From surveillance, privacy and biometrics to human rights, the government, and the criminal justice system, Silkie Carlo (Director of Big Brother Watch) takes us on an shocking and illuminating journey through some of the ways in which technology is shaping our public and private lives.
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Before joining Big Brother Watch, Silkie was the Senior Advocacy Officer at Liberty where she led a programme on Technology and Human Rights and launched a legal challenge to the Investigatory Powers Act. She previously worked for Edward Snowden’s official defence fund and whistleblowers at risk.
She is a passionate campaigner for the protection of liberties, particularly in the context of new and emerging technologies, and has worked to uphold rights in the fields of state surveillance, policing technologies, big data, artificial intelligence and free expression online.
Silkie is also an information security trainer and organises Cryptoparty London. She is the co-author of Information Security for Journalists.
1. What’s your greatest concern for the future?
To be honest with you, I’m deeply concerned about our future. I think, on surveillance in particular, if we don’t resist suspicionless surveillance attempts by current governments, whether that is in the form of mass surveillance by the security and intelligence agencies or whether it’s technologies like automated facial recognition on our streets – these are future concerns but they’re present concerns because they’re happening now.
So if these technologies are allowed to continue and to be rolled out, then I would argue that we will no longer be a free society, we will be a significantly controlled, monitored, watched, quantified, tracked society and it will not only limit our freedom in a physical sense and in the way that we engage with the state but internally, in each of us, what it means to be a human, what it feels like to be free will be damaged if we don’t protect privacy today then we won’t have that aspect of our humanity for future generations.
2. What’s your greatest hope?
I really hope that the action that we’re seeing being taken now is representative of some kind of tension point and a teething issue that society had getting to grips with new technologies.
I hope that we can look back in 10, 15 years and say, gosh, I remember when all of those technologies were rolled out and we had to spend five years taking the government to court and now we live in, yes, a technologically advanced but a freer, happier, more creative society.
I really, really hope that that’s the case – we can only do that with public support and that’s how we did our current legal challenge. So fingers crossed.
3. What single action can we take right now?
If there were just one thing, it might be just to download the Signal app on your phone because it’s a great app that’s totally free – and free as in free of cost and it’s a free software. It enables people to send messages to each other without being spied on, more so than Whatsapp.
Signal doesn’t collect metadata as well, so it doesn’t collect logs of how often you talk to family, partner, friends or whatever. It’s the most private piece of daily usable software that’s out there. And I think it’s by taking action and starting to reclaim privacy in our everyday life that we can cling onto the importance of privacy. So that would be, probably, my most important thing.
But I think there are other things; we train people in how and why to use Signal, email encryption, a whole range of privacy technologies at our monthly crypto parties in London. And of course, I would say, follow Big Brother Watch’s work and support us because we’re cheerleaders for privacy in a digital age and we really rely on public support to do our important work.
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Written, recorded & produced by Nathalie Nahai © 2018.