There’s a particular kind of greed that comes with an embarrassment of riches. We’re more likely to complain that there’s nothing on TV now that we have hundreds of channels than we were when we had only three. Yeah, I’m that old and aware of the irony that my parents said exactly the same thing about my generation because they had only one channel. In fact, my grandparents had the first TV in the village where I was born. I’m surprised they weren’t burned as witches. We also had a three digit phone number. Christ, how did I get so old?
Anyway, when we’re rich, we want more. See my post earlier today about being slightly unsatisfied with the frankly amazing technology literally at my fingertips. So it’s unsurprising when governments complain that parts of the information landscape are ‘dark’. They can see huge amounts of stuff, so they’re frustrated when there’s something they can’t see or when they need to do something like fill in a form or ask a judge before they can see something.
It’s easy to imagine how an intelligence or law-enforcement agency might become obsessed with shining lights into those few dusty corners they can’t see, regardless of whether there’s anything there worth looking at.
An interesting question is this: what would an intelligence service without much money spend it on? Would they favour mass surveillance technology or skilled analysts and agents?
Another interesting question is what would an impoverished intelligence service be jealous of?
I’m willing to bet mass surveillance would be a luxury at best if costs had to be justified against tangible goals.