How do you hide, obscure or otherwise manipulate the availability of information in the Internet age?
If you don’t want somebody to know something, how do you stop them? In the past, one could just physically secure the information and watch the bottlenecks that occurred at the physically large facilities used for mass dissemination. That won’t work anymore. Digital technology makes copying information and disseminating it to virtually everybody on the planet a trivial task.
The question has profound implications for everything from national security to e-commerce to personal privacy. I think the answer comes from that person who has provided so much guidance for the citizens of the 21st Century.
Of course, I am talking about Britney Spears.
Yesterday, the Drudge Report had a headline claiming that Britney Spears had faked her recent wedding. (Note: I can’t find a link to the story for some reason). I don’t know what the real story was, neither do I care, but it got me to thinking. Why would a celebrity fake a wedding? What could she gain?
Then I remembered that speculation was rife in some quarters that Republican evil genius Karl Rove had planted the forged Bush AWOL documents. What he exactly he intended to accomplish varies from conspiracy theorist to conspiracy theorist but it got me to thinking.
Then I recalled the story about the guy in San Francisco who produced a fake video of a terrorist beheading that fooled the major media networks. This was just the most recent in a long line of media hoaxes.
Suddenly Britney Spears genius became apparent! The best place to hide a book is in a library. The best place to hide information is inside other information. You hide your information in plain sight but embedded in a mass of false or irrelevant data. The best data to hide in is data that looks very much like the real information but skewed enough to make it false.
Britney faked a wedding to try to gain some privacy for her real wedding/s. Once the media got burned on a fake wedding they would be much slower pursing subsequent wedding rumors.
The same choking a cat to death with crème reasoning applies to Karl Rove. His true goal wasn’t to discredit CBS but to sow doubt about any Bush AWOL document that might someday surface. The fact the opposition was so colossally stupid as to swallow the entire hoax hook, line and sinker was just an unanticipated bonus. (Note: I don’t think Rove was actually involved but if he were I think this the most likely scenario.)
This tactic could be turned against terrorist. Especially against their media driven attention seeking tactics like kidnappings followed by beheadings. If one guy in San Francisco can fool the planetary media think of what the government (or even well funded private citizens could do) to create fake terrorist acts. The goal in this case would be to minimize the media impact of the events by planting a seed of doubt in everybody’s mind about which events actually happened and which were hoaxes. After a time the real events would lose immediate impact because people worldwide would ignore them until they were widely proven as true.
This tactic would be prone to political abuse so some safeguards would have to be put in place. The best safeguard would be to have the perpetrators of the hoax publish online an encrypted message explaining which events were hoaxes and then promising to release the key at a specific date in the future. That would prevent the temptation to create a hoax and then let everyone think it was real forever if it produced a desired effect.
Terrorism thrives on media attention. Cut off from the media all but the largest scale terrorism will whither away. Planting numerous false story would be one highly effective way of doing that.
I think this idea, which is really just an update of an ancient practice of intelligence and military services throughout history, could be used in other areas such as protecting personal privacy. Authorities could create fake identities and leave them vulnerable to identity theft. Trying to use the fake identity would get them flagged immediately. The thieves would have no way of telling the fake identities from the real ones. Computer security gurus already create directories full of tantalizing files called “honey pots” that no legitimate users will have an interest in but that crackers will waste time trying to down load. Their activity with the files alerts the administrator that his system has been compromised.
Fake information will accomplish three things: (1) A lot of it will make the real information hard to distinguish. (2) It will slow an opponents processing time because they will have to double and triple check before deciding a piece of information is real. (3) It will destroy people’s faith in authority. Authorities will now have to carefully explain why they think the data they work with is reliable.
Manipulating the data stream with fake info is the wave of the future. Call it the In-faux-mation tactic. Britney Spears is just on the cutting edge yet again.
*Sigh *is there nothing she can’t do?