The United States of Authoritarianism

I’m reading Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen’s ‘The New Digital Age’ at the moment. It’s a fairly dry look at the near future, both personal and political, and the impact of digital technology. It’s (obviously) in favour of everything Google are doing – to the extent that anonymity is seen as a generally unfavourable aim, except in extreme circumstances – and has the occasional out-of-place digression (not sure how the robotic hairdressing machine fits into the new digital age), but is overall much more interesting than not.

One thing that’s obvious, however, is that it was written before the NSA/GCHQ leaks, as government surveillance isn’t mentioned as something that we in the West would do. In fact there’s a section on the difference between authoritarian regimes and democracies, in which it says:

[Authoritarian] regimes will compromise devices before they are sold, giving them access to what everybody says, types and shares in public and in private.

Which, if the allegations/rumours/conspiracies about the Intel backdoor and Apple SSL hole (for example) turn out to be true and based on creating security flaws rather than exploiting them, would put the US very much in the authoritarian camp.