The prospect of a corporate-state apparatus that knows exactly what you’re doing at every moment is the stuff of science fiction. Books like 1984 and We imagine a surveillance that has successfully penetrated every aspect of our lives. But what about the surveillance that has unsuccessfully penetrated our lives? We imagine the dangers of everyone else knowing what we’re doing, but we should probably be worried about the scenarios where total information awareness is mistaken. What happens when the security state confuses you with the previous tenant of your apartment? In our culture of surveillance, whither the Charles Monsons and Khalid Steve Mohammeds? Today is Friday, and the danger is not so much that the government will know everything about you as that it will think it does. Won’t you overlap with me?
Remember back when the United States was an ever-richening homeland departmentally securing itself against all threats, foreign and domestic, real and perceived? It was 2006. The Patriot Act had finally established as law the relation between patriotism and the executive branch, Crank had captured America’s hearts, and George W. Bush was calmly gathering library borrowing records. Had you forgotten that last part, as I sort of did? Yes, because the library is for bums and very old people—but theoretically I was against it, if only in preparation for being a very old bum. The US government should not subject its people to data-mining. That’s the term for describing patterns in very large amounts of data, a process presumably done by vast, semi-aware supercomputers in Virgina basements. Or, as Tom Owad demonstrated, by a dude with two Powerbooks and DSL.