Friday, March 24Welcome

Year of Autocratic Tech Trends

From murder machines to looming abortion surveillance networks, the tech stories we covered in 2022 were enough to make even the most seasoned sci-fi writers make money.Here are some of our top hits :

Rise of killer robots

Forget the machine killers of Fantasyland’s Westworld. Real lethal robots are now invading war zones and police stations around the world.

Coda’s Ilya Gridneff explores the deployment of a new generation of autonomous machines on the Ukrainian battlefield. Navy drones and unmanned ground vehicles with machine guns are “ready to upend modern warfare,” writes Grinev. The emergence of these “killer robot” devices raises all sorts of frightening questions about the blurred boundaries between machines and humans, and the existential risks of delegating too much control from the latter to the former. .

They also made it to California. A lawmaker in San Francisco, one of several U.S. cities to step up police surveillance in response to crime concerns, recently announced steps to allow police to use robots to kill. After almost approving it, I faced serious backlash. The neighboring city of Oakland also considered (and then scrapped) plans to equip police robots with guns.

American post-abortion surveillance matrix

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark case that established the constitutional right to abortion, privacy experts were quick to point out the dangers of judgment in the digital age. As we wrote after the draft opinion was leaked in May, people’s search histories, text messages, location data, social media activity, purchase records, and reproductive health phone app use are all linked to people seeking action. may be used as evidence in a lawsuit against you in states where the procedure is illegal.

“As soon as abortion is criminalized, any kind of digital trail that people leave online at any stage of their journey could become evidence that could be used against them…and That’s not to mention the incredibly messy world of questions that can be posed for speeches on social media platforms, where companies are already suppressing content about abortion and abortion pills. is accused of

spy in your pocket

You can’t talk about authoritarian tech trends without mentioning spyware. This technology is in global demand by governments of all kinds. This topic is covered in detail in the Authoritarian Tech newsletter. If you haven’t subscribed yet, please subscribe. —and updates come so quickly that they’re hard to track. is suing NSO in court for creating software that infected reporters’ phones and tracked their every move.

For journalists targeted by spyware, the personal and professional harm can be severe and long-lasting. This summer, we covered the story of a Togolese reporter who appeared on a leaked list of her 50,000 phone numbers that his NSO client put under surveillance. A year after his exposure, he continues to be plagued by spyware infections.

Designing the Perfect Society – Through Mass Surveillance

The scope of mass surveillance in China is so extensive that it is difficult to truly grasp its scope. Coda reporter Liam Scott told Wall Street Journal journalists Liza Lin and Josh Chin , provided a primer when I interviewed them about their recent book Surveillance State: Inside China’s Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control. As an instrument of authoritarian social control.

The scale of surveillance in Xinjiang, where the government has been accused of carrying out genocide against Uyghur Muslims, is “genuinely totalitarian” and aims to completely “reshape” the individuals it targets. reporter Chin explained. This includes biometric data collection systems, facial recognition technology, the so-called “Big Brother” program, and advanced artificial intelligence that authorities have imposed on the population to exercise “total control.” Outside Xinjiang, residents face extreme scrutiny under Beijing’s strict ‘zero Covid’ policy, which reporter Isobel Cockerell examines in detail in her excellent Infodemic newsletter .

But the building blocks of the surveillance nightmare unleashed in Xinjiang and elsewhere can be found in the United States, home to companies whose technology the Chinese government was happy to provide as it built the Panopticon. These tech companies “have nurtured China’s surveillance state from its earliest days in the early 2000s and continue to nurture it with capital and building blocks,” Chin explained. He believes China’s ultimate goal with this technology is to build a “perfectly engineered” society. If it’s not prey to a dystopian nightmare, we don’t know what it is.

As we struggle to find a silver lining in all of this, it may be time to take a step back and rethink our tried-and-true methods of communication. Till printing and posting on Samizdart Network, our story in 2022 showed the enduring power of pen and paper. Enjoy reading.

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