“Every country knows [that telecoms networks are] vulnerable, but no one wants to fix the problem — because they exploit that vulnerability, too.” — Robert Kolker in a Bloomberg article about StingRays

Here we’re confronted with the problem of incentives. Police are incentivized to spy on citizens, whether innocent or guilty. The success of law enforcement is measured by arrests, not by the population’s peace and happiness. Definitely not by how well civil liberties have been protected. None of that fits in a spreadsheet! Nation-states are incentivized to spy on each other, for the sake of regular ol’ espionage as well as obtaining commercial secrets. It’s desirable to keep an eye on the neighbors. What are they up to? When and where are they going to sell their newest invention?

Photo via Thierry Ehrmann. War logs!

Photo via Thierry Ehrmann.

Maybe this sounds paranoid, but it’s not. The US increasingly relies on its information economy, which means that data and insight are both especially valuable. Other developed countries are similarly beholden to ideas and intellectual property. One of the profound dangers posed by China is its disregard for patents and copyrights, and its subsequent explosion of innovation. Being surpassed is America’s direst fear. We need to make ourselves great again, right?!

I’ve written about apathy before. It’s the enemy of the entrepreneur and the activist. In a world full or products and causes, it’s tough to cajole someone into caring. Who has the time? And, more crucially, who has the correct incentive structure? Mister Average Joe doesn’t need to worry about surveillance — it doesn’t impact him immediately or concretely — and consequently he simply doesn’t bother himself with the subject.

Every time I say something like this, I’m accused on complacency. And I guess that’s fair. I’m resigned to reality, and I don’t try to agitate against the status quo. Selfishness makes me more interested in surviving and excelling than in overturning power structures.

“I said yes to the mandatory government implants […] because I, like everybody else, just wanted to be safe.” — short story by Maverix75