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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

I am not worried as much about ‘surveillance capitalism’ as ‘surveillance government’. The former is only a problem because it is one backdoor away from the latter. I don’t use Google or Facebook, but sadly I can’t stop ‘using’ my government.

Perry de Havilland

43 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Julie near Chicago

    Excellent SQOTD. The Evil Hippo strikes again.

  • I am concerned for the young. Long ago, when I was very naive, I went for a job interview. One part was an essay with various topics, one of which had a potentially right-wing slant. Having read this far, you’ve already guessed that I chose that topic – and did not get that job.

    Who here years ago warned their children/grandchildren to keep their political facebook selves distinct from their future-professional ones? If they were not warned then there’s no need for HR to set such trick questions nowadays (even when their power does not let them simply ask obvious ones). We’ve all read about closeted conservatives in Hollywood but they were old enough to have no adolescent facebook profiles to give them away.

    Full-on totalitarians use the method of provocation. Periodically, Mao set up democracy walls – so he could spot those to eliminate in the always-succeeding purges. The western left would like to use twitter and facebook as a gigantic democracy wall. Happily almost all of them have have neither his control nor his cruelty, nor do our governments. But the naive young can still be spotted – and weeded out; not all of course, but as a statistical phenomenon.

  • bobby b

    “The western left would like to use twitter and facebook as a gigantic democracy wall.”

    Our youth still have this conceit that they can interweb anonymously – that the system that allows for false screen names allows us to comment secretly, and taunt the powers without danger.

    But once you enter a real e-mail address or a phone number or a name in order to logon anywhere, you’re fully in the system, and anything you say can be easily traced right back to you. It’s all truly webbed together.

    Anyone who adds input anywhere – even here at Samizdata – should understand that it is ridiculously easy to know who you are. I have the luxury of not depending upon Other People’s Money in my dotage, so I can actually type what I think without inordinate fear, but I have explained to the kids that they lack this freedom, and it’s only going to get worse as time goes by. When they understand that typing the wrong comment will likely affect their prospects ten and twenty years down the road, they become . . . almost . . . careful.

    I fear for their future.

  • Paul Marks

    Correct Perry – and look how one sided the recent attacks have been.

    Facebook has a bias towards the LEFT (they favour the LEFT) – but anyone relying on “mainstream media” reports would assume that Facebook favours the right.

    And, of course, in the United States the “mainstream media” is joined at the hip with the permanent government – they Civil Servants and the “journalists” (and other such) are taught the same world view at school and university, and the people who prosper in the “mainstream media” (and the internet companies) are the people who accept this Progressive ideology – not the people who challenge it.

  • MadRocketSci

    An intolerant culture/intolerant society doesn’t necessarily need the government to punish people for deviance. I remember reading an article about some hellhole middle-eastern country where a Christian woman was killed by her neighbors for “poisoning their water” by drinking from it: She had just finished a long day weeding their fields for them as a favor and needed a drink. What did the actual laws say in that country? (Other than Muslims can do whatever the hell they want?) Doesn’t matter. Laws really don’t matter outside of a courtroom. Those people were going to be evil bastards to her and each other, whether the meaningless words on the books supported them or not.

    Other examples: The Jim Crow south – fixing the laws didn’t fix the society like a magic light-switch. Libertarians seem to have this idea that changing the official rules by which a society is supposed to operate is going to change the actual rules by which the society operates. The “real” law, the thing running in people’s heads which governs their actual interactions with each other, often has nothing to do with the official law.

  • MadRocketSci

    I have a lot more to say about this topic. I think I started down this road when one of my friends was making some big deal about laws being necessary for society to be orderly and function in a safe manner. He was talking about some electrical thing. I stopped him and asked: “Do you actually know what the laws really say on this subject?” “Well, no.” “I don’t either. I bet 95% of it is irrelevancies governing the spacing of junction boxes in the wall and other random sedimentary nonsense. I bet the electrical contractor who built this part of the building only knows the few things needed to pass a licensing exam or inspection, and he learned those from his mentor, not from a legislator.”

    “Even lawyers don’t know what the law actually says. They know a small subset of it (their domain of expertise), and they research it on a case-by-case basis. Their clients had no idea what it said either before landing in a courtroom. So the law actually *can’t* be responsible for people acting in an orderly manner, doing their jobs right, doing things safely. They have no idea what it says. What is actually running in their heads is something else: For one thing, something necessarily far simpler, for another thing, something far more relevant to their actual lives and experience.”

  • MadRocketSci

    I think for a long time, Americans had a great deal of protection for their liberty because their livelihoods were so independent: They were independent farmers, small businessmen – it really didn’t matter to their livelihoods (outside of Puritan hellholes) whether their neighbors liked them or not. There was always somewhere else they could go. Their ability to earn a living wasn’t nailed to jumping through hoops for credentials until their late 20s (or early 30s), pleasing gatekeepers, flattering the egos of their professors, begging human resources to notice them. The elaborate court-rituals and social dominance games we have to play these days to land a job are *infuriating* and disturbing – it reminds me of the fawning obsequious letters that medieval artisans and scholars had to write begging their patrons for subsistence and permission to exist. It no longer matters so little that ‘important people’ don’t like you. The concentration of wealth and power into the hands of a few near-monopoly companies and large corporations magnifies the power of tyrants whether they are part of the official government or not.

    For that matter, Americans were so innovative because their livelihoods were so independent. The Wright Brothers couldn’t have invented the airplane had they worked in someone else’s bicycle shop.

  • MadRocketSci

    Actually, this sort of legalism among Libertarians is something that I ran into while reading a novel with a bit of a Libertarian bent. (One reason why their art comes across as so wooden and unlifelike – sort of like bad Christian music – the Libertarians aren’t really drawing from life, they’re trying to impose some set of abstract principles on their setting and work through the consequences mechanically.) The result comes across as unnatural sock-puppets acting out some scene, when in real life people would behave far differently and the sort of cute legal hairsplitting and transparent games the protagonist engaged in with his antogonists would probably result in getting beaten over the head and thrown in jail, regardless of the “what the rules say”.

  • bobby b (April 7, 2018 at 4:25 pm), while you are quite right that the state can tie you to all your postings, the same is not necessarily true of the woke HR rep standing between you and the possibly-not-so-woke team in the firm who do its actual work and might like to hire you. Ordinary precautions won’t keep off the state any more than your locked front door would keep out the state, but there’s many a lesser case where just not making it completely effortless for a PCer who decides to target you can have value.

  • James Hargrave

    Let’s hear it for ‘Human Resources’. A den of iniquity inhabited mostly by folk that even Fritz Sauckel would have had the decency to reject, not least because of their institutional incompetence (I have touched on it here before).

  • Bulldog Drumond

    Libertarians seem to have this idea that changing the official rules by which a society is supposed to operate is going to change the actual rules by which the society operates.

    Irrelevant to the OP, which is about how a private surveillance infrastructure can be weaponised as a tool of tyranny by the state. Plus you’re wrong. Of course changing the force-backed rules of the state change how society operates. Ever wonder why so many pubs and small music venues have gone out of business over last decade? HINT: changes in laws, and it’s changing the culture.

  • the other rob

    As Niall Kilmartin says, the state already knows exactly how I think on various matters (because I make a point of fucking telling it) and has a fair idea of what i’m up to (nothing nefarious, sadly). There’s also one or more folks here who know the full name behind the posting ID.

    The mild pseudonymity that many of us use here is more about keeping the nutters at bay. Though bobby b is correct to point out that said nutters might work in HR.

    Which brings me to James Hargrave’s comment. For some reason, any reference to HR always causes me to envision that clip from the opening credits of “Burn Notice”, where Fiona asks “Shall we shoot them?”.

  • James Hargrave:

    “Human Resources” is also full of “toxic femininity”. Funny how that phrase never gets mentioned, but “toxic masculinity” pops up all the time.

  • Sam Duncan

    Absolutely spot-on, Perry. As I almost commented in the previous thread, the “tech giants” only have the power over us that we grant them. If half of Facebook’s current subscribers quit tomorrow, its power would be severely diminished*. If half the population stopped paying its taxes, the government would turn up at their doors and demand they start again. Or else.

    I came across this the other day:

    Want to freak yourself out? I’m gonna show just how much of your information the likes of Facebook and Google store about you without you even realising it

    None. Not a damn thing. I clicked all the links (except the Facebook ones, because I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole). “Surveillance capitalism” is easy, if slightly inconvenient, to avoid. This isn’t a scandal of giant evil corporations preying on a blameless citizenry; it’s a scandal of people being bloody stupid on the internet.

    *And before anyone says they’d still have your historical data, the evidence seems to suggest that if you tell them to delete everything, they will indeed delete everything.

  • If half the population stopped paying its taxes, the government would turn up at their doors and demand they start again. (Sam Duncan, April 8, 2018 at 1:00 am

    Niall Kilmartin, aka Niall the pedant, wishes to note that if half the population did this (if they were the taxpaying half, that is), then the state would have serious problems. The point is rather that if a few do, the penalties for them are severe, so any such trickle will be dammed before it becomes a flood. By contrast, the penalty for quitting Facebook is slight for most individuals, and the more that do, the slighter it would become for the rest.

    Just my pedantic way of also agreeing that Perry’s OP point has content.

  • Snorri Godhi

    MadRocketSci @6:48 pm gives 2 examples of intolerance being enforced informally. I am not sure how valid those examples are: the law in Muslim countries and the Jim Crow South might well be equal for everybody on paper, but there is/was still a problem with the arbitrary power of the executive+judiciary in the enforcement of the law — and that means that the government is still the problem.

    Another relevant example could be the caste system in India. In this case, i find it more difficult to blame the government, since the problem persisted during the British Raj, when the law was presumably enforced impartially. (Except when only one of the parties was British, perhaps.)

    As for “surveillance capitalism”, it seems to me that monopoly power is at the root of the problem.

  • APL

    “I am not worried as much about ‘surveillance capitalism’ as ‘surveillance government’.”

    They are one and the same. If ‘surveillance capitalism’ as you put it has amassed a huge database. Do you for one second think that ‘surveillance government’ hasn’t taken control of, or at the very least, have unfettered access to that database?

  • They are one and the same.

    Read the whole quote.

  • Alisa

    Sam, have you listened to that video to the end? It seems to say the opposite of what you are saying (which is to be expected, because demanding such proof of total deletion would be like demanding proof that there is no such thing as a black swan).

  • Mr Ed

    like demanding proof that there is no such thing as a black swan

    Proving deletion of all data is problematic, as although EU law will give the right to have your personal data ‘erased’, the actual act of implementing an erasure is bound to require a record of the fact of the erasure, which is likely to require a record of the ‘data subject’ as having had his data erased, so retaining data to prove ‘erasure’ seems to be inevitable, unless you erase proof of the erasure, and so can’t prove that you have erased the data in the first place.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Niall, reading your Weekly Standard article causes me to worry not just about the “young,” but also about me in the hands of these new “doctors.” Although I guess that technically I miss being among the “young,” as I am 43 and have been 43 for over 3 decades now, I would not want some AAMC-approved whippersnapper operating on my carcass, or, for my fractured & painful hip, prescribing “take two aspirin and call your SJW in the morning.”

    In other words, the new MCAT questions are not just worrisome but downright frightening, and what is most frightening of all is the fact that this sort of anti-human-person dogma is being pushed as de rigueur in so many venues, from the MCAT to “edu”-tainment.

    . . .

    Mr Ed, speaking of … :

    The one Black Swan
    I cannot see
    Is hidden deep
    Inside of me.

    The one Black Swan
    I always see
    Is hidden deep
    Inside of me.

  • Alisa

    I am 43 and have been 43 for over 3 decades now

    You are doing it wrong Julie! My grandmother used to only count the days towards her age, because the time when one is asleep obviously doesn’t count. Now you do the math, and see how many years you lose just by counting correctly 😀

    As to that article, I’d rather not think about right now.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Hm, an interesting point, Alisa. Have to drag out the pencil and paper, and the eraser — most important implement for doing arithmetic.

    I knew there was some reason to stay awake in 2nd grade. :>)

  • APL

    PdH: Read the whole quote.

    I did. And it’s still untrue.

    “The former is only a problem because it is one backdoor away from the latter.”

    Nope. The former is a problem, made worse because it is used as part and parcel of the surveillance state established by the latter.

    Might be more accurate.

    Is Google actually tracking your every move, because the state told it to? Or because it is a gateway to raise revenue through advertising.

  • Not a problem for me without the state bit, couldn’t care less if the non-state bit is a problem for you 😛

  • James Hargrave

    A friend had a dose of the toxic feminine: he called her Medusa, his adviser (who met her but once and was well versed in these matters) suggested Miss Whiplash. Policies by the bucket load (and about as savoury as a pitcher full of spit) + ignorance +arrogance + he Nuremberg defence… The irony of such people running the institution’s policies on bullying/harassment… I am old enough to remember the altogether more human personnel of Personnel. As Colonel Blimp said of another group, but we can apply to ‘HR’: shoot ’em all down and then make ’em work.

  • Runcie Balspune

    I don’t use Google or Facebook

    Great post, I can even re-post it using the little [f] and [G+] buttons underneath!

  • I am aware others do not share my distrust

  • So far, I’ve got a listing of 491 US governments, mostly fire departments for some reason but not exclusively, who use Facebook as their main website. I haven’t really tracked those who have a website and also a facebook page.

    The list grows every week.

    I’m not actually looking for government facebook pages but they’re a side effect of what I am actually looking for, and that is occasionally on point.

  • APL

    Of course, you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear.

    And anyway, you consented to ‘surveillance capitalism’ using whatever data about you they wish in their terms and conditions, so tough.

    Except ‘surveillance capitalism’ tracks your activities even if you’ve not signed their T&C.

  • Mr Ed

    Except ‘surveillance capitalism’ tracks your activities even if you’ve not signed their T&C.

    Indeed APL, however as of 25th May 2018, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation with its tyrannical reach may make that sort of harvesting considerably more risky and expensive, as harvesting data without a lawful basis, such as the consent of the data subject, lays them open to legal action and fines, and lots of lawyers’ fees.

  • bobby b

    Of course there’s always going to be a tension between the need to be able to communicate with those people who are Facebook’s and Twitter’s natural base, and the need to stop adding to Facebook’s and Twitter’s sheer numbers.

    If you completely withdraw from the world of FB, Twitter, and Google – the data-collection world of progressivism – you run the risk of limiting the reach of your speech to your own choir. Go to GAB to see this in action – thousands of anti-progressives all yelling anti-progressive imprecations at each other. This is not going to have much of an impact beyond marshalling your own troops. If you want to attempt to convince people to change to your side, you need to speak to all sides.

    But in doing so, you add to the power and reach and wealth of those platforms. You deliver the personal data of your own people directly to these platforms. You end up conforming your speech to their rules so that you can continue using these platforms. And you add to the apparent success of that same progressive ideology by boosting their platform numbers.

    Personally, I no longer even visit sites which use the FB comment system. And for sites that show the near-ubiquitous “Send this comment to Facebook! Twitter! Google!” buttons – such as Samizdata – I visit only by linking from wherever I might be back through my home internet-only computer. (Yeah, I’m paranoid.)

    As these platforms become more and more coercive and threatening to liberty – as their data-collection techniques become more thorough and complete – we approach a point in time where site owners are going to need to choose sides. And, sadly, the choice is going to be between limiting their own reach, and delivering their readers’ data to the leftist database.

    There’s a comfort in thinking that the loss of your own data privacy is no big thing if you’re not doing anything wrong. But that assumes that the uses to which the data can be put will remain in the realm of marketing and message choice. We need to be looking farther ahead, since our data, once captured, will always remain captured. ([sarc]Sure, Facebook will delete our data before it sells it.[/sarc]). Picture fifteen years from now, when your child goes to the central GoogleFacebookTwitterInc employment portal, used by most employers to find employees, and he is booted because his parent used to be a frequenter of the NeoNazi Libertarian website Samizdata.

    It’s time to disassociate from the data collectors now.

  • And anyway, you consented to ‘surveillance capitalism’ using whatever data about you they wish in their terms and conditions, so tough.

    All true. Like I said, if you actually read what I said, Facebook & Google are a problem because the state can (and does) have access to that information. So thanks for agreeing with me 😆

  • bobby b

    ” . . . Facebook & Google are a problem because the state can (and does) have access to that information.”

    Once we in the USA elect our next progressive president and progressive-majority Congress, Facebook and Google are going to be integral parts of government. We’ll go to some Google portal for driver’s licenses, building permits, voter registration, food stamp application . . . and they’ll know at that same time which websites we’ve visited, who our friends are, whether or not we favor current government . . .

    (Yay! Comparative advantage! Private entities can register voters so much more efficiently than hidebound unionized government!)

    It all strikes me as taking comfort in our safety since the private ropemakers are currently refusing to sell rope to the government hangmen.)

  • Sam Duncan

    “Sam, have you listened to that video to the end? It seems to say the opposite of what you are saying (which is to be expected, because demanding such proof of total deletion would be like demanding proof that there is no such thing as a black swan).”

    As far as I recall, there was actually a second followup a few weeks later in which Bryan seemed content that, as far as could be determined the data had been deleted. (I wasn’t sure which was the best to link to. I probably chose the wrong one. 🙂 )

    But that’s why I said, “[T]he evidence seems to suggest…”. Of course it can’t be proven. But, honestly, even if it it’s all still there in some super-secret backup, there’s not a lot FB can do with it if you’re not actively using the account… other than pass it on to governments and other political types. So again, Perry’s right: it’s those we should really be worrying about.

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby, I’m with you on this. Good man, thumbs up!

    . . .

    Thanks, APL, for the link to the PJ Media column. Which is enough to scare the skivvies off this paranoiac. Especially toward the end where it starts talking about FB’s project to insert itself into the hospital-industry system. (I’d foresee not just hospital medical records, but also invasions of insurance and payment records, insurance companies’ records, from there to customers not yet in any hospital or medical-records system — e.g., policyholders for car, property, umbrella, life insurance….) OTOH, are there people who’ve seen doctors or nurses or dentists or … who are not in the medical-records databases?

    The comments add fuel to the fire. For those of us who are libertarians in some real sense (I do not include most of the BHLs and their ilk), some complaints seem to think all the “Silicon Valley” quadrillionaires are libertarians. Newsflash: They’re not. And Zuckerberg most certainly is not.

    Then there’s the St.-John-the-Baptist’s-head-on-a-platter approach screeched for by several: Antitrust! Break the Bad-Guy FB/Google/etc/etc companies up! As a pretty libertarian type I’m allergic to trustbusting anyway; and, would it even accomplish the result?

    There are suggestions that people consider the EFF’s “Privacy Badger,” which “blocks spying ads and invisible trackers” according to its home page:


    The page lists only Chrome and Opera as browsers accepting Privacy Badger; but if you DuckDuckGo on the string (with quotes)

    Is “Privacy Badger” a Firefox Add-on?

    you’ll get many hits, including user reviews. (How much faith you put in user reviews is between you and your tea-leaves.)


    Aside: Among the hits is this page, from Purdue University (major computer-science department; then again Purdue is the engineering-ag-school U. in the Indiana University system), entitled “Safer Surfing Techniques Using Firefox/Chrome and Add-ons”:


  • APL

    Julie near Chicago: “The page lists only Chrome and Opera as browsers accepting Privacy Badger;”

    You might also try Brave ( a browser ), set up by the fellow who was drummed out of Mozilla for ‘bad thoughts’.

    It’s supposed to be reasonably good.

  • Alisa

    Sam: got it – thanks.

  • I now use Brave to read (and write to) samizdata.

    1) Its way of handling tabs is that when you move the mouse over the tab, it shows (in low-highlight) the tab page’s content. This is good provided you remember that you must click on the tab actually to go there.

    2) I have on my to-do list investigating / setting-up its way of paying websites one likes when one visits them. (Anyone already done this?)

  • You might also try Brave ( a browser ), set up by the fellow who was drummed out of Mozilla for ‘bad thoughts’.

    As it happens I’ve been titting around with Brave as well, might make the jump to setting it as default (I am using Waterfox atm)

  • Alisa

    Brave is good, but is not quite ready to go prime-time.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Thanks to APL and subsequent commenters for the suggestion of Brave. I’ve never heard of that one. I’ll have a look. :>)