Your data or your freedom? – VPRO documentary – 2014

Your data or your freedom? – VPRO documentary – 2014


You can see technology
has made this possible… …but also that it’s used without any limits
just because it’s possible… …without anyone saying: Wait a second,
this goes beyond all limits… …the limits of fundamental rights. Fundamental human rights
were being stretched… …and all the security nets
had holes in them. Nothing protected us,
we were basically naked. Whether it’s the Russians,
the Chinese or the Iranians. That happens to be
the focus of my research. So for me, when we saw some of
those programs come out in America… …I wasn’t shocked and didn’t have
a profound existential crisis. No. I have mixed feelings about it. Something rational:
I recognised things that I already knew… …but that I lived through again
emotionally. And that really was a big shock… …because I thought I would never
have to feel that again. We all knew we lived in two environments. One environment where you could speak
freely: at home, with family and friends. And a public environment:
school, strangers… …where you had to watch what you said,
where words could become dangerous. In first grade, at age six,
I already knew words could be dangerous. Like other East German citizens,
I practised self-censorship… …and limited my own freedom of speech.
Just in case. That’s a terrible feeling.
But now it feels even more horrible. Back then I could go out onto the street
or visit friends. Me and two friends could sit at a table
and if there was no Stasi agent present… …you knew nobody was spying on you.
Now we don’t have that certainty. There are CCTV cameras everywhere. They can record where I’m going,
with whom and what I’m doing. Surveillance now is more comprehensive,
more total. I’m always conscious of whether
I’m communicating securely. Sometimes during a conversation
we might touch on a certain topic… …and then I tell my interlocutor:
Stop, you have a mobile phone. So do I. Let’s talk about this another time… …or let’s put our mobile phones
somewhere else. I do that. I also have a sticker
on the camera of my laptop. To prevent someone
from filming my house… …so that they can see my house.
I do that too. I encrypt my online communication… …also when I just want to say
that I’ll be home half an hour later. I believe we should build
a very big haystack. At the very least we have to make it hard
for intelligence agencies… …by protecting the needles
that need protecting even better. When Google buys such a company… …Google doesn’t just want to know what
I’m searching and who I’m emailing. A company like Google
really wants to be everywhere. They want to capture every single
data stream that you generate. The photos I take.
Picasa is owned by Google. The movies I watch and make.
YouTube is also owned by Google. They’re capturing what’s happening
in your car… …they’re capturing what’s happening
in your bedroom with the thermostat… …and in your pockets through your phone. Now they want to know when I use
my washing machine and how often… …how much energy my stove uses
and when it’s on. That way they can see when I’m home. Eventually they’re going to buy a company
that manufactures smart beds… …and capture what’s happening
in your bed. Ultimately they would want to know
what you’re dreaming about. When you combine that
with all the other information… …you can build a complete profile
of someone and their social networks. That’s the wet dream of a Stasi agent. I have a dumb phone in my pocket.
I just don’t collect data about myself. My decision is very rigidly absolute. I just don’t have the temptation
of selling it. There is nothing to sell. The fact that all the data that Google
and Facebook are collecting… …will eventually be put to uses
other than advertising. It might be used to price risk. What’s the risk that you’ll get
into an accident if you’re driving? What’s the risk your house will catch fire? If that’s what they can do, then they can
also be in the insurance business… …they can be in the banking business
and many other businesses. They are actually probably
standing to disrupt… …the banking industry and the insurance
industry in the next five to ten years. We also see changes in the logic
of many of these commercial players. Instead of assuming
you don’t want to track yourself… …because you care about your privacy
or just because you’re too lazy… …they’ll start assuming that you don’t do
that because you have something to hide. That’s how people
who don’t have a smartphone… …or people who leave no data trail
are already perceived. And I just don’t know why we actually
want to move to a society… …where people who are guilty
of nothing… …have to take pro-active steps
to prove that they’re not guilty. That’s a kind of Kafkaesque situation… …which I think we would rather avoid,
but I think that will be the consequence. That will be the consequence,
not because it’s driven by… …the surveillance state
or national security state… You can even forget about those two. You’ll end up in this situation solely
because of the market consequences. Because again, reputation
will become the key to all of this. And as long as it’s the key to all of this… …you’ll be pro-actively forced
to do something to shape it. The elephant in the room is that
most consumers, who are not geeks… …who don’t go to Computer Chaos
Congress in Berlin… …those people don’t really
have such concerns… …and actually have economic incentives… …to record everything
that happens to them… …and to figure out how to make money
out of it. If that’s the environment
in which we’re in… …then we have to be doing
very different kinds of interventions. And I haven’t seen them so far. You sound very disappointed. Well, I am. Again in part because the debate
has been extremely boring. For me surveillance
is one of the many problems. It might not even be
the most important problem… …that stems from the circulation of data. For me, the greatest problem
comes from the proliferation of data. To me, that’s the danger.
Armed with more and more data… …our bureaucratic institutions
will be able to do things… …which are good for us as consumers… …but not necessarily good
for us as citizens. So instead of going after
the root causes of issues… …they just go about the symptoms. Look at, for example, the use of data… …that may be coming out of a country
like Yemen. So you can monitor what every single kid
in Yemen is doing on Facebook. You can monitor what they’re doing
with their cell phones… …and rank kids in Yemen based on how
likely they are to blow up an airplane. Then you have the top ten kids
in Yemen… …and you just say: We’re not going to let
those people board a plane to America. Problem of terrorism solved. To me a somewhat more ambitious,
more democratic… …and more politically conscious way
to go about that problem… …would be to stop for a little bit, put the
data aside and ask a simple question… …as to why those kids actually
want to blow up American airplanes. If you do that you might discover… …that the reason they do that
might have something to do… …with the use of drone warfare
against their fathers. Or you want to fight a problem like
obesity. Smartphones, for example. It allows you to do two things:
It allows you to record data… …so you actually know what people are
eating, how much they’re exercising. You can capture everything
about their activity, right? And then figure out where on that curve
they are, how unhealthy they are. How unproductive they are.
And the fact that you have a screen… …you have the ability to intervene, allows
you to generate the perfect nudge… …and to get them to do
what the policymaker wants them to do. We’re entering a new mode of politics… …where we’re no longer talking
about what matters. We’re not talking
about why things happen. The reason why we’re obese is because
we’re stupid or don’t exercise enough. Or we just basically
don’t have the strong will. It’s not because there’s no income
for us to buy healthy food… …or we don’t have a car to drive
to the farmer’s market… …or because there’s no infrastructure
where we can exercise. Or it’s because perhaps food companies… …have so much power in Washington that
they can advertise to kids in any way. Or they don’t want food labelling. There
are all sorts of bigger structural issues… …that are not at all reflective
of who we are and what we do… …and of failings that are responsible
for a problem like obesity. But in order to grasp
all those potentialities… …and to prevent them from happening… …and then to also figure out why
we shouldn’t treat data as property. Because the more we treat it as property,
the more data people will sell to Google. To figure that all out you need a much
more complex picture of economics… …and structural changes in economy. What’s happening in terms of finance,
financialisation, all of those things… …which are currently not on the table… …at most of the gatherings
of computer people. Again, if you look at the gatherings
of the Chaos Computer Club. Those are very good people,
all of them have very noble goals. But just for the reason
that they’re mostly technologists… …they would rather talk about
cryptography than financialisation. We need to figure out how geeks can start
talking about politics and economics. Because I don’t really expect people… …who are concerned with the economy
or politics to learn cryptography. So you expect something from geeks,
but you don’t see it happening. Well, maybe I’m blind, but no, do you? No, I don’t see that happening. I’m trying to make that happen.
You can’t blame me. I write an essay every week.
But yes, I don’t see that happening. Why is it not happening? Because this is hard stuff. You need to sit
at home and read Weber and Habermas. It’s not playing World of Warcraft. It’s not like you’re going to wake up
tomorrow… …and suddenly understand how
the modern system of bureaucracy… …has come into existence
in the last two centuries. It’s not the kind of thing you can read up
on Wikipedia in two hours. I’m not blaming them for not immediately
grasping everything they ought to grasp… …about how the modern state functions.
It’d be naïve to expect them to do that. But there needs to be
a reorientation of this debate. Look, in five years
whenever you walk down the street… …you’ll get a popup on your phone
telling you: Would you want to trade… …all your data from today for 50 euros? Most people, I’m sure,
would be saying yes. That’s what I’ve been trying to do:
Trying to show that… Great, let’s continue doing work
on cryptography, on laws… …but if we just do those two things… …in five years we’re going to be hit
with a more profound realisation… …that neither tools nor laws
are actually wanted by citizens. Or most citizens anyway… …because dissidents will still want
the cryptography and the laws. But people who have very little to hide… …are going to profit
from these new market incentives… …thus perhaps making it impossible for
dissidents to exist as a group, structurally. So you never met a politician
who you thought… Look, I’ve met quite a few politicians,
many of them in Europe… …who are willing to listen
and with whom I talk every now and then. The problem is that… They’re not going to turn it… …into the major political and social
movement that it ought to be. Unless they can discursively
liberate themselves… …from this bullshit empire
built by Silicon Valley. I see very few positive developments
from politicians… …who again just prefer to bash the NSA. Look at European politicians. What do
they want? They want to bash America. Let’s bash the NSA, let’s bash Google. And let’s empower, I don’t know,
Deutsche Telekom. Because great,
we’ll empower Deutsche Telekom… …and then the German surveillance
services… …are doing exactly the kind of
surveillance the NSA is doing. So instead of surveillance
that is made in the USA… …you now have surveillance
made in Germany. Who uses the internet every day? Almost everybody?
What do you do online? What do you do? Games. YouTube, of course.
And you? Typing course? Good. But do we know what it is? How it works?
And who’s the boss? Have a look to see
what you can find about yourself. My name is Swan Stikker
so I only find stickers of swans. That’s my father. Let’s see if he has any secrets. Sure, let’s do something in Iceland, but… Don’t get me wrong.
Those apps need to be built… …for people who are doing important
work in social movements, dissidents. People who actually need secure tools… …to continue the very dangerous work
they’re doing. But it’s not going to be of much use
to the general population… …until the general population figures out… …that they cannot continue consuming
data and entertainment… …and paying for it
with their personal information. That’s the change that needs to happen,
intellectually. Without that change those tools are going
to be used by 1% of the population. But who is the enemy?
– That’s a complicated question. I think it’s too easy to say:
the American secret service. Likewise you also can’t say:
all secret services. We are our own enemy
if we practise self-censorship… …and do nothing against it,
and keep silent out of cowardice. When we’re too lazy and slow
to go out onto the street… …and don’t speak out
for fear of the consequences… …then we are our own worst enemies. Only then do we enable that power
to be abused. We legitimise that power.
We vote for these politicians. We don’t vote them out, don’t storm
their offices, let them do their thing… …while we do our shopping and watch TV
like everything’s normal. An apathetic populace
is democracy’s biggest enemy… …because it makes
the abuse of power possible. Hello, Berlin. I wish there were 100 times
more people here. 25 years ago the Berlin Wall came down. On November 11, I stood on the wall
behind that gate with my mother… …with 10 times as many people
as are here now. People are walking with arms linked,
they’re climbing over fences… …walking towards West-Berlin. I just want to have a look.
I’m not going to the other side. There are many people on the wall.
I can’t see how many. Police, to my right,
are moving towards the wall. More police, on the right. At least 300 police officers are at the wall. Armed, so I’ve heard. But people here say they can’t shoot… …because they’re being watched,
basically. We’re behind the Brandenburg Gate.
Don’t get too close. It’s full of people shouting with joy,
clapping, yelling. Good luck. We must realise that the mass,
the people, possess power. Back then people shouted ‘we are
the people’. A powerful slogan. We could feel we were a large crowd
and how much power we had… …because there were so many of us
in the streets. And that feeling, that memory
people must feel again. Alice Walker once said: ‘The main reason
why people don’t have power… …is because they think
they don’t have any power.’ We’re seeing that again today. So few people go out to demonstrate,
because they think it’s useless anyway. Are you happy? I can’t say. You are happy, I can see it. He is happy. The space for civil disobedience, dissent,
for taking an active stance… …as to whether you want to do something
or not, that counts as well. There is this very interesting phenomenon
happening right now. We are being deprived of an opportunity… …to decide not to do something. But I think that will result
in us not having that space… …in which our subjectivity
can actually emerge… …and get formed in an environment
where we still have space… …to make decisions
that are of our own will… …and are driven by some political,
ethical and moral idea… …of what’s good and what’s not good. The fact that we will all be getting
very complacent and boring… …and extremely safe individuals,
that’s the danger.

18 thoughts on “Your data or your freedom? – VPRO documentary – 2014

  1. 36:35 "Sorry can't skype right now, ripping a vpro documentary for YT, I can't believe I don't have a dedicated box for this! lol!"

  2. As always, an extremely good documentary from VPRO. Thank you for elaborating on such and important issue and making the viewers aware that something can actually be undertaken to stop and change the mushrooming dark cloud of mass surveillance. To everyone who watches this documentary, please pass it to as many people as you can.

  3. I don't know why but I feel like if I see that I would like to install Linux or trow my computer far away…

  4. The documentary is great but the philosophical content of it is still disappointing : you don't seem to understand that mass surveillance and data mining is a direct product of the democratic process itself… If you pretend that the state or the governement functions according to "people's will", you'll end up having to manage it with more subtle and efficient means… The main role of media in western societies is to shape and control the "public debate" : this is a new chapter and a refinement in a very old story… But no one will ever cure the shortcomings of democracy with "more democracy" : the outcome would be deeper flaws and greater dangers…

    Yes, the problem is mainly political : but this means that the whole process and its ideals is problematic… These so called democratic ideals are failinng before our eyes and we have to find something else…

    PS : relying on Habermas and Weber to understand the rising of the modern state is a joke…

  5. Hello Everyone,
    Next Sunday 9pm CET on vpro documentary, we will publish another big data related documentary: The real value of your data.
    How much is it worth, who owns it, can you make money out of it?
    Let us know what you think of our documentaries, we really value all your feedback, it is always useful and insightful.
    (and don't forget to activate the subtitles by clicking on the CC button before commenting that there are no subtitles! 🙂 We work really hard on our international channels to provide all our documentaries with English, French and Spanish subtitles. Unless stated otherwise, they are there. 🙂

  6. Its crazy that you guys were filming people without their permission but I can see how that fits with the theme of the documentary.

  7. The use of German language without English subtitles is a perfect example of trying to communicate and failing. More than half of this is in English. If that is your language, prepare to be neglected. So what is this? "We shall insult and neglect those who are not multi-lingual" ? "Such people do not deserve to understand our film" ?

  8. The biggest threat to human life comes from government, more people have been killed off the battle field than on and a benevolent government can morph into a tyranny. Research Democide.

    Big Government leads to bigger Government by a creeping collectivism that extols self sacrifice for the greater good… but who defines the good? not you. It is a recipe for fascism or the other extreme communism the end result is the same tyranny of the few over the many. Ultimately we have a supranational governance which will be a bureaucratic morass that we cannot influence to our cost in lives and treasure. Remember government is our servant not master only we can keep it that way and stop the pernicious corporate takeover of legislature. The EU is an example of an emerging supranational tyranny. Some may have good intentions but we have the evil of good intentions in its consequences.

  9. Why did the Neo-Cons initiate a torture policy, and how did the Guantanamo story get out? Assuming the prisoners were terrorists, what actionable intelligence could be extracted from them after a week? How about after a month, or two or more? One of the things the federal government and every state government in America excels at is prison security. The Neo-Con torture policy was not to make people talk, but to shut people up. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld conspired to start the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and Rumsfeld intentionally manufactured false intelligence, and he had been doing it since he was Secretary Of Defense, Cheney was Chief Of Staff, and Bush Sr Director of the CIA During the Ford Administration. Creating bullshit intelligence was Rumsfeld's M. O.The enormous police and intelligence/security apparatus they started was built to use against the citizenry here, and anyone that believes they didn't after what they have done is a fool. Anyone that thinks the No Fly List is the only one, and there aren't lists of americans being targeted by the government to be rounded up in the event of future trouble, can't think.

  10. Thank you for this doc. The Big Brother scenario of 1984 is now upon us full time and with our permission.

  11. I love you, vpro! This doc is so important! Thanks for bringing these issues to light and for giving a voice to the voiceless!

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