PRISM, whose existence is no longer in doubt, gives government agencies access to personal internet data without users' knowledge.
Such all-seeing "inspective force", to use the phrase coined by Jeremy Bentham, Romantic author of Panopticon (1791), allows swathes of real-time data to be gathered for retroactive analysis, and is unprecedented technologically, though by no means unforeseen. Major tech companies are falling over each other to deny knowledge, and complicity:
"Several senior tech executives insisted they had no knowledge of Prism or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a programme. "If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge," one said. An Apple spokesman said it had "never heard" of Prism. (Nick Hopkins, guardian.co.uk, Friday 7 June 2013 14.27 BST)Speaking at #29c3, 28 December 2012
Part of Jake's talk explored the implications, legality and social effects of total "inspective force". In that respect, his keynote recalled a lecture given in 1795 by a twenty-three-year-old Romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
"All our happiness and the greater part of our virtues depend on social confidence. This beautiful fabric of Love the system of Spies and Informers has shaken to the very foundation. There have been multiplied among us ‘Men who carry tales to shed blood!’ ... Little low animals with chilly blood and staring eyes, that ‘come up into our houses and our bed-chambers!’ These men are plenteously scattered among us: our very looks are decyphered into disaffection, and we cannot move without treading on some political spring gun." (Lectures, 1795)Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare (1782)