Tuesday, August 13, 2013

[Hidden] in Plain View

Trey Smith

The latest move to prevent us from knowing what is going on relates to so-called transparency policies whose fine print instead does the opposite — by effectively blunting the stated intent of the regulations.

The new policy is presented as an entirely forward-looking one. Government agencies are ordered to make life easier for those seeking federal data, by releasing it in a form that makes it easier to analyze it. And that, of course, sounds great.

But buried in the middle of a section on “definitions” is something that most might miss — and that might turn out to be the real purpose of the new policy. It reminds us of how vigilant you need to be in reading notices from all manner of institutions — whether your bank or your power company — on changed terms and conditions.

The suspect phrase refers to something called “the mosaic effect.” Government officials are told that they must consider this “effect” when deciding what to release and what to withhold.
The mosaic effect occurs when the information in an individual dataset, in isolation, may not pose a risk of identifying an individual (or threatening some other important interest such as security), but when combined with other available information, could pose such risk.

Before disclosing potential personally identifiable information (PII) or other potentially sensitive information, agencies must consider other publicly available data – in any medium and from any source – to determine whether some combination of existing data and the data intended to be publicly released could allow for the identification of an individual or pose another security concern.”
Is this an ominous development? You bet your black marker.

Have you ever seen documents released in redacted form, i.e., with certain names blocked out? Well, under the new rules, someone inside the government could argue that certain documents ought not to be released because someone outside the government, using other information sources, could put two and two together and figure out the information that was blocked out.

The result? Documents that were previously released, either in full or in redacted form, might now never see the light of day.
~ from New Obama Disclosure Block by Russ Baker ~
As I have pointed out many times before, perception is everything in the realm of politics. Frequently, it is of little import what an elected official says or how a legal document reads. What matters is how statements and wording are perceived.

In our overly legalized world, the ruling elite is very cognizant of the role of perception. This is why government officials, politicians and corporate heads go out of the way to present us with measured language. They spend inordinate amounts of time trying to figure how to share with us information that is more disinformation than anything else! They see it as their job as to how to communicate a set of ideals or initiatives that in no way matches up with their true intent.

In the example above, Russ Baker shows how a new policy -- one whose purpose is to engender the perception of greater government transparency -- actually is set up to do the precise opposite! As Baker notes, utilizing this new conceptual definition, almost any government document -- no matter how benign -- now can be withheld because some yahoo somewhere might connect certain dots. And that's the last thing a secretive government wants!


Let me offer another example of the art of perception -- one drawn from our everyday corporatized world.

Being viewed as a corporation that is earth-friendly offers a company the opportunity to cash in on a sector of the population's eco-consciousness. Understanding this, many corporations are investing much time and energy in trying to figure how they can continue conducting business as usual while appearing to have turned over a new leaf.

The other day I purchased a container of juice. On the bottle, in big lettering, was the following: "This container is made of up to 100% recycled material." Company gurus know that most people's attention will be drawn to "100%". They understand that this advertisement will lead to the perception by many that this company is committed to sustainable practices.

But it is the words hidden in plain view that turn this perception on its head. Those words are "up to". ANY percentage of the bottle's makeup between 0.0001 to 100% fits within this overly broad definition. My guess is that the bottle basically is made the same way it's always been made. Instead of adopting more sustainable manufacturing practices, I suspect that all this company really did was to add sustainable sounding language to its label!

Perception is everything, ya know.

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