Tracking you based on your consumer activities
Fusion centers, federal-state law
enforcement partnerships which attempt to aggregate a variety of data on
so-called "suspicious persons," have actually collected reports on
people buying pallets of bottled water, photographing government
buildings, and applying for a pilot's license as "suspicious activity."
Retailers are getting in on the surveillance
game as well. Large corporations such as Target have been tracking and
assessing the behavior of their customers, particularly their purchasing
patterns, for years.
In 2015, mega-food corporations will be
rolling out high-tech shelving outfitted with cameras in order to track
the shopping behavior of customers, as well as information like the age
and sex of shoppers.
Tracking you based on your public activities
Sensing a booming industry, private
corporations are jumping on the surveillance state bandwagon,
negotiating lucrative contracts with police agencies throughout the
country in order to create a web of surveillance that encompasses all
major urban centers.
Companies such as NICE and Bright
Planet are selling equipment and services to police departments with
the promise of monitoring large groups of people seamlessly, as in the
case of protests and rallies.
They are also engaging in extensive online
surveillance, looking for any hints of,
"large public events, social unrest,
gang communications, and criminally predicated individuals."
Defense contractors are attempting to take a
bite out of this lucrative market as well. Raytheon has recently
developed a software package known as Riot, which promises to predict
the future behavior of an individual based upon his social media posts.
Tracking you based on your phone activities
The CIA has been paying AT&T over $10
million per year in order to gain access to data on Americans' phone
This is in addition to telecommunications
employees being embedded in government facilities to assist with quick
analysis of call records and respond to government requests for customer
They receive hundreds of thousands of such
requests per year.
Tracking you based on your computer activities
Federal agents now employ a number of
hacking methods in order to gain access to your computer activities and
"see" whatever you're seeing on your monitor.
Malicious hacking software can be installed
via a number of inconspicuous methods, including USB, or via an email
attachment or software update.
It can then be used to search through files
stored on a hard drive, log keystrokes, or take real time screenshots of
whatever a person is looking at on their computer, whether personal
files, web pages, or email messages.
It can also be used to remotely activate
cameras and microphones, offering another means of glimpsing into the
personal business of a target.
Tracking you based on your behavior
Thanks to a torrent of federal grants,
police departments across the country are able to fund outrageous new
surveillance systems that turn the most basic human behaviors into
suspicious situations to be studied and analyzed.
Police in California, Massachusetts, and New
York have all received federal funds to create systems like that
operated by the New York Police Department, which,
"links 3,000 surveillance cameras with
license plate readers, radiation sensors, criminal databases and
terror suspect lists."
Police all across the country are also now
engaging in big data mining operations, often with the help of private
companies, in order to develop city-wide nets of surveillance.
For example, police in Fort Lauderdale,
Florida, now work with IBM in order to,
"integrate new data and analytics tools
into everyday crime fighting."
Tracking you based on your face
Facial recognition software promises to
create a society in which every individual who steps out into public is
tracked and recorded as they go about their daily business.
The goal is for government agents to be able
to scan a crowd of people and instantaneously identify all of the
individuals present. Facial recognition programs are being rolled out in
states all across the country (only twelve states do not use facial
For example, in Ohio, 30,000 police officers
and court employees are able to access the driver's license images of
people in the state, without any form of oversight to track their views
or why they're accessing them.
The FBI is developing a $1 billion program,
Next Generation Identification, which involves creating a massive
database of mugshots for police all across the country.
Tracking you based on your car
License plate readers, which can identify
the owner of any car that comes within its sights, are growing in
popularity among police agencies.
Affixed to overpasses or cop cars, these
devices give police a clear idea of where your car was at a specific
date and time, whether the doctor's office, the bar, the mosque, or at a
political rally. State police in Virginia used license plate readers to
record every single vehicle that arrived to President Barack Obama's
inauguration in 2009 from Virginia.
They also recorded the license plates of
attendees at rallies prior to the election, including for then-candidate
Obama and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
This data collection came at the request of
the U.S. Secret Service. Incredibly, Virginia police stored data on some
8 million license plates, some for up to three years.
Tracking you based on your social media
The obsession with social media as a form of
surveillance will have some frightening consequences in coming years.
As Helen A.S. Popkin, writing for NBC
News, has astutely observed,
"We may very well face a future where
algorithms bust people en masse for referencing illegal 'Game of
Thrones' downloads, or run sweeps for insurance companies seeking
non-smokers confessing to lapsing back into the habit.
Instead of that one guy getting busted
for a lame joke misinterpreted as a real threat, the new software
has the potential to roll, Terminator-style, targeting every social
media user with a shameful confession or questionable sense of
Tracking you based on your metadata
Metadata is an incredibly invasive set of
data to have on a person. Indeed, with access to one's metadata, one
"identify people's friends and
associates, detect where they were at a certain time, acquire clues
to religious or political affiliations, and pick up sensitive
information like regular calls to a psychiatrist's office,
late-night messages to an extramarital partner or exchanges with a
National Security Agency (NSA)
has been particularly interested in metadata, compiling information on
Americans' social connections,
"that can identify their associates,
their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and
other personal information."
Mainway, the main NSA tool used to
connect the dots on American social connections, collected 700 million
phone records per day in 2011. That number increased by 1.1 billion in
The NSA is now working on creating,
"a metadata repository capable of taking
in 20 billion 'record events' daily and making them available to
N.S.A. analysts within 60 minutes."
Tracking you from the skies
Nothing, and I mean nothing, will escape
government eyes, especially when drones take to the skies in 2015.
These gadgets, ranging from the colossal to
the miniature, will have the capability of seeing through the walls of
your home and tracking your every movement.
To put it bluntly, we are living in an electronic concentration camp.
Through a series of imperceptible steps, we have willingly allowed
ourselves to become enmeshed in a system that knows the most intimate
details of our lives, analyzes them, and treats us accordingly.
Whether via fear of terrorism, narcissistic
pleasure, or lazy materialism, we have slowly handed over our
information to all sorts of entities, corporate and governmental, public
and private, who are now using that information to cow and control us
for their profit.
George Orwell warned,
"You had to live - did live, from habit
that became instinct - in the assumption that every sound you made
was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."