Different characters vie in different circles for newsmaker of the year. My money for 2013 is on Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who systematically unmasked the great big eye growing out of central hub of the US Gov's Intelligence community more than 10 years after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. When Snowden's disclosures first appeared, there was more than a little amusement in the high tech newsrooms. After all, Google has been tracking us right along, haven’t they? But Snowden's well-placed dispatches - had an cumulative effect, to highlight major changes in the technology scape in the years since 2001.
Those scape shifts take the form of growth of the Internet and cell phone communications, distributed computing. Why wouldn't the powers that be take it as an opportunity for massive eavesdropping?
The Patriot Act that resides behind all this activity was an antiterrorist act pure and simple – it is fair to say people don't feel the press of the terrorist they felt in the wake of 9-11. Nor did they feel the creeping vectors of digital lock-in. (The Patriot Act's most frightening aspect is the star chamber that decides who to lock on to.)
At the heart of most every science fiction story it seems is a benevolent new technology (think of the World Wide Web) about to be usurped by familiar the old drive of the powerful to dominate (privacy incursion). Some defenders of the NSA activity make some good points. But the public knows this long-running antiterrorism project, coupled with escalating high-tech, invites intimidation of freedom. Snowden's release schedule has kept the cause in the news, but can that continue? Criswell predicts: "Big data" will begin to subside in Google Trends in 2014 in some part due Snowden's efforts. - By Jack Vaughan (Art: Jack Vaughan)
Monday, December 30, 2013
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