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Sleepwalking Toward a Control Society? Ten Must-Know Trends

3. Complexity of internet censorship and data surveillance

During the classical period of censorship, the control focused on publications or writers. On Internet methods of control do not only involve in contents, but they may involve in users communications within the infrastructure of Internet (La Rue 2011). Censorship often goes hand in hand data surveillance. There are also social and economic measures of control, which have censoring effects, like pricing, forced identification or registration, unavailability of internet connections and pressure for self-censorship (Bitso & Fourie & Bothma 2012).

Filtering is a most common form of internet censorship. From a point of view of access users may be restricted by regulating 1) the user's access to the network; 2) the user's access to a particular service (DNS-filtering); 3) the user's access to a specific site (IP-filtering); 4) the user's opportunity to see certain web-pages (URL-filtering) or 5) filtering based on keywords of content (keyword filtering) (Bitso & Fourie & Bothma 2012). Also censorship and data surveillance may be combined; monitoring of data recognizes the given problematic contents - and operations and methods of censorship can be targeted for these findings (Dutton et al. 2010).

Intermediaries, like ISPs (Internet Service Provicers), generally describe actors who provide connections or services on Internet (EDRI 2011). ISPs (Internet Service Providers) can control communications technically by involving in the network traffic on three levels: network, service or application and subscriber. ISPs can involve in network traffic by regulating e.g. volume and speed. On a level of services and applications, users and contents may be identified or blocked or some applications can be given higher priority than others. Subscribers can be limited e.g. by bandwidth restrictions. Overall, the approach for the control of network traffic management seems to focus on individuals as subscribers and for the utilization of technologies like identity management. (Finnie 2009)

Practically, ISPs can conduct complete monitoring of users activities on the Internet. No other online entity has such panoptical views on users' activity so deeply, because packet sniffs can store everything from e-mail messages to videos and Facebook updates (Ohm 2009).

Practically, intermediaries and service providers can monitor, regulate and control users' connections, use of services and their contents. However, the most extreme conditions are in countries which have build up centralized, state controlled Internet infrastructures, like China. This setting enables three types of restrictions: shutdowns, the deliberate slowing of connection speeds and the imposition of a nationwide system of filtering and surveillance (Kelly & Cook 2011).

Data surveillance and data collection develop forms of indirect censorship as such. Data collection for commercial purposes is very extensive and may be intertwined to the regular uses of Internet. E.g. search for a word like 'depression' on, may lead to an installation up to 223 tracking cookies and beacons on the users' computer to enable collection of data on a users and further advertising of antidepressants for them.
While practices of data surveillance do not aim at preventing people from expressing their ideas online, they develop unfavorable conditions for the freedom of expression. When the data which users provide, may be stored, accessed and utilized in other contexts later, it may have unexpected impacts or turn for or against users later. (Etzioni 2012)

The most worrying consequence in acceptance of tools of mass control is that citizens get used to it, and questions of the accountability, appropriateness and proportionality of the control mechanisms and the development of the surveillance society become gradually more strenuous. The development of control society is well described in ACLU's "Surveillance Society Clock" (ACLU 2007).

Dimensions of surveillance society are very close already even in Western democracies. A practical example of about this was given in a British television program, Erasing David. A well-known journalist, David, tries to escape the reach of all systems and two private detectives towed him. In one scene, he is on the run somewhere in Europe, and the detectives can show a detailed map of his whereabouts based on his mobile phone data. David succeeded in his escape only for a couple of days. (Erasing. 2010)