Larry Hosken: New: Book Report: Wiring up the Big Brother Machine

Google stopped censoring in China; as a result, more Google search results are censored. The Chinese people can find less stuff now. Why? Because of the "Great Firewall". The Chinese government controls the Chinese internet service providers. It's as if the USA government controlled AT&T and Comcast. The Chinese government set up the Great Fireall: a set of filters on their internet providers. "If you see someone try to access, drop the connection." "If you see the word 'democracy' go past, drop the connection." Google was "censoring" results that wouldn't have reached the user anyhow: before the user can see a search results page mentioning a "bad" site, the user is knocked off the wire. The Great Firewall shows what happens when a government finds the weak spot of the internet: there aren't so many internet service providers. They can be monitored. They can be controlled.

That's how the USA government is watching you read this now.

The USA government watched this blog post go onto your computer. Did you go to some trouble to encrypt your connection when you read this? Probably not. Hardly anyone does. Assuming you didn't encrypt your connection, the National Security Agency probably read this text on its way to your computer. The NSA installed machines at USA network switching offices to wiretap all internet traffic. It was a scandal when the news first broke a few years ago. When Obama became president, folks hoped he'd shut the wiretaps down. But he didn't. The wiretapping goes on.

Wiring up the Big Brother Machine is an autobiography by a whistleblower. He worked at the AT&T network building in San Francisco, my home town. He was working there when AT&T installed the NSA's network equipment and computers to wiretap their network. When the news started to break, he talked to reporters. Then he watched as newspaper after newspaper squelched the story. Finally, the story broke. Cases went to court.

Like China, the NSA found an effective place to monitor network traffic, the network providers. Chinese users notice the Golden Shield; it knocks the user off of the network. The NSA system just listens. It doesn't disrupt the user—most users don't even remember that they're still being monitored.

It takes bravery to be a whistleblower. You'd think that after someone was brave enough to come forward about something so heinous, it would be shut down. But it wasn't shut down. The wiretapping goes on.

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