The problem with the Tempora and GCHQ story – How do we communicate it?

We know we’re being watched by GCHQ.

We’ve found out, via a whistleblower, that in the past few years, mass surveillance, for the purposes of later analysis, has been turned into reality, in the US and in the UK.

The thing is, the general public is largely unphased. It’s barely scraped public opinion. The average person who doesn’t watch the news, might be aware that there was a guy called Snowdon, but would not be aware that the UK government knew who they’d phoned, who they’d emailed, and what the subject lines of those emails were.

Would you be happy to be filmed by faceless figures wherever you went?
Would you be happy to be filmed by faceless figures wherever you went?

The thing is, if I’d suggested this 6 months ago, it’d have sounded like a crazy conspiracy. Even today, it’s only information, pieced together – various sources correlating stories and confirming points, that give me the confidence to say it exists.

But the public doesn’t care, and apart from The Guardian, the UK media isn’t bothered in the surveillance story (perhaps due to this D-notice?) or more probably, due to various bias’s inherent to their organisations.

The problem is: we’ve not communicated it well enough.

We’ve so far not communicated how this means that the Government knows about you. How talking to your girlfriend via Facebook is a lot less private than you might think and that actually, your phone shares a lot more information about you than you think it does.

We have a system so far reaching, that a German ex-Stasi lieutenant said:
“You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true,”

What we need to do now is to work out:

How can we communicate this to people?

How do we communicate Tempora to the people?
How do we communicate Tempora to the people?

The pragmatic view on why DRM’d media will slowly die out

I recently read the article on BoingBoing about the Hachette publisher being upset that some of it’s authors who were also using the Tor publisher in different territories, would be releasing their works DRM-free.

I also saw some defence that stated that “the Hachette sales strategy with DRM works really well”.

Let me explain why I don’t think that DRM is a long term solution.

If you model this media market against the first days of the ipod/itunes store:

When people buy into the “device and store” idea, they’re ambivalent about DRM because it doesn’t really affect them.”

As commodity devices emerge and people are able to buy ~£30 no name devices that more or less, just work, then the consumers start to find DRM a significant barrier to painlessly consumpting media and may acquire media from “other” sources. (The commodity devices without DRM will be cheaper than commodity devices with DRM).

Once a sizeable market is regularly circumventing the DRM, either with software or acquiring the content from other sources

At the point when a significant audience exists with commodity devices which don’t support DRM who are unable to legitimating consume the media they want, publishers can make a decision about whether the benefits they see in DRM, are worth not monetising the market on commodity devices…

At that point, many publishers will point out that DRM costs them money and inconveniences their consumers.

Unfortunately, from a PR point of view, this means that early adopters of commodity devices are always going to feel the publishers are being obstructive, whilst the publishers go after the largest slice of the market at that point in the emerging market.

In my opinion, the key to DRM-free media, is a large number of people using commodity devices, that don’t support it.

What you’re seeing on Boing Boing is that Tor’s readers are generally early adopters of commodity technology, whilst Hachette’s are still more tied into the “one device, one brand, one store” ideology. I’d guess that, as that changes, so will their stances on DRM.

The hysteria begins: OMG WTF SNOW!!

As my Facebook and twitter feeds are filled with people apparently trying to make sure that all of their friends are aware it has snowed, and the news networks busily rolling out stories which imply that 3 inches of snow will be the most historic event (of the last 6 months) and that this is the second most cold 4th of February since 1996, I think Charlie Brooker can put things into perspective for us a bit:

Charlie Brooker: Newswipe 2010