📅 January 22 - January 28 | Why did we build this surveillance machine?

Internet governance training and being spied on by Meta

I started a new training course from the Virtual School of Internet Governance this week. Over the next ten weeks, I’ll read, watch and learn more about the Internet and the structures and people behind its governance. I already know a fair amount, some of it from the fact that I was on the internet very early through a university account in London around ’89/’90. We didn’t have direct access, and I had to log in to JANET (Joint Academic Network), hop to NIST (?) and then on to the Internet that was still identified as ARPANET on some systems I was connecting to. I’m looking forward to this course and have already completed the first evaluation.

I participated in a preparatory meeting with the EU-LAC Digital Alliance on Cybersecurity policy. There’s a meeting to be held in the Dominican Republic in early February that I’m hoping to be selected to attend. If not in person, then at least virtually if possible.

I registered as a Virtual attendee for ARIN 53. This is an area that I am very interested in, and I am looking forward to the next meeting in April. I suggest you register, as all participants are very much welcome.


I read a short article entitled “AI Act threatens to make facial surveillance commonplace in Europe” which suggests that the early provisions for restricting the use of realtime biometric identification systems have been loosened, or removed. This makes me uneasy, and it feels like things are going a little too far in the breach-personal-rights-for-security direction. National and local security is always a trade-off between privacy and surveillance, and it is difficult to get it right, but deploying mass facial scanning systems —not for access to accounts, aeroplanes, etc.— seems to cross a line in my mind.

I read this article from the Verge about Meta’s mass surveillance operation on the internet. 186000, yes, one hundred and eighty-six thousand companies supply Meta data from legal (and illegal) sources scanning everything you do online. Something is disconcerting and nauseating about this, which really creeps me out. I have long said that anyone who willingly works for this company is morally bankrupt.

Of note

There were two pieces of big news in the tech world, both from Apple. One was the announcement of the availability of Apple Vision Pro and the opening of orders for the 3500$ device. The other is Apple’s response to the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), given that it has been categorised as a “gatekeeper”. Apple couldn’t have written it more laced with malice.

Let’s talk about Apple Vision Pro initially. I’m not a big fan of the idea, despite recognising that the implementation and design of the device from a technological position is nothing short of phenomenal. My issues have more to do with it being, and this is only opinion, a solution looking for a problem on the one hand and being yet a mother that extracts us from reality and places a barrier between us humans and the world. Clearly, the device will be pretty good for entertainment purposes, and some may find it useful for productivity (although that has yet to be seen). But in both cases only in individual pursuits. There is nothing about being together, sharing the same space and collaborating. I don’t know; I get an icky feeling about the world we’re creating, placing ever more filters between us and the people around us.

On a snarky note, I can’t wait for the first report of an airline passenger having personal belongings stolen as they were otherwise distracted by giant dinosaurs or whatever stupid shite is being forced into their eyeballs.

Concerning the DMA, I have split opinions, but I haven’t had enough time to process all the parts. I’m uncomfortable with Apple’s response, and much of it seems to be a little petulant, like how a kid is forced to share his snacks spits in the packet before offering them to others. However, Apple has built something extremely useful and valuable to developers —the App Store and the iOS devices— but seemingly feels entitled to take a cut of absolutely everything that passes through them. I’m not sure that’s a valid argument these days. I’m still thinking this through. I might write something a little longer in an upcoming newsletter.

Have a great week.

Matthew Cowen @matthewcowen