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.