Friday, November 24, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Heather Brooke


American journalist & freedom of information campaigner.
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Heather Brooke
A lack of government oversight hasn't hindered the internet. Quite the opposite. A hands-off approach is largely responsible for its fantastic growth and success. The tremendous innovation and economic boon produced by the free internet should be proof enough that the dead hand of government isn't needed.
Brooke quotes
I’m very much a free market capitalist, actually. I don’t agree with a kind of totalitarian, one government or sort of universal law. I think what will happen and what is happening now is, in the same way as… In the way that countries make themselves attractive to investors through different pieces of legislation they offer, whether it’s secrecy in the case of the Cayman Islands or Switzerland, I think the fact that some countries now are offering very robust publishing laws, it will be that as information is global, what you might see is that these big internet companies like Google or Facebook, that have their servers, will start to relocate those servers to countries where they have less interference. In a way, you’re creating a kind of free market of freedom of information law.
Brooke
I think with all technology, people have an idea of how it will be used, but then it has a life of its own and people use it in all kinds of ways. In the same way with Facebook. I doubt when people first created Facebook they imagined it was going to help people in Egypt overthrow a dictator. So it does have a life of its own that we can’t predict.




Brooke Heather quotes
In secrecy, bureaucracies grow large, ungainly and unaccountable to those they are meant to serve. When there is no fierce spotlight of public accountability shining, there is no pressure to ensure systems are streamlined or even working. What you find throughout any bureaucracy protected by secrecy is a cesspit of illogic and waste. And because the state keeps rebranding, shifting responsibility from one set of bureaucrats to another, most of the work being done is for the purpose of keeping other bureaucrats in employment rather than satisfying the needs of the public.
Brooke Heather
The point about digitization, just to explain what I mean by that, is the way that information is no longer a physical commodity. It doesn't have a mass like it used to. So it used to be that if you wanted to leak a bunch of documents, you physically had to carry away these huge boxes of documents and then you had to physically photocopy them somehow. And they had this physical mass, and it was through that mass that they could be controlled by people in power. When information is digitized, it loses that mass for the most part. It becomes almost ephemeral, it's like an idea; it's like a thought. And it spreads and it can be shared almost instantaneously. So you can take that, and then you combine it with the internet, which is this web in which everybody is talking to each other and sharing information. And you've got the makings of what I think is a digital revolution, which nobody quite knows how to handle it, what to do with it.
Heather Brooke quotes
I want to put paid to this idea that if you've nothing to fear, you've nothing to hide. I interviewed a really interesting guy in this book. He ran the data campaign for the Obama election, when Obama was being elected. And what they do is they just harvest huge troves of databases. And they're doing it for the basis of trying to predict who might vote for Obama in the election. And he just took me through this whole data business – data brokerage, data dealing. And he showed me this 10,000... well, it was a 464 page dictionary, a data dictionary, with 10,000 data units in it. So that's for every person, it's 10,000 things that you could find out about that person. Their political association, if they drink Coke or Diet Coke, what sort of magazines do they subscribe to, have they ever had any court cases against them. It's just like a raft of stuff. The problem is, is how these things are used. It's fine if somebody wants to sell you some products, but increasingly states are accessing all this information. And they're building algorithms to try and predict criminals. ... It's pretty well-known that the National Security Agency in America is building algorithms and it's taking all of these datasets and basically trying to predict who is going to be a problem for us in future. And to me that just seems an incredibly dangerous road for us to go down, that you’re no longer innocent until proven guilty. We’re starting to imagine or predict who is going to be a problem.
Heather Brooke
In the public sphere, perception is reality: it's more important to be seen to do something than actually to do it. At least when private companies use PR and advertising they must spend their own money and there are other corporations vying for our business. If a company doesn't give us what we want they face bankruptcy. Public institutions, however, are monopolies. We have no choice but to buy, if not use, their services. If we don't like the way our particular police force operates it's not like we can choose another one or even withhold the money used to run the one we don't like. We're forced - under threat of imprisonment - to pay for a monopoly service and for it to tell us how great it is. This is the real danger of institutional PR. In the absence of competition it is only through a diversity of opinion and public scrutiny that some level of accountability can exist. PR stifles debate and suppresses opinion through the use of centralized press offices and communication protocols.
Brooke Heather quotes
This is the information war we are now engaged in. Governments are seeking to militarise cyberspace while citizens fight for the right to communicate and assemble freely online without state surveillance.
Brooke
To be successful, a campaign to maintain the free internet and freedom of information has to go beyond vandal hackers. Stunts designed not to provoke dialogue or persuade the public of the rightness of the cause but simply to throw up a middle finger to authority are more hindrance than help.
Brooke Heather
You find most journalists now are on all these social networks. They’re all about creating… they want a direct relationship with their audience, in a way that politicians have been very loathe to do. They don’t want to come down to the masses. They still want to be in that fortress, in that ivory tower where they can lecture down to people. They haven’t really adapted to this two-way communication.
Heather Brooke
The public pay for and elect the government and it is only by the people’s will that those in public office hold power. Public servants’ primary responsibility is to serve the people and we have a right to know what they are doing in our name and with our money. Public accountability does not end the day after an election.




Heather Brooke quotes
It is scrutiny by the general public that keeps the powerful honest.
Heather Brooke
Bureaucracy is the business of controlling other humans, making them do what you want them to do. That may be acceptable if what you are asking them to do is reasonable, rational and for the common good, but more likely what bureaucrats ask is treasonable, nonsensical and counterproductive to the public good. This is because the primary business of a bureaucrat, left unchecked, is creating more bureaucracy to further his or her own prestige and power. The result is that rules are in place serving no function but to keep bureaucrats in work and to expand their bureaucratic fiefdom. Before you know it you can't even hold a village fete without filling out more than fifteen different forms from various arms of the government.
Brooke quotes
If you believe the promise that an authoritarian state makes that if it has enough knowledge on every citizen it will keep people safe. I think that’s a false promise. It doesn’t actually happen. If that was the case then East Germany would be a really incredible place to live and in fact it wasn’t, it was really horrible, most of these places were really horrible.
Brooke Heather
What I call the ‘information war’, where through the control of information our society is being radically transformed.
Brooke Heather quotes
We need to codify our values and build consensus around what we want from a free society and a free internet. We need to put into law protections for our privacy and our right to speak and assemble.
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