Evgeny Morozov writes: Following his revelations this year about Washington’s spying excesses, Edward Snowden now faces a growing wave of surveillance fatigue among the public – and the reason is that the National Security Agency contractor turned whistleblower has revealed too many uncomfortable truths about how today’s world works.
Technical infrastructure and geopolitical power; rampant consumerism and ubiquitous surveillance; the lofty rhetoric of “internet freedom” and the sober reality of the ever-increasing internet control – all these are interconnected in ways most of us would rather not acknowledge or think about. Instead, we have focused on just one element in this long chain – state spying – but have mostly ignored all others.
But the spying debate has quickly turned narrow and unbearably technical; issues such as the soundness of US foreign policy, the ambivalent future of digital capitalism, the relocation of power from Washington and Brussels to Silicon Valley have not received due attention. But it is not just the NSA that is broken: the way we do – and pay for – our communicating today is broken as well. And it is broken for political and economic reasons, not just legal and technological ones: too many governments, strapped for cash and low on infrastructural imagination, have surrendered their communications networks to technology companies a tad too soon.
Mr Snowden created an opening for a much-needed global debate that could have highlighted many of these issues. Alas, it has never arrived. The revelations of the US’s surveillance addiction were met with a rather lacklustre, one-dimensional response. Much of this overheated rhetoric – tinged with anti-Americanism and channelled into unproductive forms of reform – has been useless. Many foreign leaders still cling to the fantasy that, if only the US would promise them a no-spy agreement, or at least stop monitoring their gadgets, the perversions revealed by Mr Snowden would disappear. [Continue reading…]