“The largest espionage scandal in the 21st century is shaking Germany,” wrote Peer Steinbrück, the man who’s desperately trying to unseat one of the most popular German politicians, Chancellor Merkel. Massive anti-NSA protests spread across the country. Well, 1,000 demonstrators straggled through Frankfurt. It’s going to be tough for him.
From tiny app makers to giants like AT&T, they’re all part of Big Data. They chase after billions by collecting, storing, and mining personal data. Data is money. Much more than money, if governments get it. Which led documentary filmmaker Cullen Hoback to lament: “The craziest thing is that I didn’t realize I was making a horror film.”
Chancellor Merkel’s coalition is likely to emerge victoriously from the elections in September, unless a major debacle blows up. So no debacle is allowed to occur until after the election. But just then, new revelations about NSA spying blew up: turns out, all citizens anywhere can be under surveillance by any government, including their own, beyond control and oversight.
A technology that surreptitiously captures data of people out on the street, combines it with other data, and mines it ad infinitum? Local and federal government agencies love it. It’s increasingly sophisticated and cheap. It’s spreading. And it led a professor at West Point to warn: “We don’t have a police state in this country, but we have the technology.”
Ghost island: Hashima, a speck of land, used to be a coal mine where 5,000 people lived and toiled. But in the 1970s, it was abandoned and the concrete structures left to decay, only to resurface in the last James Bond movie. Now Google captured it for Street View – and made an awesome brief video of this eerie industrial wasteland.
Governments, corporations, even that genius app developer in Russia have one thing in common: they want to know everything. Data is power. And money. As the Snowden debacle has shown, they’re getting there. Technologies for gathering information, then hoarding it, mining it, and using it are becoming phenomenally effective and cheap. But it’s not perfect.
Keyhole Inc., a venture-capital funded startup, was acquired by Google in 2004. Its product became Google Earth. Its technology filtered into Google Maps and Google Mobile. One of the venture-capital investors? The CIA. It didn’t ruffle any feathers at the time. But now we have NSA leaker Edward Snowden and his media blitz.
No one accused Apple of having violated US tax laws. The Senate hearings merely exposed how Apple is dodging income taxes by doing what multinationals do: taking advantage of handouts and loopholes that Congress hands them. Now it turns out that much of the discussion was based on a fairytale.
Officially, the EU doesn’t have an intelligence service. It’s dependent on the national intelligence services of its members. Officially. In reality, it is building an intelligence apparatus of six services, populated already by 1,300 specialists, some operating overseas, with vast databases at their fingertips. Much of it beyond any kind of democratic control.
The French government is saddled with enough problems; in theory, it no longer needs to create new ones. But now it wrote another excellent chapter in its tome on how to interfere with private-sector businesses, hamper entrepreneurs, and encourage them to start up their operations elsewhere instead of creating jobs in France.