And that’s not an unusual reaction,’ Michael said. ‘People change their phone numbers. They don’t leave the house. They go into therapy. They have signs of PTSD. It’s like the Stasi. We’re creating a culture where people feel constantly surveilled, where people are afraid to be themselves.’
‘Like the NSA,’ I said.
‘This is more frightening than the NSA,’ said Michael. ‘The NSA is looking for terrorists. They’re not getting psychosexual pleasure out of their schadenfreude about you.’
I wondered what to make of Michael’s Stasi analogy. There’s an old Internet adage that as soon as you compare something to the Nazis you lose the argument. Maybe the same could be said about the Stasi - the East Germans’ secret police force during the Cold War. They would, after all, creep into the homes of suspected enemies of the state and spray radiation onto them as they slept, their idea being to use the radiation as a tracking device. Stasi agents would follow them through crowds, pointing Geiger counters at them. A lot of suspected enemies of the state died of unusual cancers during the Stasi’s reign.
But the Stasi weren’t just about inflicting physical horror. Their main endeavour was to create the most elaborate surveillance network in world history. It didn’t seem unreasonable to scrutinize this aspect of them in the hope it might teach us something about our own social media surveillance network