Your Life, Under Constant Surveillance
Historically, surveillance was difficult and expensive.
Over the decades, as technology advanced, surveillance became easier and easier. Today, we find ourselves in a world of ubiquitous surveillance, where everything is collected, saved, searched, correlated and analyzed.
But while technology allowed for an increase in both corporate and government surveillance, the private and public sectors took very different paths to get there. The former always collected information about everyone, but over time, collected more and more of it, while the latter always collected maximal information, but over time, collected it on more and more people.
Corporate surveillance has been on a path from minimal to maximal information. Corporations always collected information on everyone they could, but in the past they didn't collect very much of it and only held it as long as necessary. When surveillance information was expensive to collect and store, companies made do with as little as possible.
Telephone companies collected long-distance calling information because they needed it for billing purposes. Credit cards collected only the information about their customers' transactions that they needed for billing. Stores hardly ever collected information about their customers, maybe some personal preferences, or name-and-address for advertising purposes. Even Google, back in the beginning, collected far less information about its users than it does today.
As technology improved, corporations were able to collect more. As the cost of data storage became cheaper, they were able to save more data and for a longer time. And as big data analysis tools became more powerful, it became profitable to save more. Today, almost everything is being saved by someone—probably forever.
Examples are everywhere. Internet companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple collect everything we do online at their sites. Third-party cookies allow those companies, and others, to collect data on us wherever we are on the Internet. Store affinity cards allow merchants to track our purchases. CCTV and aerial surveillance combined with automatic face recognition allow companies to track our movements; so does your cell phone. The Internet will facilitate even more surveillance, by more corporations for more purposes.
On the government side, surveillance has been on a path from individually targeted to broadly collected. When surveillance was manual and expensive, it could only be justified in extreme cases. The warrant process limited police surveillance, and resource restraints and the risk of discovery limited national intelligence surveillance. Specific individuals were targeted for surveillance, and maximal information was collected on them alone.
As technology improved, the government was able to implement ever-broadening surveillance. The National Security Agency could surveil groups—the Soviet government, the Chinese diplomatic corps, etc.—not just individuals. Eventually, they could spy on entire communications trunks.
Now, instead of watching one person, the NSA can monitor "threehops" away from that person—an ever widening network of people not directly connected to the person under surveillance. Using sophisticated tools, the NSA can surveil broad swaths of the Internet and phone network.
Governments have always used their authority to piggyback on corporate surveillance. Why should they go through the trouble of developing their own surveillance programs when they could just ask corporations for the data? For example we just learned that the NSA collects e-mail, IM and social networking contact lists for millions of Internet users worldwide.
But as corporations started collecting more information on populations, governments started demanding that data. Through National Security Letters, the FBI can surveil huge groups of people without obtaining a warrant. Through secret agreements, the NSA can monitor the entire Internet and telephone networks.
This is a huge part of the public-private surveillance partnership.
The result of all this is we're now living in a world where both corporations and governments have us all under pretty much constant surveillance.
Data is a byproduct of the information society. Every interaction we have with a computer creates a transaction record, and we interact with computers hundreds of times a day. Even if we don't use a computer—buying something in person with cash, say—the merchant uses a computer, and the data flows into the same system. Everything we do leaves a data shadow, and that shadow is constantly under surveillance.
Data is also a byproduct of information society socialization, whether it be e-mail, instant messages or conversations on Facebook. Conversations that used to be ephemeral are now recorded, and we are all leaving digital footprints wherever we go.
Moore's law has made computing cheaper. All of us have made computing ubiquitous. And because computing produces data, and that data equals surveillance, we have created a world of ubiquitous surveillance.
Now we need to figure out what to do about it. This is more than reining in the NSA or fining a corporation for the occasional data abuse. We need to decide whether our data is a shared societal resource, a part of us that is inherently ours by right, or a private good to be bought and sold.
Writing in The Guardian, Chris Huhn said that "information is power, and the necessary corollary is that privacy is freedom." How this interplay between power and freedom play out in the information age is still to be determined.
Categories: National Security Policy, Privacy and Surveillance
Surveillance is defined as the close monitoring of the actions of a specific individual. The surveillance technology systems are devices that identify monitors and track the movements and data. Surveillance has raised a lot of concerns in privacy issues in the advancing technology. The electronic devices used include the closed circuit TV, the VCR, the telephone bugging, electronic databases and the proximity cards. Surveillance has presented numerous challenges to the right to privacy.
Every individual is entitled to the right to privacy and measures should be taken to address these issues in the new technology. An advanced technology can be very useful is properly handled but it can also presents with a lot of damage risks if misused. On the other hand, privacy can be described as the ability of not exposing an individual in any way to others without his consent. In my view, there are solution ideas to the problems that exist in surveillance and privacy. The solutions ideas are discussed in the essay below.
There is a need to develop a high technology surveillance system that will come with great benefits without intrusion. The development of the rapid DNA-based tests can serve a great significance in the protection from the biological weapons and the also in disease diagnosis. The tests will help us to reveal more about the health professionals. The high technology system will help to protect an individual privacy. The importance in the solution will require the government to amend laws to regulate the privacy associated with one’s privacy.
The government can also use the keystroke loggers as a spyware. The loggers are types of computer programs that can be used to track any records on a computer. The software program can be used to track production in workplaces, but they role in computers ensures that they are used as a spyware. They ensure privacy is protected if used as a tool in surveillance by the government. The federal law will require amendments in protecting the keystroke loggers’ installation.
The development of location technologies also is a solution to surveillance and privacy. There are electronic tracking devices which are used but advanced ones have been introduced in cell phones and in cars navigation systems. The technologies will ensure that individuals are safe, secure and convenient. The government has a responsibility to monitor one’s movement and ensure maximum security. There will be a need for legal standards which will aim at protecting the privacy rights in the surveillance of an individual.
The following is a criterion that can be used to evaluate the development of location technologies in surveillance. The government agencies must be authorized to take part in tracking the movements of individual. They must be aware that their privacy will not be exposed to other people by the agents. The fundamental human right is an issue to be well taken off. The tracking of movements in bad places does not mean the agents will have a right to expose this to the public. The development of the location technologies have been subsidized in cell phones and in the car systems and their costs is affordable.
This will help the United States government to develop it as it will not bear much economic weight. In a nutshell, there is a need to constitute laws and regulations responsible to govern an individual privacy in surveillance. No one has a right to carelessly expose somebody information without been given that consent.