Last week, I didn't go on a tech free vacation looking to deny foreign governments or tech companies the luxury of continuous data collection on my phone and laptop…
Digital Detox: Forced Opt-Out from Persistent Surveillance
By: Hank Thomas
I did it to celebrate my wife's birthday and to recharge. Being off the internet for five days was our goal, and the first thing I discovered was just how hard it was to accomplish this.
Our hotel used WhatsApp to communicate with guests to coordinate everything. For a second we thought about just not participating and figuring it out, but that would have meant almost none of the amenities available. Turns out, luxury getaways have devolved into a connected application.
Self discipline kicked in, and I limited my phone usage to WhatsApp only. I stuck to this for five days, but the addictive power of the applications on our phones became more real to me than ever before. Before this experiment, I had honestly never gone five days without my smartphone in the modern era. What I found is that you can feel the apps you rely on daily reeling you back into their addictive habit loops, and it was more alarming than I expected.
Through this experiment I was left with no doubt that the computers in our pockets are the most powerful weapon in the world for both collecting data, but also controlling us. The idea that data is the new oil is something we've been hearing for decades. At first we probably all just thought it was a catchy phrase for some K Street lobbyist trying to pump their data-driven tech. However, over the past few years this has become more than just a marketing campaign.
Data mining is rampaging our tech devices and digital lives every minute of the day. Data is invaluable, and unlimited resources are being thrown at making our tech habits more addictive by the day. When data mining fails to extract every aspect of our digital lives, foreign governments and surveillance capitalists send a big white spy balloon over us to scavenge for the scraps they missed.
Like any intelligence gathering or information warfare operation (and let's be clear, that is what both big tech and foreign governments alike are doing) of the pre-big data collection era, raw, siloed data is of little value until it is linked and given context within a larger data portrait. Starving the data miners of as much access to the data field is what hurts their bank accounts, intelligence gathering, and mind control operations the most.
There are very few bipartisan issues Americans can rally around anymore. Sensible legislation that mitigates the power of surveillance capitalism and surveillance states to gather our data and deploy addictive tools on our devices to control us is needed. Collected data being utilized to target consumers into thinking they need a new car when they don't is one thing, but adversarial foreign governments having the ability to divide Americans and control our thoughts is another.
This is happening right now, to you, to us. The amazing American innovation ecosystem needs to do more to build tools that give us all of the features and functionality we now expect and demand from our technology, without giving up our privacy in return. The algorithms being used by foreign governments and surveillance capitalism are as addictive as any opioid, let's treat them that way before it is too late.
There are tools that can help the population gain control of their data. That's why we have invested in several tools at SCV that make data capture more difficult for both surveillance capitalism and states.
Impervious is a great example of a company that helps their customers regain control of their data, identity, and communications. They created a bitcoin lightning-native web browser that connects a Lightning node to enable streaming payments between peers and to optionally route messaging data.
In conclusion, I encourage you to try a similar experiment and take a vacation from technology to really understand the power of the addictive mind control and data collection weapon in your pocket. Bring a burner device with you if there is an emergency or give your loved ones the hotel phone number. Above all, don't give yourself an excuse to check your smartphone.
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