The Guardian has served us all well by drawing attention day after day to the excesses of spying on individuals and of mass surveillance practised by GCHQ and the US National Security Agency, revealed in the secret material made available by Edward Snowden (GCHQ fears challenge over mass spying, leak reveals, 26 October).
In a world of sophisticated global organised crime, terrorism both imported and home-grown, and trafficking of children and modern slaves, I recognise the need for intelligence agencies. Undoubtedly their work has unearthed criminal gangs and terrorist plots, and we have reason to be grateful for that.
But Snowden’s revelations show a deeply troubling imbalance between their operations and the respect for individual liberty and personal privacy that citizens of a democracy are entitled to enjoy. I congratulate the government on the new powers it has given to the intelligence and security committee of parliament, which has one of the most thoughtful and impressive MPs as its chairman. But it needs to exercise detailed oversight of an intelligence structure that is running out of control, and badly needs a dose of political common sense.
— Shirley Williams
Within the next few years an important threshold will be crossed: For the first time ever, it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders – every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner. Governments with a history of using all of the tools at their disposal to track and monitor their citizens will undoubtedly make full use of this capability once it becomes available.
— John Villasenor, ‘Recording Everything: Digital Storage as an Enabler of Authoritarian Governments’ (pdf), 2011, Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings (via @arusbridger)
But more to the point, “The Circle” doesn’t read like a novel whose author immersed himself in the nitty-gritty of day-to-day life in Silicon Valley. It reads like a novel whose author deeply dislikes current modes of online social interaction, and constructed a narrative to deliver that antipathy as harshly as possible. In “The Boy Kings of Silicon Valley,” Losse contributes something very different — a nuanced, closely observed look at the real lives of hackers and the tools they create that tells us more about what Facebook is like than any other book on the company has yet achieved. If Eggers had truly plagiarized Losse, he might have written a better book, the great Silicon Valley/American novel that we’ve all been waiting for.
Because to stand athwart history and cry “Stop” is never enough, something that the inheritors of William Buckley’s legacy have so obviously failed to learn. We’re going to continue tumbling forward, and if we have any hope of steering in the right direction, we need to know more than just why everything is so bad and awful and dangerous. We need to know what’s pushing us forward, what needs and desires we are trying to sate. There’s more going on here than the indulgence of a manipulated craving for snack food. We’re hungry for connection. We live for it.”