Unchallenged Bad Ideas Never Go Away
All to well have we seen how a trend becomes a permanent fixture in our lives. The next generation does not know there is another way, becuase the trend has become the norm with which everyone is comfortable. They assuem this is how things should be. (More on this in a later article.)
The advances of surveillance on a global scale are moving very quickly. The gerneral public is continually manipulated into their fearful mindset, making the expansion of surveillance possible. And we are fast approaching the point of no return. The point where we can not turn back the surveillance beast.
"Back in the day" myself and others used to play 'what if' scenarios as mental excercises what surveillance would be needed to meet and maintain a specific level of control of a populace. We were always assuming this would be a real-time tracking technology. But we always came back to a few very specific points that would have to be breached in our society. The first being cameras everywhere. The second our private information no longer being private.
As the cameras started becomming more and more commonplace, people started ignoring them more and more. They became a facet of life, much like the cracks in the sidewall. A part of our existence to be noticed and otherwise ignored, until they were no longer noticed. Their absence is more notable in many places.
And now our personal information has become even more valuable to anyone else than it is to ourselves. The poor security of those entrusted with protecting our sensitive data are demonstrating a sever lack of capability. Those in the cracker communities have always known how thin that veil of protection is. Now with the nearly daily reports of database invasions, website hacking, and lost or stolen laptops containign hudreds of thousands personal records, we have become immune to the news. We have become all the more resigned to the 'this is the way the wolrd is'. We have become sheep who can no longer be shocked by the negligent incompetance that makes such thefts possible. Now when we hear that some facet of our existance is being watch on an 'official level', we are no longer concerned as we once might have been outraged.
With the unlikelyhood of our private lives remaining private, the resignation has set it to the point that we are now giving away our most intimate data and details, gladly and without concern. With social networking sites such as MySpace, FaceBook, LiveJournal and others, we voluntarily put ourselve 'out there' to be found. A quick look through public profiles on these sites will garner names, phone numbers, work or class schedules, photos, and even addresses. These are visible to anyone on the planet with internet access. We, as a culture, have turned our lives inside out. It used to be a diary was a deeply private and personal item, stored under lock and key. Now we post these same thoughts, our innermost thoughts, fears, doubts and desires and put them on billboards. This level of self-survaillance is like no other social development and presents the unhealthy nature of our free society as a whole. Individuals are not government entities or large corporations where such oversight is desired. The lone individual writing about a crush on a fellow student or work colleague does not effect the millions of lives that Enron did. If we had the same level of transparencey, would Enron ever have become the household word it is, today? This is a slippery path we are on, as a social structure. Those of us who desire to only interact with those we know, those of us who wish to maintain a level of privacy or anonimity will become the social outcasts and viewed as suspicious. Gone are the times of being known to only those that you wished to be known by.
Consider this, you are in a coffee shop using a laptop. This simple, innocent action can be the first step in towards having your entire life exposed for public view due to the choice you make, conciously or not. As you are sitting int his coffee shop, surfing the internet, your machine pops up on the local network. Some curious busybody happens to notice and scan your machine, finding your online music library is readable. From this they can identify what kind of music you like, as well as what you are listening to, right now! Once they know which service you use, and what you are listening to, they can findout what you use for a screen name. From there, our good friend Google can tell them where else that screen name is used. Anything you have ever typed into a public forum is available for review in perpetuity, both in and out of context. This could be your political views, life experiences, organization membership, maybe even information about your church or where you work. Seeing as most of us try to use the same or very similar screennames on a variety of sites, locating your Facebook/MySpace/Yahoo! profiles is easy. Now that same busybody knows even more about you, maybe even with access to photos of your family and kids from that last vacation trip you took.
Frightening, isn't it? Now here is the kicker, all of this can be done without any injury, as there is no invasion of privacy. Remember this all started when you joined an open network without insuring your laptop was properly secured. When you blather everything out there on the public internet, how can you expect to have any right to privacy or even an expectation of privacy?
And this is the problem. As we continue accepting this type of breach of personal information and security as the norm, our expectations of privacy erode. I recall there was, recently, some creep released from prosecution for taking photos or looks up teenaged girls skirts in a mall. The reason being that the mall was a public place and the girls had no reasonable expectation of privacy in such a public place. Yes, there were some people that were outraged at the judge, but that was all that happened. Not enough people did not even care enough to notice such a ruling. When we give up our privacy so easily, the government has an even easier time taking our other rights from us. In The U.S. we are starting to accept more and more cameras in public. This is all in the earnest beliefs that a camera will make us safer. In the U.K. it is reported there is approximately one public camera for every 13 to 15 people. In London the average person will have their image captured by public cameras as much as 300 times a day. It certainly has not stopped crime. And we are embracing this more and more, daily, for the fallacy of staying safe. For this illusion of safety, we will invite cameras into our neighborhoods, where not so long ago, this would have caused an outcry of anger. That was a time when our tangible right of freedom of movement, privacy and anonimity still meant something to us as individuals.
"Patriot Act", "Homeland Security", and similar buzzwords have made it possible for our own peopel to give away our most sacred of rights. The right to be who and what we wish to be and to come and go as we wish. We now have to sign in and out of buildings as this will make us safer from terrorists. We now not only tolerate, but welcome searches on public transportation, as long it is some other person who is inconvenienced. There was a time when only prisons suffered "Lockdowns". Each of these actions are totally without merit and absolutely meaningless. In our efforts to speed along the feeling of safety, we quickly give up our most basic rights, because we want to be normal.
Imagine the phone company being made retroactively immune to civil and criminal lawsuits for illegally wiretapping their customers. This outrageous situation has happened due to the secret cooperation between the phone companies and the NSA since 2002. This was legal thanks to the below the radar Foreign Intelligance Surveillance Act of 1978. FISA basically authorized secret courts to approve secret warrants to collect foreign intelligence within the U.S. between 1978 (inception) and 2006 only 5 warrante requests were ever rejected. That was 5 of 23,000 requests. And yet, this was not enough for our current administration. The Protect America Act of 2007 basically removed the warrant requirements, allowing an unlimited number of wiretaps on Americans suspected of communicatins with suspicious people outside our borders. The PAA of 2007 is the avenue in which the phone companies were made retroactively immune to prosecution for illegal wiretaps from 2002 to 2007.
The door has now been unlocked and left unlatched as we have given our government the tools to circumvent our Constitution. With this Protect America Act of 2007, it is now legal for our government to legally seize data and hardware that is meerly suspected of to be linked in some way to suspicious persons, over seas.
As a country we are facing a series of troubling times in regards to personal freedoms, privacy and surveillance. In our hands and in our minds, we hold the keys to lock these doors, should we choose to use them. The elements of a surveillance state only gain strength with our acceptance of these elements.
We need not leave this as a legacy for our children and their children.