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Conspiracy Theories: Living Scared of the Network


I begin today with a query - How paranoid should we be about the internet and social networks? To answer that question we must know about the existence of “Echelon”. So, what is “Echelon”?

ECHELON refers to a secret government code name, a surveillance program (signals intelligence / SIGINT collection and analysis network) operated by the US with the aid of four other signatory nations to the UKUSA Security Agreement [1]. These five nations, namely Australia, Canada, New Zealand , the United Kingdom, and the United States, are collectively known as the Five Eyes.

Britain's Guardian newspaper perceived the capabilities of the ECHELON system as follows:

“A global network of electronic spy stations that can eavesdrop on telephones, faxes and computers. It can even track bank accounts. This information is stored in Echelon computers, which can keep millions of records on individuals." For official reasons, Echelon doesn’t exist.

We have heard about Echelon in multiple TV Shows and movies; it is presented as a program designed to actively track phone calls, web conversations, data, photos, videos and streamed media. By perceiving words that may sound threatening to society, the government takes the liberty of hacking our computers, making use of our webcams and even intervening in our calls. I ask however, is this just science fiction or is it in fact a reality?

Unfortunately the truth lies somewhere between the two. I expect the majority of those reading this will have heard about the recent scandal involving a company that manufactured Smart TVs; these TVs came with integrated webcams, some of which apparently spied on users through this device. The paranoia is now so widespread that covering webcam lenses has become a common recommendation.

According to many, the internet and networks may well become what George Orwell dubbed in his famous novel “1984” as “The big brother”. Big Brother is a fictional character, the leader of a totalitarian state. Orwell describes in his novel that every citizen is under constant surveillance by the authorities, and are constantly reminded of this fact by the repetition of the slogan “Big Brother is watching you”.

However despite these apprehensions I would adamantly say that we should not live in fear of these networks; they depend on us, we do not depend on them. The decision is ours to exist beyond this state of constant observation, instead observing the behaviour of the system to our benefit. If we can rationalise our behaviour towards this so-called “big brother”, we will make him our friend, or even our assistant, rather than our adversary. In the end that is the idea behind these networks, to help the world to unify, to achieve a joint discourse. Today, the internet is a nation where we live together and interact, a melting pot of cultures where we laugh, we cry, we love, we hate, and above all we live.

In conclusion and to be clear, we must use these networks and relate through them but not trust to them our lives. Today we worry about the behaviour between human beings; tomorrow it may well be what is seen by many as the emerging threat of A.I. (Artificial intelligence). Overall, rationality should be our guide.


Guest Post by Luis Del Prado

Luis is a scriptwriter, teacher and journalist for newspapers and magazines in Lima.

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Conspiracy Theories: Living Scared of the Network Reviewed by Sam Bonson on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 Rating: 5
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