Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Who is Being Brainwashed?

Regarding recent articles on government "mind control" in The Washington Post and on Wired:

An important area of operation for contemporary intelligence gathering agencies is data aggregation: collecting information from multiple sources and creating meaningful connections between these disparate sources of information. Increasingly, this is being carried out by government agencies with the cooperation or coercion of private infrastructure. The intrusion of military intelligence operations into the private sector is especially troubling because it represents the ability, facilitated by the Web, to not only appropriate private citizens and organizations into a federal intelligence infrastructure, but also to manipulate these individuals and organizations for obscure motives (given our present state of government secrecy).

Consider the potential of combining the functionality of MySpace with that of Google, if the actions of users are mapped to a set of IP addresses or a MAC address:

The value of MySpace for intelligence purposes extends beyond the content of individual postings or personal data stored in a user’s profile. Every time a MySpace user does or does not click on a MySpace porn bot's solicitation, the result of that user’s decision is recorded. The way in which users respond to eachother’s social cues, the way blog posts are categorized, and the frequency or methodology with which one seeks to extend one’s social cluster are not only recorded, but furthermore represent a psychological model of that individual user.

Google also keeps track of user behavior. This data, which is recorded for advertising purposes, can be used to reveal word-by-word accounts of how users view language, associate specific terms, and, in a sense, what users are thinking about.

If intelligence agencies have access to user logs for both MySpace and Google, they have, on the one hand, a psychological model to describe an individual, and on the other hand, a semantic database to explain that individual's decision-making. This information could be combined to not only predict how individuals will respond to various stimuli, but to provide stimuli whereby certain behaviors are likely to be provoked. Such a semantic-behavior model could be tested by inserting specific search results into a list returned by Google and recording if and how a user responds.

Other, more direct methods of manipulating individuals have been investigated. Several recent patents issued to Hendricus Loos discuss a variety of ways in which, for example, the electromagnetic radiation emitted by cathode ray tube monitors can be used to manipulate an individual’s central nervous system.

Beyond the potential for illegal government experimentation or sadistic behavior on the part of rogue contractors, the proliferation of these technologies and the diffusion of these abilities into private hands will present to law enforcement a new and serious challenge. Frightened governments, faced with a problem which they have no idea how to detect or mitigate, may be part of the reason why people complaining of “mind control” are actively marginalized.

It would seem that governments concerned with serving the interests of their citizens would want to halt such research, assess the state of things, and begin to make disclosures. How can citizens ensure that their interests are being served if they cannot discuss the actions of their own government?

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