Originally published: December 21, 2011
Last updated: December 23, 2011 - 12:47am
In Gary Shteyngart's 2010 novel Super Sad True Love Story, ordinary Americans are glued to superpowered iPhone-like devices while authority figures monitor their every move. Two newly released research papers on the Internet's future, it seems, prove the author did a good job of predicting things.
One Pew study has found that text messaging is growing more quickly than anyone has imagined, while a new Brookings paper is predicting cheap and total monitoring of all electronic communications by authoritarian governments in the next few years. First, the dystopian future. John Villasenor of UCLA conducted research for the Brookings Institution that paints a depressing picture of where Internet monitoring is headed. In the paper, Recording Everything: Digital Storage As An Enabler Of Authoritarian Governments, Villasenor has uncovered convincing evidence that repressive regimes worldwide will soon be able to cheaply monitor all voice and data communications in their country. According to Villasenor, “For the first time ever, it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders--every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner.” The same technological advances that enable amazing consumer gadgets like iPhones also help fuel ominous government surveillance projects.