Even Julian Assange underestimates how great a 'surveillance machine' the mobile net is

Government decisions are more closed than ever while privacy for individuals has evaporated, he charges

To geeks with any amount of experience with new technology, it's refreshing to see even technology that's not so new do what it's supposed to do without requiring too much extra babysitting from the techs involved.

Seeing one that fulfills its primary function and offers a complete, second set of unintended capabilities is almost a miracle.

Which is why the first time I read this headline I thought the speaker was expressing a sense of wonder, not justifiable paranoia.

Unfortunately the speaker was WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange who was speaking via video conference from the luxurious manor in which he endures his house arrest to the News World Summit in Hong Kong (which is now owned by China, which insists "news" is what the government says it is, filters content from the whole world to keep the bits it dislikes out of China and secretly watches its citizens to try to make sure they don't have a thought out of line.

The Internet has become "the most significant surveillance machine that we have ever seen," Assange said in response to questions after his talk, in which he charged the U.S. government had been casting aspersions on his reputation and his status as a muck-raking journalist.

[The Internet age] "is not an age of transparency at all…the amount of secret information is more than ever before," Assange said.

One problem is the amount of data governments collect on citizens. A larger one is the additional controls government agencies put on both confidential documents and the behavior of their employees to keep any of the decisions, discussions or analyses about controversial topics from getting out unless their release would serve the government officials who control them.

"I see that really is our big battle," Assange said. "The technology gives and the technology takes away."

As Assange talked, according to wire service AFP, he held up a hand-written sign from an aide telling him to wrap up the session or he would be late for a regular appointment with police monitoring his house arrest and progress of the extradition hearings that might see him shipped from England to Sweden to face sexual assault charges.

Assange, who claims the charges against him and much of his treatment by the UK and U.S. governments are the result of a smear campaign launched by officials angry about WikiLeaks' habit of publishing embarrassing internal documents, was barely touching the surface of the capabilities of the surveillance machine.

He spoke mainly about the lack of privacy and lack of anonymity in search, social networking and other well-known access points to an end user's most private thoughts.

He almost ignored the even more dire threat from the same sources plus a dozen others when they are all ported onto smart phones whose data is unencrypted, communications are overly simple and whose apps routinely take on far more comprehensive access rights than users choose to give them, and make the data they collect available to any app or third party willing to make the effort to get it.

Surveillance of a user's activity online is bad enough; a surveillance machine users are willing to buy, support, carry with them and manually add sensitive data to be misappropriated is a whole 'nother can of leaks.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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