A recently leaked proposal authored by a senior National Security Council official hopes to create a nationalized 5G network where anonymity would be banned and the government would have an easier time going after those who “sow division” or pirate copyrighted material.
The memo lays out economic and national security arguments, namely being able to compete with China, for the shift to a nationalized internet — but the proposal may have severe implications for digital privacy.
Under the three year plan, the government would build the infrastructure and subsequently rent access to wireless carriers who would then provide it to their customers.
Fortune reports that “the network would make it possible to fight back against those who “steal intellectual property and private data, sow division and obscure bad behavior, slander and defame the innocent, prey on the weak and plant the seeds for total darkness in the event of all-out war.”
The admission that they would use this new infrastructure to go after those who “sow division” sounds an awful lot like they would be planning to target political dissidents, in a time when Facebook and other tech giants have already been accused of attempting to silence conservatives.
Additionally, anonymity would not be allowed on the network — meaning that any attempts at internet privacy would be squashed.
Perhaps most alarming, the development of this socialized internet, according to the memo, would allow the US to avoid losing the “AI arms race” to China, whose “complete elimination of privacy standards” has allowed the government to dig through any citizen’s data any time they want.
While most Americans currently use 4G broadband, 5G promises to offer faster connections that could be better used for the “internet of things” — like Google Home or Alexa.
Google was specifically named in the memo in the “5G Government and Industry Team and Roles” and former-executive Eric Schmidt stopped by the White House prior to discussions.
According to a report from Axios, Schmidt “discussed 5G with at least one West Wing official” during the visit.
“It’s super rare these days to see a top tech CEO in Trump’s White House. Gone are the days of tech leaders dropping in for photo ops with a president who is toxic in Silicon Valley,” the report noted.
Schmidt has a long and cozy relationship with Clinton and conducting “back channel diplomacy,” which was detailed by Julian Assange in his book When Google Met Wikileaks.
“It was at this point that I realized Eric Schmidt might not have been an emissary of Google alone. Whether officially or not, he had been keeping some company that placed him very close to Washington, DC, including a well-documented relationship with President Obama. Not only had Hillary Clinton’s people known that Eric Schmidt’s partner had visited me, but they had also elected to use her as a back channel,” Assange wrote. “While WikiLeaks had been deeply involved in publishing the inner archive of the US State Department, the US State Department had, in effect, snuck into the WikiLeaks command center and hit me up for a free lunch. Two years later, in the wake of his early 2013 visits to China, North Korea, and Burma, it would come to be appreciated that the chairman of Google might be conducting, in one way or another, ‘back-channel diplomacy’ for Washington. But at the time it was a novel thought.”
Another troubling aspect of Google’s involvement is their deep relationship with government agencies that have abused their power to spy on American citizens. In fact, the tech giant’s very creation was part of a mass-surveillance state plot, QZ recently reported on in depth, and it “was funded and coordinated by a research group established by the intelligence community to find ways to track individuals and groups online.”
Cybersecurity expert Alan Woodward, a professor at the University of Surrey in England, told Fortune that “if you build, own and operate a 5G network, and you assume that it will be the mobile network of choice in your country, then you can conduct surveillance operations much more easily.”
The plan has been blasted by both Republicans and Democrats, including House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Greg Walden, who responded to the proposal by asserting that “we’re not Venezuela.”
Given the recent FISA scandal involving spying on Trump campaign officials, is handing the Deep State more tools to violate American citizens really the best idea?