Change for the Better?

five years after Snowden...
FaceBook fucks up again...
who controls the narrative?


Several interesting items in the news lately are linked in a way that shows we may be witnessing a shift in how "ordinary people" perceive their world.

It has come to light that after assuring the European Union and the United States of America that "they take the privacy of those that use their products seriously", Facebook provided at least four Chinese electronics companies, including government-linked telecom giant Huawei, unrestricted access to user data.

These relationships were part of a recently revealed data-sharing partnership program, discovered by The New York Times, which included at least 60 major device manufacturers - including Apple, Amazon, Blackberry, Microsoft and Samsung - allowing the companies to integrate various Facebook features into their operating systems which gave them access to user data, and the data of users' friends, without consent. And because Facebook does not consider the device makers to be outsiders, the data sharing partnerships go even further, which is what allows the companies to access user data of a Facebook user's friends - even if they've denied Facebook permission to share information with third parties.

The discovery of the manufacturer data-sharing agreements comes on the heels of a massive data harvesting scandal in which the social media giant allowed third party apps to gather massive quantities of user information for various political and marketing purposes.  That these and other revelations of privacy theft even make the news can be linked to another piece of news. This month (June 2018) marks the five year anniversary of the leaking of the biggest cache of top-secret documents in history by Edward Snowden.

In an interview with The UK Guardian to mark the 5-year anniversary, Snowden stated that he has no regrets. He is wanted by the US. He is in exile in Russia. But he is satisfied with the way his revelations of mass surveillance have rocked governments, intelligence agencies and major internet companies.

What has happened in the five years since? Snowden is one of the most famous fugitives in the world, the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary, a Hollywood movie, and at least a dozen books. The US and UK governments, on the basis of his revelations, have faced court challenges to surveillance laws. New legislation has been passed in both countries and the EU now has the GDPR in effect. The internet companies, responding to a public backlash over privacy, have made encryption commonplace.

Snowden, weighing up the changes, said some privacy campaigners had expressed disappointment with how things have developed, but he did not share it. "People say nothing has changed; that there is still mass surveillance. That is not how you measure change. Look back before 2013 and look at what has happened since. Everything changed.” The most important change, he said, was public awareness. “The government and corporate sector preyed on our ignorance. But now we know. People are aware now."

Developers at major technology companies, outraged by the Snowden disclosures, started pushing back. Some, such as those at WhatsApp (which was bought by Facebook a year after the story broke) implemented their own encryption. Other shifts in the technology sector show Snowden’s influence has in many ways been limited. The rise of the “smart speaker”, exemplified by Amazon’s Echo, has left many privacy activists baffled. Why, just a few years after a global scandal involving government surveillance, would people willingly install always-on microphones in their homes?

All these revelations and new questions have raised awareness and brought more people, the disempowered, to understand the value of their privacy and anonymity in a totally connected and surveilled world. The disempowered want change. Those in power want predictability and consistency in order to stay in power. The more you can guarantee predictability and consistency to those in power, the more those in power will reward you.

Those who report the news and shape public narratives are of particular interest to US and EU oligarchs, who bought up the old mainstream media long ago and are doing everything in their power to secure influence over the new media as well. This is done because whoever controls the narrative controls the world. If the revelations of Snowden and others are added to the failures of companies like Facebook to protect the privacy of their users and have raised awareness and increased understanding of the value of privacy, will the world change for the better?

I remain,
(Via multiple sources)