The battle for privacy has been lost and mass surveillance is here to stay, according to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Speaking as part of a panel discussion during RT’s 10th-anniversary conference via live feed, Assange, who has been imprisoned within the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the past three years, stunned the audience with his sobering assessment.
The panel discussion was titled: Security or Surveillance: Can the right to privacy and effective anti-terror security coexist in the digital age?
The WikiLeaks founder wasted no time in revealing his thoughts when asked by the moderator about the right of privacy, how that is defined around the world, anti-terror security, and the relationship between them in the digital age.
“In thinking about this issue I want to take quite a different position, perhaps, from what you would expect me to have taken. I have, for 20 years, been writing about the National Security Agency and mass surveillance… I think that we should understand that the game for privacy is gone. It’s gone. The mass surveillance is here to stay,” Assange said.
Mass surveillance has had a trickle-down effect, whereby not only large and mid-sized states are engaging in this unethical act of spying on the innocent, but even small countries are now spying on their own citizens after the de facto approval by the world’s most powerful nations.
“The Anglo-American alliance, which is formalized in the the Five Eyes intelligence arrangement [of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US], which has an additional 35 states feeding into that system, is so pervasive in terms of mass surveillance of domestic and international telecommunications that while some experts can achieve practical privacy for themselves for limited number of operations, and terrorists are experts, it’s gone for the rest of the populations,” he reasoned.
Assange made clear that the concept of privacy as a human right no longer exists within society, and short of societal collapse, it will not return.
“We can talk about all the laws that we want, and what policies should be and how society should behave and how it should work, but it’s gone and it will not come back short of a very regressive economic collapse which reduces the technological capacity of civilization,” he said.
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As the price of cutting edge technology continues to decline, states will employ these technologies at an increasing rate, according to Assange.
“The reason it will not come back is that the cost of engaging in mass surveillance is decreasing by about 50 per cent every 18 months, because it’s the underlying cost that’s predicated on the cost of telecommunications, moving surveillance intercepts around and computerization and storage – all those costs are decreasing much faster at a geometric rate than the human population is increasing,” he explained.
“States are powerful, the deep state is powerful, the technology is hard to manage, it’s getting cheaper – it’s going to be here…
“We can’t think in these quaint notions of privacy and the right to privacy and that we should fight for that in some way, its gone as far as mass surveillance is concerned. It will remain gone, so instead we need to turn our attention to sort of society is that going to produce and are there other mechanisms to counteract the societal effect that leads to authoritarianism… and heavy integration between the deep state and the rest of society,” Assange said.
He implored people to understand that the paradigm has changed, and that with privacy now effectively gone it's extremely important to realize and understand how it will shape future societies.
“If you look at societal behavior in very conformist, small, isolated societies with reduced social spaces – like Sweden, South Korea, Okinawa in Japan and North Korea – then you’ll see that society adapts. Everyone becomes incredibly timid, they start to use code words; use a lot of subtext to try and sneak out your controversial views,” he said.
Assange is essentially arguing that a new phase has begun, which will require people to shift strategies as repressive authoritarian regimes attempt to exert greater control over their populations.
Privacy is one of many values “that simply are unsustainable… in the face of the reality of technological change; the reality of the deep state with a military-industrial complex and the reality of Islamic terrorism, which is legitimizing that sector in a way that it’s behaving,” he stated.
The WikiLeaks founder urged the public end the fight for privacy, and “get on the other side of the debate where it’s going.”
While this statement by Assange may be disheartening to some, it is merely a confirmation to others who've been well aware of the state's tendency to erode personal privacy and security. The good news is that those people who've been aware have begun construction on multiple alternative means of protecting security and privacy - outside of the state. Bitcoin is one of many examples of the market reaction to state control.
It will be encouraging in the near future to watch the market adapt to the ever-expanding police state apparatus, as it already has been.
Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, free thinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay's work has been published on Ben Swann's Truth in Media, Truth-Out, Raw Story, MintPress News, as well as many other sites. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.