Interview: Yasha Levine talks with WYNC's On the Media about the Internet’s military history and the failure of privacy tech



I was on WNYC's On the Media talking to Bob Garfield about the military origins of the Internet. I think the most important part of the interview starts halfway through when we talk about the failure of privacy technologies to protect us from corporate surveillance online.

As I explained on the program:

"My problem with tools like Tor and Signal is that they distract from a bigger problem that exists on the Internet. It is in Google's interest. It is in Facebook's interest to promote Tor and to promote Signal. Because these tools do no threaten their business models. When you use Tor and you log into your Google account or if you log into your Facebook account, Tor does not protect you. Google knows who you are. You just logged into their service. Facebook knows who you are. You just logged into their service. Tor does not protect you from surveillance that happens on the Internet as a matter of routine. It does not protect you from Facebook giving away or selling your data like we've seen with Cambridge Analytica. These tools give people a false sense of privacy. And we don't have any privacy."

"Tor narrowly protects you when you're browsing the internet, and it's sometimes useful. Signal protects a narrow band of communication — your text messages. It does not protect anything else that happens on your Android phone that siphons up everything it can collect and sends it to Google. What can you do if you want to protect yourself from Google? There is nothing you can do."

"The NSA does not run its own social media platform. That social media platform is run by Facebook. So we have to focus not just on government surveillance, but on the private telecommunication systems and platforms that make that surveillance possible. And so as a privacy movement, we have to move away from simplistic technological solutions and figure out political solutions because that's the only way we are going to guarantee our privacy."

Note: The YouTube version of the interview above contains a segment about the overlap between 1960s counterculture and U.S. military cyberculture that didn't make it into the final aired radio program due to time constraints.



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