Safety in Numbers?
Um artigo publicado na Frieze, março 2014.
Algorithms, Big Data and surveillance: what’s the response, and responsibility, of art? Jörg Heiser asked seven artists, writers and academics to reflect.
In a top-secret strategy paper published by The New York Times in November, the US National Security Agency (NSA) describes its current surveillance powers as ‘The Golden Age’(1) of signals intelligence. This ‘Golden Age’ is one where our past is recorded and digitally stored and our future is predicted. It is a system that seeks to know our friends and networks, physical location, biometric data and what we read and write. It is a system with ‘selectors’ and algorithms that watch our private communications moving across the internet to build graphs which identify us as ‘targets’ for further, more invasive, forms of surveillance. Its goal is the ‘mastery’ of global communications.
This document and thousands more disclosed by Edward Snowden reveal a fundamental threat to freedom.
As George Orwell and Michel Foucault both noted, one of the goals of surveillance is to get inside our heads. They don’t have to be watching – we just need to imagine they are. Every time we think twice before entering a search term, distance ourselves from a person or topic that might be targeted or censor our words, they win.
Surveillance targets our ability to think, create and associate freely. When I sat down to write this, I disconnected my computer from the internet to avoid my writing – the private process of formulating ideas on a page – being monitored.
As surveillance powers expand, so will the circle of people and activities monitored. I have no doubt we will see an increase of surveillance-themed art work, but that misses the larger point. Snowden not only revealed vast secret surveillance programmes, he revealed state control and the power of the individual to resist it. Artists can respond by doing work that resists control and conformity wherever it is encountered. Our responsibility as citizens is to make sure the next generation does not have to censor its thoughts, actions and imaginations.
(1) ‘A Strategy for Surveillance Powers’, The New York Times, 23 November 2013.
Laura Poitras is a filmmaker and journalist. She is currently reporting on NSA abuses disclosed to her by Edward Snowden, and editing the final instalment in a trilogy of films about post-9/11 America that will focus on surveillance.