What would you do if you were a spook?

The other night I started thinking about what I would do if I had full access to lots of other people's communications. I mean, if I had a million personal lines of communication at my hands and wanted to be as nefarious as it gets.

If you're a spook with that kind of ability, you certainly won't want anybody to know the deck you're given. Harassing a single troublemaker amidst the many ain't gonna buy you anything nice. So given largesse in access, you might not be properly incentivized to report small infractions at all. This dynamic is also borne out in most of the news that comes out of the intelligence community and even the much smaller, private, citizen watch-groups: everybody goes for the big fish first.

At the same time, the real threat nowadays lives amongst the small fish, and there's very little incentive to catch those. This is precisely why 9/11 became possible, and why it remains possible even today.

So how about going for the big fish with intelligence, and decapitating the threat before it bears fruit in the first place? Well, in this case you could divide the problem in two. The small scale, concerned citizen-like circuits probably care enough to report the thing if they see it. Yet they rarely see it because they don't have the access to the overall spook-datafeed.

The larger operatives, they do have the access, but then, they actually have a really good motive, and the means, to turn any such operator to their benefit. Which then adds to the total intelligence load against the general public. The same general argument works regardless of whether the spook is the NSA/CIA/FBI/military-industrial complex (hate that word with its political leanings btw), or if it's your local, friendly Walmart or McFranchise (and I'm saying that as a hardcore libertarian as well).

In the information market it seems that the usual rules, norms and intuitions cease to hold. For the longest time I thought that market too, at least basically, worked the same as the rest of them. Evenwhile I also told other people about the benefits of not treating copyright the same way ownership is being. And while other people like the late cypherpunks warned me about the paradigm shift that is coming. But it still took me some time to understand how fundamentally different and counterintuitive an information economy can actually be.

So my message? Be forewarned. Data don't work as you think it would. Not societally. Not psychologically. The economics was just the first warning sign, and even that is bound to go on its head. Beware of data.