Big Brother - how the profit system abuses technology and how it could be used

10 June 2013

So, the newspapers have now leaked details about a gigantic eavesdropping programme called Prism which is run by the American NSA (National Security Agency). In fact, this programme appears to involve an elaborate conspiracy, in which big companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, YouTube, Skype and, probably many more - the same ones which swear that they will keep all your data "safe" forever - have been giving free access to this data to US security agencies.

What's more, GCHQ, Britain's own electronic listening centre at Cheltenham, is said to have made much use of the Prism programme, to avoid the troublesome "red tape" of having to get a court order!

The big ears of British capital

William Hague's denial of GCHQ's involvement sounds all the more hollow after he declared in a BBC interview that, since he signs wiretapping authorisations every day for GCHQ, he should know how the listening centre operates - well yes, it operates every day! Britain's secret services are obviously just as busy spying on us as their US counterparts.

But should this come as a surprise? It wasn't for nothing that GCHQ's new headquarters was the second largest public sector project in Europe, when it was built in 2003. How many tens of thousands of us are being watched from behind its walls? How much of our private data - what we say and write, and to whom, our banking, our tax, our health and employment records, etc.. - is being crunched there, analysed, searched, for any "suspicious traces" and stored for future possible use - against us?

Of course, successive governments have always claimed that the systematic gathering of data by the security services was meant to "protect" us. But didn't they claim that killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan was also meant to "protect" us? And has it?

In fact, the "war on terrorism" unleashed by Bush and Blair, and continued ever since, was, just as the Cold War before, a device used by Western states to impose their order - the order of the rich multinational companies - over the world. It was to protect their interests, never to protect ours.

This constant gathering of our data, involving thousands of security officials and sophisticated equipment, is just another weapon in the hands of the capitalist class - designed to be used if and when it is needed, to protect its own class interests. And let's make no mistake, it's already used, at every level. This week's Panorama programme - "Blacklist Britain" - which showed how thousands of construction workers have been blacklisted by big companies over the years, is just one example of this.

Technology, yes! Private profit, no!

This is yet another way in which private profit imposes an intolerable burden on society.

Science and technology have made huge progress. Robots can now do many jobs far better and faster than any human hand - increasing enormously the productivity and quality of human labour. But has this been used to improve conditions, cut hours and increase wages? No, just to boost dividends by cutting our numbers and making the remaining workers work even harder. Meanwhile, exhausting tasks which could be mechanised are done by hand, like street cleaning - because mechanisation wouldn't be "profitable"!

And what about the so-called "internet revolution"? It's certainly a huge bonanza for companies which can push their advertisements onto our phones and computers whether we like it or not! By the same token, it's an unprecedented device for the repressive apparatus of the state to keep all of us under its Big Brother eye, more closely than ever before - to protect the capitalists' stranglehold over society against us.

Yet if it wasn't for the profit system, technology and science could revolutionise our lives. It could revolutionise our working conditions by cutting the hours we waste at work in favour of other activities which make life worth it - the arts, learning, reading, social relationships, etc.., It could revolutionise the way all sorts of problems which plague the world are approached - from the shortage of housing here, to the shortage of food and water elsewhere. And it could revolutionise the relationships between populations, destroying once and for all these antiquated "national borders" and make it possible for all of us to live together and share the wealth of our cultures, traditions and languages.

But for such a revolution to take place, another one will need to take place first - a revolution in which the working class majority rises to free society of the straitjacket of private profit.