If You Can’t Hide From Big Brother, Adapt
Ever since I read Brin’s The Transparent Society I’ve liked his program of transparency and accountability far more than the fashionable alternative of encryption and secrecy (well, secrecy for me but not for thee). Encryption can be good, but it doesn’t democratize power the way reciprocal accountability does.
For example, the so-called “deep web” is useful to cyber-libertarians and outright criminals alike, with very few ways of tracking down the dealers in drugs, weapons, and human beings.
He also offers some (in my opinion) essential remedies to the current problem of unaccountable government surveillance:
“I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded,” proclaimed Snowden, with unintended irony, as he ripped veils off those he disliked. But the answer isn’t to cower or hide from Big Brother, nor to blind our watchdogs. The solution is to answer surveillance with sousveillance, or looking back at the mighty from below. Instead of obsessing on what the F.B.I. and N.S.A. may know, let’s demand fierce tools of supervision to keep the dog from becoming a wolf.
Start by replacing the secret, star-chamber FISA court with one that is confidential but adversarially contested and accountable, as any true court should be. Put a short time limit on the gag orders in national security letters, making them less terrifyingly Orwellian. Take today’s inspectors general out of bed with the agencies they oversee, and have them answer instead to an inspector general of the United States, whose first duty is to the law, and to us.
Above all, stop obsessing on lines in the sand, fussing over redefining “warrantless searches.” Trying to impose limits to what inherently cannot be limited. Change the truly scary parts of the Patriot Act, that let authorities peer at us unsupervised.