Image courtesy of EFF
(Electronic Freedom Foundation)
A recent confluence of events has shown me the chilling effect of surveillance technologies like those used by the National Security Agency. I wanted to share some of those thoughts as an individual citizen, and hope that you find them helpful in your own reflections on these activities.
Seattle has literally had a summer for the record books – going without any measurable precipitation in the month of July for the first time since 1960, just the sixth time since 1891 (when records began to be kept) an entire month has been dry here. On these nice, dry days I often try to get outside for a run or a bike ride on my lunch hour.
In an attempt to keep better track of my progress, and keep myself motivated, I’ve been using an app called RunKeeper to track my pace, route, and progress. I don’t share this information, but rather use it for my own purposes of going faster, further, and more frequently.
Last week, however, I went on a bike ride without the app. While on this ride, I noticed some of the preparations taking place in Lake Washington for Seattle’s annual SeaFair Festival. I stopped briefly to take in the sights and sounds of the Seattle tradition when it hit me:
If I had been tracking my route – observing my behavior – I would not have stopped. I would have kept going, knowing that my movements were being tracked and logged.
While this may seem innocuous to you, it struck my as actually being quite a powerful representation of what’s happening today: the fact that observation is occuring is impacting the decisions people are making, myself included. Continue reading
Flip the Media’s editorial meeting tonight was interrupted by an unseemly buzzing, and it wasn’t our new intern exalting over our latest witticism. (Yes, I’m kidding about the intern bit. We’re the interns.)
Seriously, though, Amber alerts sounding on several phones has a way of grabbing the attention. This and the near-miss one of us had on the way to the meeting when the first alert alarmed her while driving made us wonder: are Amber Alerts sent via cell phone helping us, or could they be a dangerous distraction?
According to USA Today online, millions of cellphone users in California were rudely awakened during the night on Monday by a 3AM Amber alert. We’re curious about how this will play out. What are your thoughts? Does the idea of millions of personal devices bringing us all to attention to help apprehend someone awaken ideas of “1984″? Is the alarming buzz most phones make a potential safety hazard?
We’re looking at this issue for a future post. Please comment with your experiences and thoughts.
“Imagine you are asked” – Germany’s Piratenpartei campaigns for more direct political participation of individual citizens. The party uses software designed to fulfill ideals of “Liquid Democracy”. (Source: Piratenpartei Deutschland)
Let’s, for a moment, travel into the future. Destination: the Senate chamber, Washington, D.C., 2040. What do we see? A silent row of monitors displaying initiatives, votes, and decisions – think today’s stock exchanges but for politics. Senators are gone, individual voters discuss and decide laws directly via “democracy software” and their constitutionally guaranteed internet connection (Netflix-subscription not included).
Depending on your viewpoint this might sound utopian or dystopian but first real-world experiments with liquid democracy are already underway. The most prominent example is Germany’s Piratenpartei. Founded as an offshoot of Sweden’s Pirate Bay-inspired “Pirate Party”, this self-declared “party of the information society” won seats in four state parliaments over the past three years and is now looking to enter the Bundestag (Germany’s parliament) in the upcoming federal elections. Die Piraten (as they are called in German) support a civil right of online privacy, reforms to copyright, direct democracy, and, a little bit more surprisingly, unconditional basic income for citizens.
But more interesting than this somewhat predictable list of open source causes is their approach to party organization. Most discussion happens on a Wiki and many (but not all) state associations of the Piratenpartei use Liquid Feedback, an open source software designed to facilitate a new form of political participation.
Here is how it works. Continue reading