2009/04/21

Freedom in Germany: Part I - Introduction

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Germany has its own, less technological, experiences with population surveillance by totalitarian regimes. The primary tool for population surveillance during the Nazi time was the Blockwart (officially Blockleiter); one spy/contact person for about 40-60 households (about 170 individuals in average).
The system was very effective and terrifying.

The East German state (Cold War) used a HumInt approach as well - about one per cent of the population was officially employed by or informant of its intelligence service (Staatssicherheit, "Stasi" = state security).

Such large HumInt requirements are a significant economic strain for a state and require a lot of loyal servants. Most military leadership, intelligence service personnel, party leaders and policemen need to be loyal or politically indifferent to keep a totalitarian state functioning.

I fear that we introduce too much personnel-saving technology into our societies for legitimate purposes like crime-fighting and taxation. We might end up with great preparations for a totalitarian state that needs much less than a per cent loyal followers to keep going.
Another fear is that the same technology makes population surveillance and control even more effective than ever seen before.
It might become impossible to shake off a totalitarian state until almost nobody remains loyal - or if we factor in robot sci-fi - entirely impossible without total military defeat.

Surveillance technologies aren't only harmful in dictatorships and oligarchies, though.
Many are discomforted by being watched in public spaces by public surveillance cameras.
The mere idea that every violation of speed limits might be documented and prosecuted is a horror for me and probably for most drivers.
Employers and friends should not know your medical history unless you tell them voluntarily.
Few want to be filmed on the toilet or in a shower.
Pretty much nobody wants private investigators to film their private life.
You don't want others to listen to all your phone calls.
A friend wanted me to be witness to a marriage - but it was impossible. The Protestant pastor knew that I had seceded from the Catholic Church to save church taxes. WTF?


My fears (I don't go crazy about them, but it's still a fear) aren't only about surveillance.
The introduction of new laws and technology applications happens under the veil of legitimate purposes and increases our tolerance to tools of dictatorial population control as well as it provides expertise in their use.
We even get companies that concentrate on the business of advancing this stuff - and lobby for it.


I'll write about examples of domestic spying, increased powers for authorities and other disconcerting developments in 30+ parts during the next months.
Let's hope the news don't give me more topics than the 30 that I prepared as keywords.

We've gone too far into the surveillance/police powers direction in my opinion.
Those tools and rules have a negative net effect on our societies, many of them even without totalitarian state fiction. We should reverse the development.

Sven Ortmann
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2 comments:

  1. I once grew up in a place where they tap your god**** phone in order to know whether you're a dissident. Obviously, they learned more than just making autobahn when they sent their f***ing ministers to Germany...

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  2. The UK is a 'good' example. The population has long accepted CCTV systems, 5 million cameras and counting.

    The government is consistently pushing for plans to unify numerous governmental and other databases.

    The laws (RIPA) introduced after the 2005 London bombing are used by local councils to see who is dumping rubbish illegally and whether parents are lying about their address so that their children can go to a certain school which only now the governments is seeking to tighten up 'guidelines'...

    All the tools for totalitarian control by the state are available, just not the political will. Yet.

    On the plus side, the NOtoID campaign and others are very active and getting better with their media presence. The harassment of photographers in public and illegal demands to delete pictures is still common.

    Other abuses by government, more recently the assault (many) and death (one person) of people during the G20 protest shows that the government can't be trusted and I believe that public consciousness is stirring and no longer willing to accept whatever the government demands for their 'safety'.

    Re the death during G20, the first response by Police was "NO CCTV footage of the incident". I didn't believe it when I read it and it turned out not to be true of course...

    It is a miracle that people aren't paranoid....

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