Friday, February 21, 2014

The NSA are taking us to a creepy SF dystopia

Writing in The Guardian, Luke Harding describes his writing of The Snowden Files, and the odd incidents that happened during it. The sudden and simultaneous "road works" outside The Guardian's New York and Washington DC offices within hours of them publishing the Verizon mass-surveillance story (tapping the phones?). The clumsy CIA surveillance and break-ins in Rio. The sudden phone glitches when talking about it. And then there's this bit:

By September the book was going well – 30,000 words done. A Christmas deadline loomed. I was writing a chapter on the NSA's close, and largely hidden, relationship with Silicon Valley. I wrote that Snowden's revelations had damaged US tech companies and their bottom line. Something odd happened. The paragraph I had just written began to self-delete. The cursor moved rapidly from the left, gobbling text. I watched my words vanish. When I tried to close my OpenOffice file the keyboard began flashing and bleeping.

Over the next few weeks these incidents of remote deletion happened several times. There was no fixed pattern but it tended to occur when I wrote disparagingly of the NSA. All authors expect criticism. But criticism before publication by an anonymous, divine third party is something novel.

Its like something out of a dystopian SF novel. And that's where our spies are taking us to: to an SF surveillance dystopia, where everyone is subjected to constant surveillance, and those who criticise the powerful are subjected to pre-emptive censorship.

But we can still stop them. We still have free elections; all we need are politicians willing to stand on a platform of shutting down the spies. Cut their budgets, sack their staff, destroy their equipment, and kill their dystopia before it strangles us all.