of every American's email, phone communications and financial transactions.

The extent of Total Information Awareness was disclosed by the New York Times last month. When reporter John Markoff rang the Homeland Defense department, they hadn't heard of the plan. That's because Poindexter's "Information Awareness Office" - with the unfortunate choice of an all-seeing eye in a pyramid as its logo - reports to the Department of Defense.

"The database envisioned is of an unprecedented scale," the Information Awareness Office itself notes in its description of TIA.

DARPA created the Internet, and recently tried to destroy it - as this humdinger of a follow-up by Markoff explains.

Smith promised to"publish anything that readers can convincingly claim to have obtained legally".

Gilmore agrees:-

" Employees at various businesses and organizations such as airlines, credit card authorizers, rental-car agencies, shops, gyms, schools, tollbooths, garbage services, banks, taxis, honest civil servants and police officers, and restaurants could demonstrate denial of service to such targeted people.

"A simple "We won't serve YOUR KIND OF PEOPLE" would do, as was practiced on black people for many decades. More subtle forms of denial of service are possible, such as "You've been 'randomly' selected as a security risk, I'll have to insist that [some degrading thing happen to you]". Or merely, "I can't seem to get this credit card to work, sir, and those twenties certainly look counterfeit to me."

" People who associated closely with such a targeted individual, such as their families, relatives, friends, neighbors, protective secret service agents, and business associates, might find themselves swept up in the information dragnet.

"Such a demonstration would graphically reveal the societal dangers of deploying such systems on a wide scale against a large number of citizens -- preferably early enough that such a deployment could be prevented, rather than reversed after major harm was caused."

In Gilmore's view, that the real menace is that such a Panopticon works on the principle of GIGO: garbage in, garbage out. False information could be used to harass innocent citizens.

But the Panopticon - a prison in which the observers are concealed - derives its power from the asymmetry of knowledge, as Foucalt described it. They know much more about you than you know about them.

Perhaps that's what DARPA means when it refers to "asymmetric" technology.®

Related Links

Gilmore: Eyeballing TIA
Matt Smith: Calling All Yahoos
DARPA: TIA

Related Story

US gov's 'ultimate database' run by a felon
MS hires Iran Contra attorney

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.