Category Archives: Surveillance state

Dealing With Mass Killings in America: Funding Our Children, Not Our Wars

As mass killings become more common in the US, law enforcement agents fixate on and unduly publicize cases with jihadist links. As this post describes, that serves as an excuse for even more intensive surveillance.

Yet as Mark Ames described in one of the first works on these rampages, in his book “Going Postal,” there were no obvious similarities among the perps. They weren’t all, or even often, isolated losers. They did not typically come from broken homes. They were generally of above average intelligence. Aside from being disproportionately male, the other common thread was that they had been bullied.

If Ames’ observations still hold true, the lack of distinctive demographic or behavioral predictors of those who go on rampages means that heightened surveillance is at best another form of security theater, and at worst an excuse for Stasi-like dossier-gethering.

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CIA Whistleblower Sentenced to 42 Months Based on Metadata

Yves here. I’m featuring this Real News Network report, which may seem to be harrow for our non-financial coverage, for two reasons. First, the interview is with Marcy Wheeler. I suspect many readers know and admire her work but have not seen her speak. Second, her talk flags a particularly disturbing element of the government’s successful case against CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, namely, that it was weak and depended almost entirely on circumstantial metadata evidence. That should give consumers pause about their casual attitude towards the government’s data hoovering: “Oh, there’s nothing they can see that is of interest.” As this story indicates, the officialdom was able to use inconclusive information as the basis of a narrative that worked in court.

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Big Data Is Watching You (at Work)

By Lambert Strether of Corrente. There’s been some admiring coverage in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere of UPS’s Orion system of algorithmic route selection (driver reactions), but not much discussion of how electronic monitoring structures the UPS driver’s entire working day (or what we “professional” types are wont to call our “workflow”). A recent […]

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The New Authoritarianism

In recent decades, new forms of dictatorship based on manipulating information rather than on mass violence, have emerged. This column explores the trade-offs and techniques of the modern dictator. Such dictators can survive using little violence in the face of moderate economic underperformance. Economic downturns often prompt an increase in censorship and propaganda. Though new information-based dictatorships are better adapted to a modernised society, modernisation and access to information, as well as economic contractions could undermine them.

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