#sxsw #SXSnowden Live Notes and Part 2 of Stop Making Sense of SXSW from second row center

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I am sitting by two attendees from the University of Denmark to watch Edward Snowden over a Google hangout at SXSW. In a previous talk here, Google’s Eric Schmidt’s mentioned they don’t want to easily give away data — and this becomes comforting if you worry for Edward.

Note that I have woven in my own opinion with notes, below. Look elsewhere for session transcript.

The sense I am getting is my theme is becoming about surveillance, knowledge and commerce, possibly, as stuffy as that sounds. My freedom, our freedom, to know seems threatened, as Assange pointed out, as I do indeed feel a twinge of doubt in writing a blog post on Edward Snowden. This twinge is born out of knowing history, specifically, McCarthyism, the Reformation, the Inquisition (on Cosmos last night, in fact), and the intense degrees humans will go to to protect their processes, to protect that which forms our idea of what it means to exist at all, to our power over ourselves, the world and others.

A quick note for myself on threads that connect in for this fractal: Neil Degrassi Tyson, Julian Assange, MOOCs, Big Data

The talk:

Snowden: The question for the NSA is not collecting data, it is making sense of it.

So the first part of this conversation is about tools to make our data secure. Put these tools in the hands of the public. [This reminds me of an earlier talk in which a researcher pondered our selling our own data and Maria Bezaitis of Intel talking about her fascination with micro data.]

Panel: Advertising is at the heart of making things insecure, as services are paid for by ads. Surveillance of our communications take place so ads can be targeted to us. [What we need is to transcend piling up money and ego as the primary metric. Making storing knowledge, accumulating and parsing knowledge the new currency.]

Snowden mentions that we spend too much time attacking, on offense, on Surveillance than protecting our Intellectual Property, on protecting our data. Cyber Security is the greatest threat? Our government has prioritized information collection, not security, to the degree that they have actually intentionally weakened our own systems.

[Ed Snowden is the logical conclusion. He is the karma of this behavior in the sense of being an inevitable result of causes and conditions we have all created ourselves. In this there is a great deal if hope.]

[Ego of course is another thread, the sort of old-school macho IT thinking versus a sensitive awareness of *what is actually happening*.] Snowden also points out ad hoc case of over looking the obvious because we are so fascinated with snooping into other people’s business. [In a sense, surveillance crosses boundaries in a way that rapists cross boundaries, only worse because the victim of surveillance wasn’t conscious at the time.]

Chris Soghoian mentions that without Edward Snowden’s disclosures, we would have stayed asleep on security. Because of Ed we are seeing security improvements. And not just from the government. Our security was not being prioritized until then.

Question from #asksnowden: why is it less bad for government to have access to our data instead of big corporations?

A: Companies can surveil you to sell you stuff whereas governments can kill or jail you.

My comment: but a lot of government killing is in the hands of private contractors (Haliburton-like)

Advertising companies are not going to give us tools that are privacy preserving by default.

[And governments will exploit this, but may be full of people who are not user-centered in thinking.]

Snowden: Encryption is our defense against the dark arts [our defense against the “magic” of advertisers–or as Dr. Neil Degrassi Tyson would say, not ‘believe’ — ‘Question!'”]

Stop Making Sense:
Thinking about this talk now, waiting for the Pete Cashmore talk. This may not be logical, but see-see.

Snowden talking of Tor made me think of usability.
User-centered design may be at the core of breaking down the wall between product and marketing.
Marketing is a form of education in the sense we want people to find out about our products, of course, but it is also the soft spot where our users, our customers, have the possibility of giving us feedback, particularly in the Social Age.
In order to get the word to possible customers, advertisers want to scan customers data, and target them accordingly.
Governments share this wish to see data for the stated purpose to make us secure from terrorism.
What pollutes all of this is the motivation of unenlightened selfishness — to aggrandize the ego, to pile up stuff, make money.
So we should make the ultimate value point not money and power but knowledge.

Not yet thought through, but sketching initial thoughts can some times take us down another zoom in on the fractal.

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