L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 202, December 9, 2002
LIVING IN INFAMY
Exclusive to TLE
There has been a hysterical cry of late for the FedGov to "do something!!" about spam. "Spam," in this case, does not refer to the canned ham and pork dish that is often a staple food in the diet of those most-impacted by the endless cycles of boom-and-bust caused by government intervention in the free market. Rather, the 21st-century definition of "spam" is junk e-mail.
I admit it: I find spam extremely annoying. In my personal mailbox, I receive something in excess of a 150 spam messages a day. These are typically advertisements for sex aids, but as the FedGov continues to blindly drive the economy into the ground, I've started to get more ads for "easy money," hair loss remedies, and methods in increase the size of my penis.
I've dealt with the problem of spam with a series of filter programs. None have been entirely successful: either the filter is too conservative and allows more spam through than I'd like or it's too restrictive and disallows valid e-mail -- often from potential business clients.
I've finally settled on a system of having the spam filter copy the mail to a file which I will review on a weekly basis, consigning the junk mail to the bit-bucket a thousand or so at a time.
As I say, it's an annoyance -- probably more so to less technically- minded individuals than myself. I've had clients repeatedly complain that they'll open an innocent-looking message in front of a child. As so many of the e-mails involve porn, they're left having to hastily close the e-mail window and hope their child didn't see its content.
Recently, Congress and the President pounded the final nail into the coffin of Constitutional America with the creation of the American KGB. This office is sometimes called the "Homeland Security Department" by those unfamiliar with the correct Russian translation of KGB.
Key to the KGB's plans to immorally and Unconstitutionally monitor the activities of every human being in America from cradle to grave is the Total Information Awareness (TIA) program. TIA is a database intended to be the "permanent record" that your grade school principle threatened you with, and is the nirvana of those seeking to create a police state of the United States.
I've previously suggested that the only moral response to both the TIA and the American KGB is non-compliance with its directives. As Gandhi noted, there are unjust laws as there are unjust men: the American KGB is a perfect such example.
In addition to the noncompliance offered by computer geeks everywhere, there are many things the average individual can do to join in non- compliance.
The first of these, strangely enough is spam.
The TIA program intends to monitor -- among a multitude of other things -- all Internet and e-mail traffic. The American KGB will collect, analyze, and store for posterity every Web site you visit, every electronic posting that you make, and every e-mail that you send or receive.
This must also include the spam.
Imagine for a moment that you're a paranoid KGB Agent with a dark soul and shriveled heart. You're bent on controlling everyone you can get your dirty little hands on. These people are communicating -- unrestricted and unmonitored! -- via e-mail. Many of these e-mails are advertisements. What if, hidden in the advertising, are ciphers or codes that would include communications you might find detrimental to your dictatorial ambitions?
Therefore, when you put in place your plans to monitor every action taken by every individual in the country, you absolutely must monitor their spam.
This turns the monitoring job into something incredibly complex, difficult, and likely impossible. The amount of computing power required to analyze the raw data being collected is enormous. Let's examine just the data of my personal e-mail (email@example.com), for example:
I send approximately a hundred e-mails in any given week. These are largely concerned with trivialities, such as the circumference of my daughters' heads (which my mother plans to use for a Christmas gift). While on a purely moral level, this is information that I've no wish for the KGB to know, it does them no real good to collect it. In fact, from the perspective of the police state, collecting it is actively harmful. In the first place, it takes CPU power to process the data. It takes storage space (both archival and current) to house the data. It takes CPU power to make a first-pass automated analysis of the data, in order to determine if it should be flagged for further study. In the event that further study is deemed necessary, it will then take human effort to analyze it.
Many pieces of trivial data will be flagged and analyzed. If one assumes, for example, that I'm a terrorist communicating in code, then the measurements of my daughters' heads might have some correlation to, say, the flight number of an aircraft I'm intending to hijack. Without human investigation, who is to say whether or not this seemingly trivial piece of data might not be terrorism in disguise?
Now take all of the trivial information that I communicate in any given week and multiply it by 280,000,000.
That represents only the OUTBOUND e-mail being tracked, stored, and analyzed. The inbound side is much more complex, largely due to the spam.
The American KGB won't have the option to be so cavalier about deleting potentially coded information. All the spam that you and I receive will need to be stored and analyzed for hidden ciphers and codes.
And what of all the dirty pictures we receive attached to e-mails? It's now possible to encode data into graphic images, residing in "unused" portions of the graphic. Where the picture that you receive looks to the naked eye as something innocuous like a family photo or naked picture attached to spam, when examined at the binary level there can be information attached.
So where I have the option to auto-delete the spam from xxx.com with the six dirty pictures attached, someone intent on analyzing terrorist information would have to sift through those pictures.
I receive about fifty dirty pictures a day that are automatically deleted by spam filters or virus software. Multiply that number by 280,000,000.
As you can see, from this perspective, it becomes clear that far from being something that the FedGov should stop, spam is in fact our friend. It is the chaff that masks our real communications from the KGB's radar. It causes the enemy to pointlessly expend time, energy, processing power, and money analyzing data that is utterly meaningless.
Far from demanding Federal action to stop spam, we should each be generating as much spam as humanly possible.
You and I can afford to delete our spam with a keystroke. The KGB can't, and this is to our advantage.
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