5G – Surveillance Capitalism on Steroids
Part 2 of The Panopticon Perplex
Tolkin’s fictional Dark Lord Sauron used a magic all-seeing orb to overlook and intervene in the affairs of Middle Earth – Now we have our own real world counterparts
“We have work to do. But this is work that can be done. Our elected officials can be educated. If they don’t want to get educated, we can elect different people. This is stuff that we can fix. I do believe that. You know, even into the 20th century, we still had courts, judges who were making decisions that completely sided with the industrialists, whom we have now renamed as “robber barons.” In time, all of these actions are reinterpreted as history shakes out, and democracy finally finds its way through to the light. And that’s what I believe—that’s the process that we’re in now. This thing is 20 years old. We’re at the beginning, not the end. We name it, we tame it. That’s the work now, to reignite our democracy, wake it up for this work of the 21st century.”
~ Shoshana Zuboff Author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power – Interviewed by Democracy Now.
The Internet; ’The Blob that Engulfs the World’ vs. “We Name It, We Tame It.”
Yes, there is push-back, and more informed resistance is vitally needed before its too late. Google employees forced the cancellation of a Pentagon contract to develop artificial intelligence (AI) for lethal purposes. Public opposition just blocked a planned Amazon headquarters in New York. The UK and New Zealand both labeled Facebook a ‘digital gangster.’
“Facebook is an out-of-control train wreck destroying democracy and must be brought under control,” begins a recent Guardian article. “Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalized ‘dark adverts’ from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms we use every day,” declared British MP Damian Collins.
In the short time since Part 1 of this article (no credit claimed), Zuboff’s empowering message reaches an ever-widening audience through two in depth interviews on Democracy Now, a review by Sam Biddle and 90-minute conversation with Naomi Klein on The Intercept and other outlets.
The ‘naming’ part of Dr. Zuboff’s agenda seems to be going well, but a number of factors and actors suggest that the ‘taming’ part may be easier said than done, requiring a mass informed national and, in fact, global movement.
One of the mind-twisting ironies showing the enormity of the challenge is a recent 3-part investigative series by Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal reporting on the Zuboff-Klein conversation event’s sponsor. They document The Intercept’s founder and owner, reclusive, SecondLife-addicted, Dalai Lama devotee, e-bay billionaire Pierre Omidyar, presides over a global network of ‘politically strategic NGOs and media outlets’ – stretching from Zimbabwe, the Philippines and Syria to Ukraine – which advocate for privacy, transparency, and journalistic freedom, while simultaneously interfacing with the US surveillance state, supporting ‘regime change’ plots around the world, and supporting the recent rebranding of Neo-con conman Bill Kristol.
Say the authors, “Behind the image he cultivates of himself as a ‘progressive philanthropreneur,’ Omidyar has wields his media empire to advance the Washington consensus in strategic hotspots around the globe.”
Whom can you trust?
Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pamela Kerr Omidyar
Yasha Levine, the author of Surveillance Valley: The Military History of the Internet – reviewed in – told Rubinstein & Blumenthal:
“This kind of multi-level approach … is very much inline with Omidyar’s vision for how to use technology to manage society — and make money in the process. Central to most of his investments is the use of user profiling and behavioral tracking to manage and run all areas of modern life: journalism, transportation, banking and finance, and government administration. To him it’s not just about running a single service, but integrating things together to give technocrats, business executives and government officials a God’s-eye view of the world — to manage and control society more efficiently.”
As Levine spells it out in his book,
“Today the Internet surrounds us. It mediates modern life. We read books on the Internet: bank, shop and play games on the internet. We talk on the phone, attend college, find jobs, flirt, work, listen to music, view movies and make dentist appointments, and get psychological counseling on the Internet. Air conditioners, phones, watches, pet food dispensers, baby monitors, cars, refrigerators, televisions, light bulbs – they all connect to the internet, too. The world’ poorest places may lack plumbing and electricity, but they, sure enough, have access to the Internet. The Internet is like a giant, unseen blob that engulfs the modern world.”
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt put it bluntly; “We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about… Your digital identity will live forever… because there’s no delete button.”
Naomi Klein, in the conversation with Shoshana Zuboff, suggests surveillance capitalism and its enabling infrastructures and institutions can be seen as the final phase of the Enclosure Movement, begun in Britain two centuries ago. A series of ‘Enclosure Acts’ passed by a Parliament controlled by land owners, declared the forests and fields, historically the shared ‘commons’ of the peasantry for farming, grazing, wood-gathering and raw materials, would now be ‘enclosed,’ or privatized for elite profit.
Peasants, farmers, artisans, craftspeople were forcibly driven off their ancestral lands. Their villages burned, their livelihoods destroyed, they were driven into the cities to work in the ’satanic mills’ of newly rising industrial capitalism. It was efficient population control for the profit of the few. Dispossession without representation. Fast forward to the present ‘Capitalocine,’ when the ‘enclosure’ of the entire planet by profit-seeking, elite forces is at hand.
Zuboff points in her book to the “immense power of a company such as Facebook that routinely manipulates user behavior at scale, using means that are indecipherable and therefor incontestable.” (Just click that ‘agree’ box and become a data slave.) It is, she says, an ‘economics of action beyond the reach of established law and social norms.” She warns, “They know everything about us. We know nothing about them.”
That, in a nutshell, is the essential anti-democratic power asymmetry we face.
The folks around here are eagerly looking forward to a future with absolutely no human contact. Here is an image of woman sexually interfacing with a lover (client?) using communications technology and remotely controlled, robotic, sex-machines… With those flexible lighting solutions and the variety of camera angles provided by the documentary film crew, it is just like being there and operating the machines in person… now that is hot!?!
“The Behavioral Futures Market” – Commodification of Mass Behavior
The ability of data-gathering to not only track and predict mass behavior, but also modify it to suit commercial profit-making purposes, has created what Zuboff calls ’the behavioral futures market’ – trade in mass behavior outcomes using ‘prediction products.’ If you could modify the weather, investing in ‘weather futures’ would be risk-free. If you can drive the public’s behavior, investment in ‘behavioral futures’ likewise becomes a sure bet. And if you can drive commercial outcomes, why not use the same methods to drive political outcomes, too.
Enter Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct British outfit now being investigated for its role in the Brexit and U.S. elections, and its growing field of competitors.
The U.S. 2016 election marked the shift from mass digital behavioral modification for commercial purposes to digital behavior-mod for political purposes – from dispossession of our private data to disenfranchisement of informed democratic choice.
Now comes 5G – the Evil Eye in the Sky – being imposed by a federal agency charged with protecting the public interest.
The Telecom ‘Coup from Above’ – The ‘Final Phase of Enclosure?’
The current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the very model of a ‘captured regulatory agency.’
Presently headed by former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai, the FCC has been aggressively issuing rules and rulings that blatantly advance the interests of the telecom industry at the expense of public safety and democratic choice by attempting to pre-empt local, county and state decision-making authority.
Ending net neutrality, promoting the Internet of Things (IoT) and the mass build-out of 5G wireless system is at the top of its ’surveillance-industrial-complex’ agenda.
On February 11, 2019 Donald Trump signed an Executive Order supporting the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the technology that makes surveillance capitalism possible.
A February 12, 2019 article on Health Impact News was headlined “20,000 Satellites for 5G to be Launched Sending Focused Beams of Intense Microwave Radiation Over Entire Earth.” It reported that the companies with the biggest plans to deploy 5G satellites in the coming months are:
- SpaceX: 12,000 satellites
- OneWeb: 4,560 satellites
- Boeing: 2,956 satellites
- Spire Global: 972 satellites
This is in addition to a global telecom industry push to deploy ground-based, so-called ’small cell’ 5G transmitters every few yards in communities and neighborhoods in the U.S. and around the world, making the surveillance capitalism infrastructure even more powerful and ubiquitous. As the ground-based infrastructure build-out becomes more visible to more people, awareness of its risks to democracy and public health is growing nationally and internationally, and so is public push-back.
Katherine Kheel, editor of WhatIs5g.info, puts the issues clearly,
Our data are fodder for artificial intelligence. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is completely dependent on data. The more granular the data, the more capable the AI. Our data is most easily harvested with wireless connections as we can be tracked 24/7 – wherever we go and whatever we do.Wireless networks (smart phones and such) stalk us enabling 24/7 tracking us and harvesting our data. Data is even collected while people are asleep!!
IoT vehicles and “driverless cars” will gather yet more data wirelessly. Wired networks such as fiber-to-the-home are stationary so not nearly as desirable to industry as wireless. With wired Internet and Telecommunications technology, industry and government miss out on much of our day. 4g/5g “small cells” are needed to feed AI more data.
In fact, THE AGGRESSIVE PUSH FOR 4G/5G TOWERS – THE SO-CALLED “RACE TO 5G” – IS DRIVEN PRIMARILY BY A DESIRE TO CAPTURE AS MUCH OF OUR DATA AS CONCEIVABLY POSSIBLE FOR AI AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES SUCH AS TARGETED MARKETING, GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE, LAW ENFORCEMENT, ETC.
With Trump now calling for “continued American leadership in AI” and claiming we need AI for “maintaining the economic and national security of the United States”, this recent Executive Order is bad news for us all, and will likely be used to support the FCC, Congress, States and industry’s preemption program.
And ‘privacy’ is only part of the issue. As a recent Senate hearing and relentless grilling of telecom executives by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CN) makes clear, the biological effects of 5g have never been proven safe. Yet the global roll-out continues without bio-impact testing; a global biological experiment on un-informed, mis-informed and non-consenting subjects.
Proven Bio-Effects of WiFi
According to Arthur Firstenberg, author of The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life, “The telecommunications industry has suppressed damaging evidence about its technology since at least 1927.”
By 1971, US Naval Officer Zori Glazer, working for the Office of Naval Research, was able to assemble an extensive bibliography of over 100 known biological impacts from exposure to RF radiation in over 16 different categories.
Current independent, peer reviewed scientific research leaves no doubt that the impact of EMR on all biological systems – including humans, wildlife, insects and vegetation – need to be taken seriously before its too late.
Blanketing the planet in 24/7 microwave radiation will mean no human or other lifeforms will be able to escape its biological effects. There will be no place to hide, no refuge from the electro-magnetic storm.
Yet the alternative – a global backbone of fiber-optic cable, combined with vastly reduced, only essential mobile WiFi – is cheaper, safer and more secure. Any guesses as to why this option is it not being more widely pursued?
Amazon’s Core Business is Surveillance
The recent brouhaha surrounding the National Enquirer’s attempt to blackmail Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has further exposed the extent to which the surveillance business model permeates firms at the top of U.S. companies.
Writes the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, “the company made Bezos the planet’s richest human being, is a critical partner for the U.S. Government in building an ever-more invasive, militarized and sprawling surveillance state. Indeed, one of the largest components of Amazon’s business, and thus one of the most important sources of Bezos’ vast wealth and power, is working with the Pentagon and the NSA to empower the U.S. Government with more potent and more sophisticated weapons, including surveillance weapons.”
Globalized Surveillance Capitalism
The U.S. may deserve both credit and blame for creating surveillance capitalisms backbone, but US entities of the cyber-security-industrial complex no longer dominate the field. Every nation and their public-private start-up sectors that can are rushing to compete. A major incubator of this boom is Israel and its intelligence service Mossad, especially Unit 8200.
As a 2016 Forbes article Inside Israel’s Secret Startup Machine reports, Unit 8200 has a highly efficient way of identifying and developing teenagers who demonstrate the required set of aptitudes. One alumnus of the system reports, “Unit 8200 can take the top 1% of the 1% of the country.”
Forbes estimates “the unit has, at any given time, 5,000 people assigned to it, all mandated to deploy the latest technology, often in life-or-death situations, with surprisingly little guidance.”
Teams of teenage recruits are rigorously trained, then assigned tough tasks, told to ’think out of the box,’ and given the freedom to work with little supervision. After a few years, those staffers are replaced with young newcomers and move on to become entrepreneurs, launching startups in the private sector.
Says one Unit 8200 alumnus, “Just from my generation, there are more than 100 guys from the unit that I personally knew who built startups and sold them for a lot of money.” According to Forbes, “more than 1,000 companies have been founded by 8200 alumni, from Waze to Check Point to Mirabilis, the parent company of ICQ. Tech giants like to gobble up 8200 firms like hors d’oeuvres.
In the last three years alone, MicrosoftMSFT +1.23% bought Adallom, a data privacy firm, for a reported $320 million; Facebook FB -0.88% bought mobile analytics company Onavo for some $150 million; and PayPal grabbed CyActive, which predicts hacks, for an estimated $60 million.
Some Unit 8200 veterans also founded the ‘Private Mossads,’ so-called ‘influence management’ outfits like Black Cube, Psy-Group and their lesser-known relatives. They focus on using social media, fake news websites and artificial on-line cyber-personae or ‘avatars,’ to shape public perception and mass behavior, a service for which there is growing global demand. As one company motto puts it, “Perception is reality.”
It’s a Wild West-like lawless international environment. The explosion of this domain has outrun public awareness, much less oversight, understanding and regulation. As one startup founder observes, “I’m coming from the side of the influencer, who really understands how we can make use of online platforms. There needs to be more regulation, and it’s up to our legislators, in each and every country. What have U.S. legislators done since they learned, more than two years ago, about the potential of these new capabilities? They have the power to move the needle from A to B. Nothing substantial has been done, as far as I know.”
Says another startup founder, “This is the challenge of our time. Everything is fake. It’s unbelievable.” Adds another, “In order to understand where we are, we have to understand where we started. What started as a noble cause ended up as fake news. What we have today is a flooded market, with people who will, basically, do anything.”
From Surveillance Capitalism to Surveillance Philanthropy – Palantir and the World Food Program
Palantir is a company co-founded by Republican billionaire and Trump supporter Peter Thiel with start-up funds supplied by In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital division. Its software has helped the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) identify and deport immigrants.
Tolkin fans will remember ‘palantir’ as the evil orb used by the dark lord Sauron to surveille, manipulate and dominate Middle Earth. Nothing like putting your agenda right out there, hidden in plain sight.
The U.K.’s signals intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) – a key hub in the ‘Five Eyes’ multi-nation surveillance network in which the United States, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada all participate – enthused about Palantir as “having been funded not only by In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital branch, but furthermore created ‘through [an] iterative collaboration between Palantir computer scientists and analysts from various intelligence agencies over the course of nearly three years.’
Recently the California-based software firm and the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) announced a five-year $45 million partnership. According to the news outlet IRIN, a humanitarian data analyst commented, “WFP is jumping headlong into something they don’t understand, without thinking through the consequences, and the U.N. has put no frameworks in place to regulate it.”
Privacy International commented, “The recipients of WFP aid are already in extremely vulnerable situations; they should not be put at additional risk of harm or exploitation.” One Privacy International researcher called the deal “breathtaking, and terrifying.”
A system that not only tracks and predicts, but also modifies and steers individual and mass behavior for private profit as well as elite social and political control constitutes an intolerable technocratic tyranny at odds with human rights and even survival.
In what it calls “an experiment to test its cyberdefence capabilities,” Russia has announced plans to disconnect from the World Wide Web.
Putin has reportedly called the internet a “CIA project.” From the foregoing, it seems he is at least partly right.
And so was the eventually suicidal poet Richard Brautigan, who may have realized the AI bots he gushingly imagined ‘watching over us’ are very unlikely to be ‘machines of loving grace.’
“Once we name and understand that this is an economic logic,’’ says Zuboff, ”then it’s our job, as citizens of democratic societies, to use our new understanding to summon the resources of our democratic institutions, to insist that our elected officials now go beyond naming to actually interrupt and outlaw these practices. Do we really want to be living in a society where the dominant form of capitalism is one that makes its money by trading in human futures? Because the consequence of that kind of business logic is on a direct collision course with democracy…’’
With awareness of surveillance capitalism’s ‘economic logic’ comes responsibility to take informed collective action.
Early 20th century philosopher G. I. Gurdjieff put it plainly: “To know and not to act, is not to know.”