I’m excited about my new business cards, created with design help by my friend Matt Albacete. Here’s the back:
My name is set in different versions of the typeface ZXX, all designed by a former NSA staffer to thwart optical character recognition. And yes, it’s purely for show.
But the security suggestions aren’t.
With some 91 percent of American adults keeping cell phones mostly on their persons, effectively everyone’s full-time location data is gathered and stored by your carriers and the government. To boot, sophisticated software analyzes who crosses paths with whom. Unless we adopt practices formerly considered crazy-paranoid, whistleblowing will become a thing of the past.
And the cash-for-transit reference? That’s because it’s hard to be anonymous in a car when automatic license plate scanning is so ubiquitous. Even public transit anonymity is going down the tubes—in Chicago, anyway—with new payment systems that penalize you (75 cents tacked onto each $2.25 ride) if you don’t use the card that’s tied to your identity.
With my journalism work, I’ll have to pay the premium. You should, too.
Below I’ve copied an excerpt from an Esquire piece mostly about Deric Lostutter, the primary Anonymous member behind “hive justice” actions in Steubenville.
I may not agree with the columnist’s every sentiment. But he implies a good question: what steps need to be taken before whistleblower-type reporting—easier than ever these days—sees the light of day? What does wisdom actually mean in this space? Surely governments need secrets to function. But aside from the truly vile ones, most secrets ride the fence as to which might offend the public. So we, reporters and editors, have to make the call; we’re judges and juries now more than ever before.
I’ve been thinking about all this for a long time, more than most journalists, and I still feel under-qualified.
Since the convictions of the Steubenville football players, elite media outfits like The New Yorker have reviewed the story and criticized the bloggers and activists for getting things wrong. And the real problem with these new democratic voices, as Marshall McLuhan predicted, is a function of the medium that makes them available to us. Many of the WikiLeaks cables showed professional diplomats ignoring corruption in the countries where they were stationed, for example, something that should shock only children. The Snowden documents have revealed more troubling secrets about the NSA’s espionage programs and the fate of privacy in the networked world, but Snowden himself spouts the same immature anarchist clichés as Julian Assange, that the governments of the world must stop trying to keep secrets and maintain order and simply allow “maximal diversification of individual thought.” The technology democratizes information, and a little bit of technical sophistication gives you a power that no twenty-five-year-old could have dreamed of before. But technology doesn’t give you wisdom. The information-is-free idealists depend on maintaining a certain naivete about how the world really works, which seems to be a result of lives lived online — sitting at home on their sofas, detached from a tangible sense of real-world consequences, they blunder into our worlds with results we cannot anticipate. This will not stop. It is the world we live in today.