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Sept. 5-11, 2021


As we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 this weekend, it's heartening to see the surveillance state that the U.S. created afer the attack get some well-deserved skeptical treatment in the press.

Wired's Albert Fox Cahn thoroughly addressed both online and offline snooping post-9/11:

"In the aftermath of the attacks, we heard patriotic platitudes from those who promised to 'defend democracy.' But in the ensuing years, their defense became democracy’s greatest threat, reconstructing cities as security spaces. The billions we spent to 'defend our way of life' have proved to be its undoing, and it’s unclear if we’ll be able to turn back the trend.

"In a country where the term 'papers, please' was once synonymous with foreign authoritarianism, photo ID has become an ever present requirement. Before 9/11, a New Yorker could spend their entire day traversing the city without any need for ID. Now it’s required to enter nearly any large building or institution."

Meanwhile, over on the West Coast, news broke this week that the Los Angeles Police Department is now collecting social media handles for every citizen its officers interact with. You know, just in case that information is handy later.

Look, I experienced 9/11 firsthand in Lower Manhattan as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal at the time. I know people who died in the attack. I understand the impulse for increased security since. But history is crystal clear that the level of government surveillance of the general public that we've accepted in the last two decades is ultimately incompatible with democracy.

For a good summary of those lessons from history, I'd highly recommend the last third or so of cybersecurity consultant Mikko Hyponnen's excellent TED talk from 2013. He delivered this talk shortly after Edward Snowden's blockbuster revelations of federal snooping at the time, and it holds up well even today, I think.

The week's other headlines:

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As ever, a quick disclaimer: This newsletter is intended for journalistic purposes only, not as investment advice. For the latter, please DYOR and consult appropriate financial pros to make the most suitable choices for your needs.

— Peter A. McKay



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#Web3 Weekly covers the movement toward a more decentralized internet, sometimes referred to as "Web 3.0." In doing so, we define decentralization broadly and try to make the topic accessible to both geeks and non-geeks alike.

Peter A. McKayThe newsletter started as a personal project by consultant Peter A. McKay in 2017. In its early iteration, the newsletter was sometimes published on an occasional basis, under slightly different titles. Since fall 2019, it has run continuously as #Web3 Weekly.