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Sleepwalking Toward a Control Society? Ten Must-Know Trends



2. Western countries have resorted to excess of justifiable defense

Western democracies certainly do not have same political or religious grounds behind the increased use of control mechanism than totalitarian countries. Democracies have extended their surveillance and censorship practices by grounds like national security, threat of terrorism, crime detection and border and immigration control (Gschrey, 2011, O'Brien 2010). In the aftermath of 9/11, many states have established large-scale control mechanisms and enacted the most stringent and the most restrictive privacy threatening laws in the post-war period (E.g. Bloss 2007, EDRI 2011, EDRI 2012). According to Freedom of Expression organizations, such as the Privacy International and Electronic Privacy Information Center, the UK and the USA have become societies of strong social control (Anderson 2007).

Tools of control are built increasingly on the level of infrastructures of the Internet (Deibert et al. 2011). Since 2001, the world has seen a massive build up of preventive data control systems on a global level, and international data transfer protocols; the PNR transfer in the USA and in the EU, for example (Cohen 2012, Privacy International 2004). Presently, backdoors for exceptional uses of governments are built in the information architecture of networks; and these requirements may be based on laws and international standards (e.g. ETSI) (Baloo 2004, Cross 2010).

Infrastructural control is very non-transparent, but it may have global impacts. Surveillance which is built in to the information architecture paves the way for any powerful party to gain a global access on data flows. While Internet's architecture supports mechanisms of control, they can be exploited in the policies of governments and businesses (Hamilton & Moon 2012).

Justifications to extended control mechanisms have also become supported by legislation. Many exceptional procedures and emergency legislations have changed as a permanent practice; Patriot Act is in USA is a good example of the laws, which was compiled as an emergency legislation, but it has been now in force over 10 years (Goldberg, 2012). Since countries are influenced by each others' policies and situations, legislative models may have a wider influence (Bitso & Fourier & Bothma 2012). Especially, U.S. models and justifications for control require attention, since their impact may spread largely through the practices of multinational companies and international agreements. U.S. based multinational corporations are among the major players on the Internet. Also, USA has gained a leading role in globalized approach to surveillance (Mueller 2010).

Extended monitoring of citizens, which has been based on different grounds (e.g. national security, copyright violations) and legislative changes has exceeded civil rights, set forth restrictions to free flow of information and neglected the social impacts of control mechanisms (Carey-Smith & May 2006, EDRI 2011). In USA, especially developments past 9/11 have accelerated unprecedented surveillance, search and seizure authority (Bloss, 2007).

Moreover, technologies alone may override civil rights, since they can establish large-scale mechanisms of control without political debate or consent of users. Standard based mechanisms bind developers of technologies commonly implement the tools of control into the basic structures of the Internet. However, it is difficult to point out any one Big Brother who would have intentions to use these mechanisms. Consequently, these kinds of forms of control stay hidden from public and political discussion and become neutralized in relation to the purpose of their use. Practices like use of backdoors, forced identification, data collection and locating and monitoring users and their communications have already largely been applied without public discussion or users' consent.