Today (August 21, 2013), Facebook and a private surveillance gang of seven announced the latest innovation in advertising, internet.org
The group includes the closed-source web browser developer, Opera, and the Microsoft puppet cell phone manufacturer, Nokia. Opera and Nokia are notorious for secretly developing and deploying man-in-the-middle systems that intercept all of a user’s Web browsing activity. They speed up the Web for their users, and in return users tell them everything they do online.
The companies released a press statement that uses tired business-speak to entice buy-in from the business community. It’s fun to examine the meaning behind three key phrases.
The phrase “lower cost, higher quality smartphones” refers to ad-subsidized devices without the display quality or processing power to run anything other than a Facebook operating system that also happens to display reformatted content from websites.
The phrase “Using data more efficiently” means tweaking Opera’s and Nokia’s man-in-the-middle systems to reformat and compress web content to optimize it for cheap, low-bandwidth wireless data networks and the smart dumb phones. In the process, Facebook and possibly Opera and Nokia will get direct and permanent access to every user’s complete web activity. As a bonus, some content will be mangled or incomplete after reformatting.
The phrase “sustainable new business models and services” means finding new ways of delivering ads on cramped displays using access to unprecedented amounts of information about users. This will include banking and health care information, all in one convenient Facebook-Opera-Nokia-owned server. The new business models will put NSA surveillance equipment vendors out of business.
The NSA’s vendors depend on new Web services and constant expansion of ISPs to guarantee future equipment sales, support, and customization to the NSA. A single centralized network containing all web activity of all users-almost all of whom are guaranteed to be outside the US-is the NSA’s ideal source of information.
Meanwhile, the NSA’s job will be much easier.
The goals of the advertising industry and the NSA are the same: they both want to change how you behave. Advertisers want you to buy stuff you might not otherwise buy. The NSA wants you to stay away from environmentalists. In order to accomplish these objectives, both need to know exactly what everyone is thinking all the time.
Brian Duggan is a technologist at the Open Technology Institute in Washington, DC where he focuses on privacy and security issues. He is co-founder of Makerspace Urbana, Urbana-Champaign’s local hackerspace, and the Urbana-Champaign Mini Maker Faire. Brian appears frequently as a technology commentator on RT America.
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