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Internet Freedom vs NSA Dragnet

Have you ever wondered how a map would look like if it showed Internet freedom versus the NSA dragnet recently revealed by Edward Snowden? Well, it would look like the following map.  Click to have a look first and then come back to this post.

Facebook-Map - adjusted for population density (click to enlarge)

Facebook-Map – adjusted for population density (click to enlarge)

It shows Facebook users versus regional population density. In black are users who use Facebook while red users do not.

For a moment, think Facebook in the map represents the combination of Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and other Internet service companies based out of the U.S.. Recall former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech about Internet Freedom? According to her, those users colored in black has freedom. According to her, the more black the better.

Now, think about the colors with PRISM in mind. And, don’t forget, Google, Facebook, and etc colludes with programs such as PRISM by making their user’s email and activities readily available. Of course, black then represents NSA dragnet while red actually represents freedom. This is why Edward Snowden is so quickly labeled a ‘traitor’ in the United States, because his revelations, while breaking American law, completely undermined speeches like Clinton’s, including President Obama’s lip-service to the same. Our world can be so backwards, and it’s amazingly thinly veiled, isn’t it?

With NSA hacking into the red (Pacnet, Asia’s backbone, and likely other backbones of the global Internet), much of the red is already black isn’t it? Some may genuinely believe this dragnet is actually benign and a force for good. Perhaps. However, if they do, I ask that they do this simple experiment: imagine the red countries now doing NSA’s PRISM-scale spying on the black colored citizens.

If the red spied on the black at the NSA scale, what then should the recourse be? What do we do about true Internet freedom? One thing for sure, I doubt an Internet “freedom” speech will be given any time soon.

  1. July 5th, 2013 at 23:39 | #1

    I should give Allen credit for giving me idea about finding such a map to give poignancy to this thought I had for a while.

  2. July 6th, 2013 at 14:05 | #2

    The image that was burned into my head was this one.

    So many talks in the last 2-3 years have started with this image as the symbol of the free internet – of people spontaneously and freely connecting with each other. The talks invariably go to the “dark” parts of the world, where people live in slavery and darkness.

    The pushback from China has always been, the reason we don’t allow so-called “free” internet companies from operating in China is that you don’t respect our laws, our values, and our national security concerns. That always gets a snicker from the West – as a red herring from the true topic at question – freedom.

    Now we see, the Chinese may be right after all. IT’s not about freedom per se, it’s about whose rights, concerns, values – you know, the things that are presumed before freedom is defined – get respected. You see, freedom per se must necessarily follow from a specific set of values, rights, and concerns. There is no absolute freedom per se – unless people live in silos without interaction with everyone else. Facebook, google, twitter, and all the other internet stewarts that are gateway of information in the West are never about freedom per se, they are about upholding the politics as is defined by, as is presumed by, as is convenient for the West per se. There has never been such thing as a free internet. It’s hogwash all along.

  3. Zack
    July 7th, 2013 at 01:46 | #3

    for all the accusations of Huawei and ZTE having close affiliations with the Chinese government, the US critics certainly have seemed to have turned a blind eye to their own domestic companies. The Snowden saga has certainly shone a very bright light on the incestuous relationship between silicon valley, CISCO and Washington:

  4. July 7th, 2013 at 09:27 | #4


    There are more collussions between governments and so-called private sector in the U.S.

    See, e.g., Agreements with private companies protect U.S. access to cables’ data for surveillance.

    All these talks about the blurry lines between private companies and companies – and the vaunted lack of transparency that arise from therein. Look who’s talking???

  5. Black Pheonix
    July 7th, 2013 at 13:46 | #5

    Speaking of collusion, I recall a friend told me about asking Google for some engineering data relating to their hard drives, because his company was doing some work with Google.

    Google flatly refused to give any data relating their server hardwares, no negotiations.

    At the time, my friend thought it was very strange, given that his company have shared lots of engineering data with Google, and would have continued to share data with Google. And what he asked for was trade secret data or any thing proprietary to Google.

    This was back around 2007.

    Looking back, perhaps it was because of PRISM. Google was effectively under gag order from US government, and couldn’t share any engineering data relating to its servers. If that data had been published somewhere, someone would have figured out from the server data that someone was using Google to cache private data.

  6. Black Pheonix
    July 8th, 2013 at 07:49 | #6

    I am reminded the idealistic slogans of the “Free Internet” and “Net Neutrality” advocates, such as Michael Anti.

    I do not so much denounce their idealism as having bad intentions. But that’s precisely the historical old problem with humanity, we often end up doing bad results despite the best of intentions.

    now we see, all that idealism only led to enabling the most powerful governments in the world to spy on people who were gullible enough to allow it.

    We who were suspicious in the 1st place are not any safer, but at least we didn’t go along with “free internet” under PRISM willingly.

    So, thanks “free internet” crusaders. Thanks for helping the governments to spy on all of us.

  7. Black Pheonix
    July 8th, 2013 at 08:13 | #7

    The thing is, I accept that some amount of monitoring by government is inevitable and nature of people living under the laws of particular governments.

    One pay taxes, the government knows about your finances.

    One drive cars, the government has the information about your driving habits and your cars.

    etc., etc..

    Most of us accept these kinds of monitoring, but we generally prefer not to make it easier for the government to collect our information. If they want our information, they have to make us fill out forms periodically. (You can at least make a choice to decide to NOT give the information and forego some government services in exchange.)

    What’s insidious about “free internet” is that it is a PR scheme designed to make the people believe that if they gave more information about themselves, they would be more free, when in reality, they are lured to give up privacy to companies and governments who simply wanted all of the information (without having to ask you to fill out forms every year or so).

    Imagine the IRS coming to you directly and ask you to just let them have complete access to your bank records, etc. forever. You would be outraged.

    And yet, with PRISM, the NSA can literally figure out where you are, and what you are doing, all the time, by virtue of you wearing your smartphone by you, 24/7.

    The problem with all technologies, is that it always makes it easier for the government to watch you.

    The problem with “free internet” advocates, is that they are far too eager to embrace new technologies, believing that somehow new technologies will give them more “freedom”.

    *No, new technologies do broaden the human experiences, but they also tend to enslave humanity, make us more dependent.

    What makes it easier for us to access our own information, also makes it easier for others to know about us.

    As with all new technologies, it would be prudent for humanity to use them with discretion, and never get too comfortable with them.

  8. Zack
    July 8th, 2013 at 16:36 | #8

    Allen :
    There are more collussions between governments and so-called private sector in the U.S.
    See, e.g., Agreements with private companies protect U.S. access to cables’ data for surveillance.
    All these talks about the blurry lines between private companies and companies – and the vaunted lack of transparency that arise from therein. Look who’s talking???

    incidentally, this week is the US/Chinese talks on cybersecurity and already the US state media has been lamenting the levelled moral ground over China’s apparnet ‘cyberspying’. They try to claim that ‘China is unique in the amount of IP thefts it conducts’ as if they seem to have forgotten the massive stealing of personal data from the likes of the NSA and GCHQ. Hello, PRISM, anyone?
    The sheer fecklessness and hypocrisy of the American government truly know no bounds.
    i sincerely hope US internet/telecom companies in China are seriously curtailed so that in effect, NSA spying on the Chinese is also curtailed. Telecom and internet companies which aided and abetted the NSA in this regard deserve to have their businesses ripped out.

  9. Black Pheonix
    July 11th, 2013 at 18:03 | #9

    Got Worse: Microsoft helped NSA bypass encryption.


    I kinda knew that “encryption” doesn’t really help much. If NSA can collect and archive encrypted messages, they can crack it very quickly.

    But it is pretty amazing Microsoft would make it so easy for NSA.

  10. Zack
    July 14th, 2013 at 07:19 | #10

    the lies just keep on piling up

  11. pug_ster
    July 14th, 2013 at 11:24 | #11


    I love this. White house blames Russia for Snowden was given a ‘propaganda platform’ for speaking at the airport. Funny thing is that some reporter was asking the person if Snowden has forfeited his free speech.

    Sunday is protest day in Hong Kong. Guess where people protested at?


  12. pug_ster
    July 14th, 2013 at 19:03 | #12


    Well, this comes to no surprise. Apparently every US postal mail is scanned and the US government has a database of all mail sent and received.

  13. pug_ster
    July 24th, 2013 at 23:19 | #13


    Lol, this article can simply be something you can read from The Onion. NSA who has the technology to read your emails, but claims that they don’t have the technology to search emails sent from its employees.

  14. pug_ster
    July 27th, 2013 at 05:07 | #14


    Those wackos from the US Justice dept. says that he ‘won’t be tortured’ and will not get a death penalty if he comes back to the US. Yes, from the same country who thinks that Bradley Manning wasn’t tortured and waterboarding is not torture, that’s very reassuring.


    Even his dad doubts that he would get a fair trial.

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