Social Media 2010 Legacy 2 – Transparency and Privacy.

 

I already had Transparency and Privacy down as a discussion point but the recent torrent of media comment about Wikileaks has left me completely out of my depth.

The implications are just so immense.

After all, how can the following Wikileak, plucked at random from the ‘Enemy Action’ file of 130,781 documents out of the total 466,743 documents in ‘Iran & Afghan War Logs Explorer’, make any sense to a simple soul like me (http://bit.ly/fV0OSE)?

“KAF-1BDE -S3 REPORTS: SUMMIT 09 B CO ELEMENT SALUTE REPORT AS FOLLOWS: S- 3-4 PAX, A- SMALL ARMS FIRE, L-IVO 42 SWB 3910 1617, U-UNK, T-0415Z, E-AK-47. 0448Z ENEMY ELEMENTS BROKEN CONTACT. 0442Z AIR QRF PREPOSITIONED TO ORGUN-E. 0550Z UPDATE SUMMIT 09 B CO ELEMENT HAS REGAINED CONTACT. SALUTE REPORT AS FOLLOWS: S-3-4 PAX, A-SMALL ARMS FIRE, L-IVO 42 SWB 3902 1627, U-UNK, T-0540Z, E-AK-47. 0620Z UNIT IS NO LONGER IN CONTACT. REPORTING INDICATES POSSIBLY 3X SUSPECTED ACM''S WERE KIA.”

Clicking ‘Expand Acronyms’ (‘Take care; definitions may be wrong’) would seem to make more sense, but doesn’t really – not to me, anyway:

“Kandahar Air Field-1BDE -S3 REPORTS: SUMMIT 09 B Commanding Officer ELEMENT Size/Activity/Location/Unit/Time/Equipment REPORT AS FOLLOWS: Size: 3-4 Passengers/People, Activity: SMALL ARMS FIRE, Location: In the vicinity of 42 SWB 3910 1617, Unit: Unknown, Time: 04:15 GMT, Equipment: Assault rifle. 04:48 GMT ENEMY ELEMENTS BROKEN CONTACT. 04:42 GMT AIR Quick Response Force PREPOSITIONED TO ORGUN-E. 05:50 GMT UPDATE SUMMIT 09 B Commanding Officer ELEMENT HAS REGAINED CONTACT. Size/Activity/Location/Unit/Time/Equipment REPORT AS FOLLOWS: Size: 3-4 Passengers/People, Activity: SMALL ARMS FIRE, Location: In the vicinity of 42 SWB 3902 1627, Unit: Unknown, Time: 05:40 GMT, Equipment: Assault rifle. 06:20 GMT UNIT IS NO LONGER IN CONTACT. REPORTING INDICATES POSSIBLY 3X SUSPECTED Anti-Coalition Militia''S WERE Killed in Action.”

The criminal allegations against Julian Assange, and what he is been doing or not doing to or with women in Sweden, are a ‘no comment’ from me, but it must be the case that this guy and his Wikileaks concept will affect all our lives in some way.

Again, as with my last post, all I can offer is a personal perspective.

I believe our political lords and masters should be held to account for their actions – especially retrospectively, when their deeds have been done and decisions made.

In principle, I am all for transparency.

As for military matters, there is a concern that our operational methodology is something that it would be in our interests to keep private from our enemies.

But these are massive issues, way above my pay grade. I guess the only Insight I can contribute – which is pretty obvious really – is that Wikileaks, and all the copy-cats that will follow, are not going to go away. In fact there can only be more.

We are going to have to deal with them somehow. And they support my thesis that 2010 has been a world-changing year in terms of what has happened online and its effect on all our day-to-day lives. In 2010, the world has turned. The Big Brother society George Orwell envisaged in 1984 is now upon us. Ok, Orwell wrote 1984 in 1949 and, in a fictional novel, showed astonishing foresight and imagination, but this is REAL and NOW.

Get this. It was reported in the Sunday Times this week (5 December 2010) that:

“Insurers are preparing to use people’s Facebook profiles and online spending habits as a way of setting premiums….data detailing their food purchases, activities and social groups can be as good an indicator of their life expectancy as conventional medical examinations……Facebook (is) potentially valuable because profiles could reveal who the customer socialises with, where they go, whether they drink too much or exercise a lot and what groups and fan pages they ‘like’.”

They call it ‘predictive modelling’. I say Big Brother is watching you. Twitter ye not.

I am sorry the Sunday Times article is behind the Paywall so I cannot link you to it – and they have lost a chance for you to access their site.

But get this too. There is a boarding school where the Deputy Head Teachers created a fake Group under a Facebook Profile. They knew this Group would be irresistible to  the students and, once the students had joined it, this meant the staff could access the students’ own Profiles and monitor their behaviour. Did your teachers do this?

So, individuals like us may not feature in the millions of Wikileak files but, in our day-to-day lives, we are being watched and monitored in ways that we could never have conceived even last year.

In my successful legal action for malicious falsehood against Lintas in the 1990s my lawyer warned me of ‘the other side’ behaving ‘in the modern manner’ – to assume my phone was tapped, my car followed and that personal checks would be made on me. Perhaps they were. Certainly, an anonymous caller my old school to check my ‘A’ Levels were as claimed on my CV. I have learnt in life that unsavoury people tend to judge other people’s behaviour by their own low moral and behavioural standards.

These things were frightening to me then, not that many years ago. Now all of us are in the frame. We are all being tracked and followed. 

And what if you manage a busines? What if every transaction, every expenses claim, every internal email was opened to the public? This would include publicising opinions and comments about your agencies or clients. Would that worry you?

Finally, back to Wikileaks, I cannot resist making a couple of points in relation to this world-changing development:

1. As stated above, Wikileaks will not go away. It is a benchmark of the year 2010.

2. The ‘interception evidence’ debate, a major issue in recent politics, has been turned on its head. Now, it seems, there is no option but to pro-actively intercept anything we can from terrorists, and use this evidence against them – especially as we are intercepting ourselves from within. Human rights be damned. Through online technology, they know everything about us. We need to know what they are up to – otherwise they will blow us up.

3. I did say at the General Election that the use of new media had a part to play in modern warfare. Indeed, no fewer than 56 people have seen me make this point on YouTube (http://bit.ly/gVU1Sa). If you read my past posts, I did not claim to have the executional solutions to this point but it seems, only a few months later, that there may have been some truth in my hypothesis.

That’s my story – and I’m sticking to it.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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