Felix Stalder on Sat, 29 Jun 2002 07:28:02 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Privacy Won't Help Us (Fight Surveillance)

>The first answer today will be state control. And this is painfully the
>case. Snooping through Echelon, Carnivore, Visionics and related systems
>is real (even if one must remember that ballooning data-collection
>capacities don't necessarily imply effective data-analysis).

State control and other forms of surveillance can be quite overlapping.
Big brother can bootstrap itself out of a rhizomatic control society, so
to speak. The Sept. 11 investigation into the last days of the terrorists
is a good example for that. Cameras on ATMs, in Pizza Huts, records from
car rental agencies and hotels -- pieces of information all collected
individually and decentrally -- were correlated into a centralized vision
of an all seeing big brother (on demand).

>But equally important to the development of the surveillance society are
>issues of risk management (i.e. insurance contracts, which are always
>accompanied by demands for personal data) and targeted advertising
>(loyalty cards, direct mail, etc.). And both these issues focus on and
>reinforce the predominance of the individual, not just in his or her
>privacy, but above all in his or her isolated fear and desire.

Hm, reinforcement of the predominance of the individual, I'm very
uncertain about this. Perhaps it might be worth trying to distinguish a
structural analysis and the individual perception which this structure

On a structural level, institutions do not want to deal with individuals.
The notion that everyone is truly unique is the antithesis of the
insurance business. Institutions want to deal with groups and categories
that allow to predict the behaviour of the single person, hence
de-individualize them. This is an optimization problem. On the one hand,
they want to keep it simple (i.e. keep the number of groups small) on the
other hand, they want it accurate (ie having a close fit between the group
and the single case). Computerization, obviously, changed the dimensions
of the problem, but not its nature.

The problem with "simulational surveillance" is that these institutions
have the ability to impose their categories onto people, ie make them fit
their "data image," in the same way that dominant groups have the ability
to impose cliches and stereotypes on minorities. All of this erodes true

On the other hand, the perception that is being created is the opposite.
The same institutions that hate individuality in their practice, celebrate
it in on the surface. The (not so) new slogan of the US Army is "Army of
one." A bank calls its customers by their personal names, but it speaks to
them according a standardized script based on the group to which each
individual has been assigned.

I think isolation and individuality should not be confused. I think what
surveillance does is isolates you AND presses you into a group at the same
time, but on different levels.

Or so it seems. Felix

Les faits sont faits.

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