It’s been less than two weeks since Wikileaks released the Year Zero archive from the Vault 7 repository. And yet the public of the Western world has already returned to complacent apathy.
Between 2013 and 2014, The Guardian and other mainstream media sites published a large number of different leaks, thanks to intelligence contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden. These ranged from information about a NSA mass image collection for purposes of building an enormous facial recognition database, to covert deployment of malware using phishing sites posing as Facebook, to the fact that US drone strikes are largely targeted using geolocation data from mobile phones. While these leaks shocked some sections of the public at the time, unfortunately it looks like the Obama administration actually expanded the programs instead of reducing them, including literally days before leaving office.
Perhaps worth revisiting is the public reaction to the Edward Snowden leaks during the time they were actively being published. In 2013, a YouGov poll of the British people revealed that more people thought that the leaks were a bad thing (43%) than they were a good thing (35%). Fortunately in the United States, public reaction was much more favourable, with over half in 2014 (54%) stating that they felt Snowden had done a “good thing” in releasing information about mass government surveillance.
However, in the years since 2014, more and more overt surveillance programs have been enacted into law worldwide, including in the UK, Australia, Japan, and other places such as Argentina. China, of course, continues its hellish descent into cyber dystopia. As mentioned above, the powers of the NSA have been expanded further by Obama since 2013 – no word yet on what Trump is going to do yet.
By any metric of actual effect on policy, it seems that public fury has just about entirely dissipated. Any weasel words from politicians have eventuated into just about nothing. The recent Year Zero release, while providing us with shocking new information, seems to have also elicited a very much lukewarm response from the public. Perhaps this is due to the soft censorship of Wikileaks?
Have we become complacent and accepting of mass surveillance? Have we become too apathetic to care that the CIA is literally capable of killing people via hacking their cars’ on board computers?