China Data collection and surveillance companies Privacy Propaganda Social media Surveillance state

The dangers of Chinese-owned TikTok, whose algorithms favor Chinese propaganda views on Russian war against Ukraine; Many if not most users get their news from the Tik-Tok feed


Ezra Klein, “TikTok May Be More Dangerous Than It Looks,” New York Times, May 8, 2022.

Ezra Kein, in an opinion piece in the New York Times, observes that social media platforms largely control what we collectively pay attention to.

He draws attention to the dangers posed by TikTok, a Chinese owned company subject to the dictates of the Chinese Communist Party, and the ways its algorithms may be manipulated to further Chinese propanda goals or to sow division among American users.

Significantly, China does allow its citizens to access the Western version of TikTok.

Klein notes that currently Tik-Tok algorithms strongly favor Chinese propaganda views on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

The Chinese have been working on mind-control techniques for many decades, as exemplified in the classic 1951 movie The Manchurian Candidate.

Klein urges the Obama administration to finish the job the Trump administration began, forcing a planned sale of the company in the U.S. That sale was canceled after Joe Buden won the 2020 election.

Klein’s column points out just one more way the consciousness of the Eighteenth Century mind is under attack.

Spirit of Voltaire

Data collection and surveillance companies Privacy Reading and Thinking Surveillance state

Anti-trog TLS book review of “The Every” by Dave Eggers shockingly misses the point


Beejay Silcox, “Book of numbers; Dave Eggers’s satire: a data dystopia, TLS, Novemer 19, 2021.

The one thing you can say with high assurance about Beejay Silcox, after reading his review of The Every by Dave Eggrs, is that he is not a “trog”.

Eggers explains (at p. 25):

Trog was a term with subjective connotations.Originally considered a slur against tech skeptics, those same skeptics reclaimed the word and wore it proudly, and soon it was applied by all sides to anything resistant to tech takeover.

The etymology of the term is not explained, but it dies not take a giant leap of genius to see that it is derived from “troglodyte”–which is defined as:

WordReference Random House Learner’s Dictionary of American English © 2022
trog•lo•dyte /ˈtrɑgləˌdaɪt/
1. (Anthropology) person of prehistoric times who lived in a cave.
2. a person of primitive or brutal character.
3, an extremely old-fashioned or conservative person.

Silcox is clearly an anti-trog. It is rather shameful that the renowned Times Literary Supplement would assign an anti-trog to review Eggers’ book. Yet it is absolutely shocking that the editors at TLS allowed a review to be published that completely missed the main point of the book being reviewed, and in fact got it completely backwards.

Silcox in his review wrote the following:

Eggers seems to think algorithms are a way to keep people’s personalities consistent – like a coded electric fence rather than a radicalizing rabbit-hole – and that to vanquish anonymity is somehow to vanquish online cruelty.

On the other hand, Silcox’s review does a magnificent job of driving home how people are skimming on their electronic devices without understanding what they read, how impervious anti-trogs are to criticisms that pierce their paradigm, and how many are utterly incapable of appreciating parody and satire.

TLS owes its readers an apology, and it owes Eggers a serious book review by someone with no obvious bias.

Data collection and surveillance companies Privacy Surveillance companies Surveillance state

The dystopian future is arriving, in little waves

Singapore is now using robots to monitor social behavior.

The dystopian surveillance state has arrived. Or, more accurately, it is arriving, in little waves. Just because the waves have not hit our shores does not mean that a tsunami is not coming our way which could sweep away the blessings of democracy and freedom in its swirling waters.

Do we have the power to avert it, or to extend the metaphor to give warning and to seek higher ground?

Advances in unregulated technology are sweeping us away. With weak and dysfunctional political systems, can we find a way to regulate the most pernicious developments in and uses of technology?

The jury is not yet in. But it is currently deliberating.


Agence France-Presse,”Singapore–‘Dystopian world’: Singapore patrol robots stoke fears of surveillance state; Trial of robots to police ‘undesirable’ behaviour such as smoking or breaching social-distancing rules,” The Guardian, October 6, 2021 (06.05 BST).

The Spirit of Voltaire

da Data collection and surveillance companies Privacy Sea of Irrationality Social media Surveillance companies Surveillance state

Beyond Orwellian: Facebook glasses that record video and sound

Updated September 16, 2021


1) Chris Velazco, “Facebook’s ‘smart’ glasses put cameras on your face. Everyone around you should be aware; These glasses are meant to create content, but they raise privacy concerns,” Washington Post, September 9, 2021 (12:00 p.m. EDT).

2) Farhad Manjoo, “Apple and Facebook Are Coming for Your Face Next,” Washington Post, September 16, 2021.

The relentless advance of technology is taking us far beond George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and now threatens to obliterate all traces of our historical consciousness and the core values of our civilization.

A friend remarked yesterday, “With Facebook, human consciousness and rational argument are over.”

The Greeks worried that demogogues would mobilize  the people to overthrow democratic institutions and establish dictatorships or “tyrannies”.

They could not imagine, however, that tyrannies might be ushered in by relentless advances in science and technology, and that in the 21st century the modern tyrants would be those who gained control of companies that mastered the collection and control of information, and that even these modern tyrants would be subject to forces they had unleashed but could not control.

Allowed to grow and prosper outside the realm of government regulation, giant companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon grew and acquired increasing political influence over the government.

One can easily imagine the kind of totalitarian government which technology could make possible. One look no farther than China to see how far this process has already advanced.

In the 2006 German film Das Leben der Anderen (“The Life of Others”), one can already see the stultifying effect of the use of (primitive) technology to monitor the lives of independent-minded people, much less opponents of an authoritarian regime. The film traces the kife of a writer and his girlfriend in East Berlin from 1984-1991.

The film is important viewing because unlike Nineteen Eighty-Four, it is based on observed reality.

30 years of technological advances have made even this chilling film seem anachronistic.

With new tools such as the Pegasus software, which has enabled individuals and states to tap into the phones of anyone, even foreign heads of state, massive invasions of privacy by e.g., Google maps, have become routine and are routinely accepted by the population.


1) Rebecca Klapper, “Israel Promises to Investigate Group Accused of Selling Pegasus Spyware to Governments,” NEWSWEEK, September 1, 2021.

Google’s geo-tracking through cell phone records now provides law enforcement (with a warrant))–and who knows who else–detailed information on individuals’ movements at every hour of night and day.

2) Associated Press, “Google records your location even when you tell it not to; Some services on Android and iPhone automatically store your movements even after you pause the ‘location history’ setting,” The Guardian, August 13, 2018
(19.30 BST).

3) Tony Webster, “How did the police know you were near a crime scene? Google told them,” MPR News, February 7, 2019 (9:10 p.m.).

4) Jana Winter, “HOW LAW ENFORCEMENT CAN USE GOOGLE TIMELINE TO TRACK YOUR EVERY MOVE; The recent expansion of Google’s Timeline feature can provide investigators unprecedented access to users’ location history data, allowing them in many cases to track a person’s every move over the course of years,” The Intercept, November 6, 2015(6:53 a.m.).

This situation has developed because the big information collection companies have acquired great political clout in Washington.

The future of privacy in the United States now depends on whether citizens and their representatives in Congress are able to impose strong government regulations on these companies. This may or may not be possible.

The ultimate safeguard of privacy in the 21st century may be the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union. The Commission, particularly with its 2016 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), has so far proven to be much more resistent to the political influences of the big data collection companies than has the government of the United States.

The evolution of technology is advancing at a breakneck pace, while the political power of companies like Google and Facebook continues to grow along with their astronomical earnings.

To understand the interplay of the forces at work, we may gain some insight from fiction, particularly Dave Eggers’ 2014 novel, The Circle. However, a lot has changed since 2014. We can look forward to Eggers’ current understanding of the interplay of these forces in his forthcoming novel, The Every, scheduled for release on November 16, 2021.

One can only hope that electronic and other mechanisms for surveillance self-defense will be developed and marketed in easy-to-use form. The ptoblem here is that Google, Facebook, Amazon and other data collection companies have so much cash that they can buy out any  company that might pose a threat to their surveillance-based business model.

About the only hope for developing mechanisms of  self-defense against surveillance companies and the surveillance state (e.g., China) would be for a wealthy millionaire or billionaire to fund a private company to develop and market such mechanisms.

The Spirit of Voltaire