Book Discussion: Surveillance Valley

A reporter unearths the true history of the internet: it was built by the government to spy on citizens, at home and abroad.

In Surveillance Valley , Yasha Levine traces the history of the internet back to its beginnings as a Vietnam-era tool for spying on guerrilla fighters and antiwar protesters–a military computer networking project that ultimately envisioned the creation of a global system of surveillance and prediction. Levine shows how the same military objectives that drove the development of early internet technology are still at the heart of Silicon Valley today. Spies, counterinsurgency campaigns, hippie entrepreneurs, privacy apps funded by the CIA. From the 1960s to the 2010s — this revelatory and sweeping story will make you reconsider what you know about the most powerful, ubiquitous tool ever created.

This also reminds me of DARPA’s ‘LifeLog’ program. Supposedly the project was cancelled in 2004, but if you slapped a corporate label on it and put a patsy in charge instead, it would be called ‘Facebook’.

To be honest? APRAnet was definitely not a spy tool, unless you start ignoring occam’s razor completely.

Beyond that, well . . . I’m sure they’ll sell a few books.

“Not a spy tool,” perhaps. “Based around military surveillance requirements in the context of airborne defense,” certainly.

I’m only a chapter or two in, so don’t have strong opinions on where the book is going yet.

Mutter mumble other reading.

The second half of this book is far more interesting than the first half (which is about where I stopped), and makes a reasonably compelling argument that the government (US in specific) doesn’t particularly care about things like Signal and Tor use, because (a) they need the traffic to hide in with regards to Tor, and (b) they have enough endpoint access and such that it doesn’t really hinder their goals anyway.

(b) has been a thorny point with me regarding Signal - yes, it’s encrypted… but it’s all traffic to a single place that’s well known, and I don’t really know how deeply can effectively encrypt/obfuscate the metadata to a suitably high level adversary - which governments are. It’s like the stories back in the 90s, with the Iraq war - the first people to know about it were the pizza delivery types. They delivered way more pizza than usual to the Pentagon. Welp. Something’s up, even if they don’t know exactly what.

Get through the first half and the second half is a far faster, far more interesting read.

Of course, like most other reads of this realm, it makes you feel dirty using the internet and kind of want to get off it forever… :confused: