Since the erosion of Americans’ civil liberties depends on high levels of public apathy, some of the most dangerous privacy breaches take place incrementally and under the radar; if it invites comparisons to Blade Runneror Orwell, then someone in the PR department didn’t do their job. Meanwhile, some of the biggest threats to privacy, like insecure online data or iPhone GPS tracking, are physically unobtrusive and therefore easily ignored. And it’ll be at least a year or two until the sky is overrun by spy drones.
So when a method of surveillance literally resembles a prop or plot point in a sci-fi movie, it helps to reveal just how widespread and sophisticated commercial and government monitoring has become. Here are five recent developments that seem almost unreal in their dystopian creepiness.
Schools across the country are adopting a variety of different tools to monitor students both in school and outside school. Among these tools are RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags embedded in school ID cards, GPS tracking software in computers, and even CCTV video camera systems.
The blurb for VoiceGrid ID has a particularly dystopic echo, offering a “voice data management solution with unlimited database size” in addition to system architecture that scale all the way up to “national system deployments.”
…the FBI has also hinted that it might add photos of individuals under investigation, or individuals who appeared near high-profile persons of interest to the database. The latter prospect has privacy advocates most alarmed, as it could land you on “Big Brother’s database” without a single criminal act.
In fact, the FBI appears to be doing exactly that already, as some states now pass drivers’ license headshots to the agency for future reference/screening. The ambiguity surrounding photographic databases and facial recognition of law-abiding citizens has advocacies very upset.
“They’re pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country … and assembling that information,” Binney explained. “So government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it’s a very dangerous process.” He estimated that something like 1.6 billion logs have been processed since 2001.
Veritas Scientific CEO Eric Elbot toldIEEE Spectrumthat one of its earlier devices, called BrainTruth, had already seen military use to test individuals entering the US that were suspected of being foreign agents…
Elbot is confident in the device, stating that “The last realm of privacy is your mind… This will invade that.”
This needs to be acquired by activists and used on Congress and Wall Street types, live on national television.
Privacy is eroding fast as technology offers government increasing ways to track and spy on citizens. The Washington Post reported there are 3,984 federal, state and local organizations working on domestic counterterrorism. Most collect information on people in the US. Here are thirteen examples of how some of the biggest government agencies and programs track people.