"It was always unclear to me whether we were helping or perpetuating violence in a particular part of the country." https://t.co/9zcmP7YLlH— Ars Technica (@arstechnica) September 13, 2017
Just as we hear Edward Snowden chiming in on the possible privacy-encroachment issues with Apple's new Face ID technology, fellow data leaker turned privacy pundit Chelsea Manning is emerging from her recent imprisonment to give her thoughts on the "eerily banal dystopian novel" that our world has become. That's the phrase she uses in an op-ed in the New York Times today, which comes on the heels of a Tuesday night appearance at the Noisebridge hackerspace in San Francisco.
As Ars Technica reports, Manning appeared "Dressed in all black and a metallic necklace with a # sign," and talked about "eating a lot of pizza and Tex-Mex as comfort foods" since her release from the federal clink. She also mentioned having just bought a coffee table as part of rebuilding her life, but it's unclear where she's currently living.
In this, one of her first public appearances since her release, she also spoke on the topic of the "huge datasets with all kinds of personal data" on us that are now out there, and how this ought to be more cause for concern than it currently is.
Speaking in conversation with Noisebridge cofounder Mitch Altman, Manning said, "As a coder, I know that you can build a system and it works, but you’re thinking about the immediate result, you’re not thinking about that this particular code could be misused, or it could be used in a different manner."
Capping off our 10th Year Anniversary with a very special speaker at Noisebridge, Chelsea Manning. pic.twitter.com/K8JUMZJixW— Noisebridge (@noisebridge) September 13, 2017
She was also asked the question many people would probably want to ask her, which is "Would you do it again if you could go back?"
"I don't know," she said, per Ars Technica. "I don't like to go back in time and second guess myself. You make the decision that you make and you live with that."
In the Times, Manning elaborated on her concerns about Big Data, noting that with the ubiquity of smartphones in 2017, "virtually everything we do causes us to bleed digital information, putting us at the mercy of invisible algorithms that threaten to consume our freedom." She notes how we are now being relentlessly tracked, knowingly or not, and "We agree to cryptic terms-of-service agreements that obscure the true nature and scope of these transactions."
And she points to her personal experience as a recently incarcerated transwoman who has had trouble getting banking and governmental systems to recognize her very existence. "These systems leave no room for humanity, yet they define our daily lives," she writes. "When I began rebuilding my life this summer, I painfully discovered that they have no time for people who have fallen off the grid such nuance eludes them."
Her larger point, she's saying, is that we have very quickly been giving over our humanity, information, and privacy to an enormous machine that most of us can't fathom, the myriad consequences of which are yet to be seen.
This may end up being a focus of her work as she embarks as a Visiting Fellow at Harvard this fall. As The Hill reports, Manning was just named among a group of fellows at Harvard which also includes former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. The fellows, according to Harvard, are supposed to bring "thought-provoking viewpoints" to the school.