Privacy in a Glass Aquarium

If government agencies want to locate you, watch you, or follow your movements, conversations and writings, they have the tools to do it, and they won’t ask your permission.   Some of us remember a quaint concept called privacy.

Agencies can usually discover your location and track your actions.  Cell phone GPS location tracking is routine and freely available.  Recent model cars have a GPS device, an operations monitoring system, a microphone and speaker, and a two-way radio system.  The radio link transmits GPS coordinates for locating the car if it stolen or driven by you.  When you are on the move, you can be tracked.

Out in the open, your car and you can be tracked overhead by satellite cameras or by drones.   From the environment around you, your location and actions can be tracked by the hundreds of thousands of merchant security cameras, traffic cameras, and public safety cameras.  Face recognition technology can help agencies be sure they have the right guy.  Your location can also be derived from your credit card transactions.  It’s wise to assume you are always “noticed.”

Agencies have access to your landline and cellular phone calls, emails, tweets, facebook information and website browsing.  Their cyber-prowess is unquestioned.  Their exercise of those skills is sometimes under court control, but sometimes not.  Metadata on all phone calls is routinely stored and searchable.  Calls between the US and another country are free game for agency eavesdropping.  Listening to domestic calls usually needs court permission – conventional or FISA court.  

Be careful what you say.

All foreign email is available for agency reading.  Domestic email might need a court order.   Google, Yahoo and Twitter announced placement of more encryption in their data pathways, mostly to distract customers from the reality that everything is available to agencies who have a court order.  NSA’s spyware is imbedded into 100,000 international computers.  Their spyware reports on activity within the computer, without need of an Internet connection.  

Be careful what you write or store.

Monitoring inside our US homes costs agencies  just a little more because it requires a human to plant the spy camera / microphone / transmitter and power source – all of which are widely available and affordable.  Still, home is the last place where we still enjoy a little privacy. 

In less than a lifetime, privacy has been reduced to a fading memory of boomers.  They are the last to remember a telephone “party line” as a privacy exposure.  We now obliviously live in a glass aquarium where government agencies control the lighting.  You don’t miss what you never knew.

Alan Daley is a retired businessman who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research

 

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