We are under Surveillance 24/7 : Interview with Naomi Brockwell ③

Naomi Brockwell is an award-winning producer who hosts some of the largest blockchain and economics conferences around the world. She interviews the biggest names in Tech, Business, and Politics and is a regular on US national television discussing blockchain technology and current events.

Naomi Brockwell

Interview Date : 20th May 2020

Snowden My Hero

I am such a fan of Edward Snowden that I have his book and posters in my room. He did a tremendous service to society by revealing illegal activity carried out by the government. Since the 2013 revelations, several court cases has since found organizations like the NSA to be guilty of illegal surveillance. We can’t hold these organizations accountable if we don’t know what’s going on.

I think that Edward Snowden is a hero. I think that he made a really difficult decision and sacrificed a huge amount to give information to the world, but many people are still so complacent about surveillance, and it’s heading us as a society down a dark path. Luckily many tech companies are picking up the slack. Even companies that are considered the opposite of privacy-friendly. Before the Snowden revelations, a very small fraction of internet traffic was encrypted, but afterwards companies like Google and Apple took the lead to make encryption a standard. Snowden’s revelations increased the security of society as a whole even if not everyone took action, because the services that many people use took action on their behalf. Many tech companies responded saying “let’s start to build technology that will give people back their privacy”, but to be honest we have a very long way to go, and things like the EARN IT bill that threatens encryption make it harder and harder for companies to protect their users’ privacy.

Patriot Act Revised for Worse?

In America, the fourth amendment was created to protect innocent people from unreasonable searches. Law enforcement had to have a warrant to specify what you were suspected of, and what they hoped to find.

However, for some reason the 4th amendment hasn’t transferred over into our digital lives. Devices are seized all the time, all internet traffic is monitored. The surveillance ability of the US Government was greatly enhanced with The Patriot Act, that initially was an emergency measure against terrorism. But that emergency seemed to never end, and now surveillance has become normalized. Furthermore the powers of The Patriot Act were even increased recently, and the FBI given the ability to seize everyone’s search engine results without a warrant. They can do a drag-net result as long as they can say that “it helps us with the investigation”. There is no judge involved, so who is to say whether it helped with an investigation or not? This power gives the AG a blank check to search through people’s data. It is unprecedented spying capability and I think that is terrifying.

We are under Surveillance 24/7

Snowden gave up his life for us. He had a really nice life in Hawaii with his girlfriend, earning a lot of money, and he had the world’s information at his fingertips. However, he gave it all up because he thought that letting the world know about what was going on was more important than his own personal comfort. Unfortunately, I feel like people still haven’t grasped exactly what’s going on at the moment. Everything we do online is stored forever in a database, that is searchable by governments and anyone else who can access this information. The NSA’s prime goal is permanent data collection, and total surveillance. I’m not sure whether we have the ability to change the mind of politically powerful power that they shouldn’t be collecting this data. So instead, I hope that technology continues to improve our privacy, to give us back sovereignty as individuals.

Most Popular Youtube Video

My biggest video is one discussing the privacy of our digital devices. It was inspired by a Snowden tweet:

“I wouldn’t use Wi-Fi at home, because global maps of every wireless access point’s unique ID—including yours—are free and constantly updated. I would use ethernet; yes, ethernet on a phone.”

It’s amazing how little people know about the devices they use, how much information they’re giving away when they use them, and how vulnerable this makes us.

I didn’t know much about how Wi-Fi worked before I made this video, but it’s certainly taught me to be a lot more careful with what data I’m publicly transmitting. And many people seem to have found it useful.

WiGLe.net Search Yourself

There are websites like WiGLE.net whose primary purpose is to aggregate data that is already publicly available so that people realize how much data is leaked from their phones every time you connect to Wi-Fi, for example. And WiGLE.net is just the tip of the iceberg: companies like google and Facebook are collecting much more data. But it’s data that allows you to track people, find out where people live, what conferences they attend, what their schedule is. We are literally carrying a tracking device everywhere we go, and people should be mindful of that.

Wi-Fi Reveals Your Location

Take Wi-Fi probe requests, for example. If your Wi-Fi is turned on, your phone is basically shouting out every few seconds “are any networks I’ve previously connected to in range?” First of all, this is a fingerprinting tool. The list of Wi-Fi networks you’ve connected to in the past (“Bill’s office”, “work001”, “Jenny’s iphone”, “Blockchain2020Conf”…) is likely so unique that no other person in the world has that exact same list. It’s surprisingly easy to use a receiver to scan for these Wi-Fi probe requests, and if you find someone’s unique combination, you can tell whether they’re at home, inside certain buildings, and use it to track activity. But as well as shouting out all the previously connected networks, your phone is also noting which other Wi-Fi networks are in range. If you are in range of a specific set of networks, it’s very easy to pinpoint your exact location. This is why location services on your phone request that you enable Wi-Fi for better accuracy.

As I learn more about how devices weaken our privacy, I try to share this information with others so that we can all make more educated choices in our lives.

Encourage People to be Autodidacts

I don’t like a world where a select few get to decide what everyone gets taught. In a centralized system like that it’s very easy to brainwash an entire population, and we’ve seen over and over again throughout history how propaganda in many totalitarian societies has completely warped its citizens’ view of the world. When I studied economics at college I never even heard of the Chicago school of thought, or the Austrian school of thought. Economics was presented to me as a single entity that everyone agreed upon, but it was only years later that I discovered that the school of thought I was being taught was Keynesian, and what I’ve now come to believe are an incredibly destructive set of ideas.

It wasn’t until I moved to America that I started reading a lot of Austrian economics books, attend economics conferences, seek out the tutelage of respected people thought I’d learnt about through my reading, and now the study of economics is a very important part of my life. I encourage everyone not to rely on what they learn in school, but to seek further and do their own research. Find subjects that excite them, and really delve into understanding them from as many points of view as possible. Be autodidacts and teach yourself these topics.

What is Money?

I first became interested in monetary policy after reading Murray N. Rothbard’s What Has Government Done to Our Money. Until that point, I didn’t know what the federal reserve was, how money worked, or what “value” even meant. I dove right into the subject, read many other books on the subject like George Selgin’s Good Money. I learnt about the history of money in society, early forms of money, the shift away from the gold standard which allows governments to inflate their money supply, the role of the FED. We have this incredibly powerful institution at the center of our lives, and most people don’t know anything out it. That should be a red flag. Having a grasp of what value and money are is tremendously important to our day to day lives, and understanding that value is subjective is crucial.

Duty to Share Information

If we want Bitcoin to be popularized, we have to learn to connect with people, and understand what’s important to them. It’s no good trying to force your own value system on someone, so that they might then realize why something like cryptocurrency is important. Instead recognize that people have their own value systems: understand how crypto might benefit something that they already find important. You’re going to have a much easier time connecting with people this way, and you bypass the tension that comes from clashing value systems. Find out where you already agree with others, and focus on that. Many people gravitate towards the blockchain industry because they are interested in math, cryptography, or technology, but there are many people who don’t naturally gravitate to those topics that we can still reach out to. Someone is interested in humanitarian work and helpful the unbanked people of the world? Cryptocurrency might interest them on those terms. Someone is an artist who wants to learn how to earn money sharing their creations? There are many platforms that allow people to earn money in cryptocurrency that they might find interesting. Want to save money on credit card fees for your business? Accepting cryptocurrency might be able to help.

Every individual brings their own perspective to this industry, and I think the more perspectives the better. The more we can learn about what others value and what might help them, the more chance we have at finding ways for this technology to benefit everyone. It’s our duty to put this powerful technology in the hands of as many people as possible.

Interviewer , Editor : Lina Kamada



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