The Long View: #Surveillance, the #Internet, and Government Research - Los Angeles Review of Books
At first blush Yasha Levine’s Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet (2018) seems to fit the bill. A former editor of The eXile, a Moscow-based tabloid newspaper, and investigative reporter for PandoDaily, Levine has made a career out of writing about the dark side of tech. In this book, he traces the intellectual and institutional origins of the internet. He then focuses on the privatization of the network, the creation of Google, and revelations of NSA surveillance. And, in the final part of his book, he turns his attention to Tor and the crypto community.
He remains unremittingly dark, however, claiming that these technologies were developed from the beginning with surveillance in mind, and that their origins are tangled up with counterinsurgency research in the Third World. This leads him to a damning conclusion: “The Internet was developed as a weapon and remains a weapon today.”
To be sure, these constitute provocative theses, ones that attempt to confront not only the standard Silicon Valley story, but also established lore among the small group of scholars who study the history of computing. He falls short, however, of backing up his claims with sufficient evidence. Indeed, he flirts with creating a mythology of his own — one that I believe risks marginalizing the most relevant lessons from the history of computing.