Streetwise Professor

December 29, 2022

Between the David Signal and the Goliath Government, Shockingly the NYT Sides With the Latter

Filed under: Politics — cpirrong @ 7:05 pm

The New York Times’ latest service as butt-boy to the Deep State is this op-ed by one Reid Blackman, in which Mr. B expresses his deep, deep concern about Signal and other applications that promise to deliver levels of privacy far beyond what say, Facebook or Twitter do.

The gravamen of Mr. Blackman’s concern is that “that criminals have also used this government-evading technology,” that technologists operating under a privacy uber alles ideology are facilitating this criminality, and that unsuspecting innocents might be enabling this ideology out of convenience.

The last objection is most easily disposed of, especially in light of the first. The innocents who choose say Signal because (in his words) “here’s a way to message people that my friends are using” are not harmed in any way by the putative ideology, and do not pose the criminal threat that so concerns Blackman. Nor are they endorsing or enabling the use of the service by criminals, who can use it regardless of who else does. So leave them out of this, OK?

The “criminals and pedos use it” is the the go to rationalization for governments to oppose encrypted services. Well, heard of the Internet? They use that too. And among the revelations following Musk’s acquisition of Twitter are (a) pedos and child pornographers used Twitter with abandon, and (b) the government really didn’t GAF, caring far more about whether people used it to share information about Hunter’s laptop. So spare me.

Put differently: the “criminals and pedos” line is one that the government uses to distract the plebs from the government’s true concern–it’s ability to keep tabs on you and me, and from Facebook et al‘s true concern–their ability to monetize our information. Epstein demonstrates just how much the Feds really care about pedos: very little.

Bank robbers use cars to make their getaways. We don’t ban automobiles as a result.

Blackman’s example is also unintentionally hilarious:

But it is no coincidence that criminals have also used this government-evading technology. When the F.B.I. arrested several Oath Keepers for rioting at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, one of its primary pieces of evidence was messages on Signal. (It’s unclear how the F.B.I. got access to the messages in this instance; there is a longstanding cat and mouse game between lawmakers and technology.)

Stop it man: you’re killing me! For one thing, clearly the government found ways around the technology that so disturbs Mr. Blackman. For another thing: the Oath Keepers? Are you RUFKM? The group that was so penetrated by the Feds that it’s an open question of who outnumbered who? The fact that Oath Keepers have been rotting in DC jails for two years despite their use of Signal tells any sentient being that ideological technologists’ commitment to privacy enables criminality is the least of our concerns.

(Blackman no doubt invokes the Oath Keepers despite the drooling stupidity of the example because it is a bogeyman of the NYT’s bedwetting readers.)

Blackman of course has to acknowledge the possibility that governments and corporations might misuse information, but then he dismisses it in the most absurd fashion:

What’s more, the company’s proposition that if anyone has access to data, then many unauthorized people probably will have access to that data is false. This response reflects a lack of faith in good governance, which is essential to any well-functioning organization or community seeking to keep its members and society at large safe from bad actors. There are some people who have access to the nuclear launch codes, but “Mission Impossible” movies aside, we’re not particularly worried about a slippery slope leading to lots of unauthorized people having access to those codes.

Hmm, how could anyone possibly have a “lack of faith in good governance” in 2022 America? And the nuclear launch codes comparison is so laughably off-base I am surprised that anyone with the slightest self-respect would use it. But then again, in writing this Mr. Blackman demonstrates that self-respect is not among his attributes.

But it gets better!:

It’s true that the crowd at Signal aren’t government officials, and they don’t work for Fortune 500 companies. They are a small group of people who govern these powerful tools, and they are not accountable in the way that, say, a democratically elected government is. Whether law enforcement should tap our phones on the condition that a warrant is obtained is, at the very least, worthy of public discussion. Signal has unilaterally decided for us all.

Savor this line in particular: “they are not accountable in the way that, say, a democratically elected government is.”

Really! He wrote that!

Tell me, Mr. Blackman, when the FBI, or CIA, or any other federal law enforcement or intelligence agency has ever been held accountable for violations of privacy? Or many other transgressions?

Take your time. I’ll wait.

FFS, just look at the FBI’s response to the Twitter files, which can be summarized as “we’re going to do whatever we want–whatcha gonna do about it, proles?”

Blackman bewails that Signal etc. “are a small group of people who govern these powerful tools.” Small group? Powerful tools? Heard of the NSA? CIA? FBI?

Blackman cleverly attempts a sort of judo, equating pro-privacy “technology overlords” with the government–and with Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc., technology overlords who monetize our data and are good little Igors to Dr. Frankenstein government. There’s really no comparison, and the attempt to make one is a perfect encapsulation of Blackman’s fundamental dishonesty. The government has the coercive powers of the state at their disposal. Signal does not. And it is now abundantly clear that the government uses its coercive powers to get Big Tech to do its bidding.

He laments Signal’s unilateral action regarding privacy, but is silent on the clearly unilateral utilization of government power to surveil and censor.

Blackman makes a direct comparison between privacy-oriented technologists and the government, and the big tech companies like Facebook. (I don’t say “Meta” because it’s just too retarded. Sorry, Stanford!) The comparison is beyond risible. The relative power of the former and the latter is so disproportionate that it is insulting to our intelligence to make the comparison.

Blackman attempts to portray himself as a paragon of ethics, in large part by denigrating the ethics of his technologist enemies whom he accuses of a “lack of appreciation for moral nuance and good governance.” Well, put Matthew 7:5 in your pipe and smoke it, bro’: “thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

To be honest, my concern about Signal is not that it protects my privacy: it’s that it doesn’t under the pretense that it does. One can never be sure of whom the “technologists” like Signal’s Moxie Marlinspike are really working for. “Privacy” is a room full of mirrors, and trusting anyone with it is dangerous indeed.

To close. Who is Reid Blackman, actually? Well, apparently he is “an adviser to government and corporations on digital ethics.” Is he now. Do you need to know any more about who butters his bread? Or the NYT’s? Ho’s gonna ho, dontcha know.

Looking at the bright side, the fact that the NYT ran this pathetic piece suggests that it–and its government masters–are threatened by people having a choice to escape the government’s panopticon. I very much hope that they are.

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